Adventurer of the Year: David Lama

When I first read Nat Geo’s profile on David Lama, I might have easily been steered into believe this guy was a one hit wonder. To look at the Cerro Torre, one of the most notorious peaks in Patagonia, you don’t have to be a climber to grasp its difficulty. And you can understand why the first guy to free climb it would get a lot of attention. Its 3,600 foot ascent up the northeast ridge is a ridiculous, technical, near vertical climb amid “creaking granite flakes held in place by ice.” The story is so well covered by Fitz Cahall, I won’t recap it here. But it’s impressive as hell.

David Lama ascends Cerro Torre.   photo: Peter Ortner.

David Lama ascends Cerro Torre.
photo: Peter Ortner.

And Lama is no one hit wonder. Take a look at his blog ( and you’ll see an ambitious career unfolding, from Patagonia to the Karakorum. With lots of shorter climbs – Chamonix and Ticino – thrown in between. What I like about the guy is his contrition at having let a film crew bolt Cerro Torre on his first attempt back in 2010 and his rigorous embrace of pure climbing since. He’s young still, but he’s a guy to watch and despite his impressive climb, I personally believe he’ll go much further.

My only question is for Nat Geo: how do you nominate David Lama and not his climbing partner Peter Ortner? They climb as a team. They go everywhere together. Presumably, David isn’t carrying Peter up these mountains. So why just one of them? If we learn anything through climbing, it’s the importance of the team. The bonds that form when you put your line and life in your partners’ hands. From the dozens of teams I’ve interviewed or heard speak, yes, the mountain is the goal, but the team IS the adventure. And if we’re celebrating adventurers, shouldn’t we celebrate both? Don’t forget to vote!

Climbing partners David Lama and Peter Ortner.

Climbing partners David Lama and Peter Ortner.