Top 10 Expeditions of 2018: #2: David Lama Solos Lunag Ri

Mountain
David Lama on the summit of Lunag Ri on October 25, 2018. Photo: Red Bull Content Pool
David Lama on the summit of Lunag Ri. Photo: Red Bull

Over the last 12 months, ExplorersWeb has documented incredible adventures in climbing, cycling, running, walking, skiing and anything involving force of will and dedication to a dream in the outdoors. As this year comes to a close, we present our countdown of the Top 10 Expeditions of 2018.

It’s bold, aesthetic and, most of all, a neat example of the so-called new Himalayism: pioneering routes on 6000m to 7000m peaks featuring both adventure and technical challenge for light-geared, clear-minded and properly prepared alpinists. Whereas the 8000’ers take the capacity for suffering on a well-beaten track, these beautiful, untouched mountains demand a high technical level and loads of creativity to perceive a line that doesn’t exist yet.

From this perspective, Lunag Ri and David Lama made the perfect combination. The 6,907m peak, on the Nepal-Tibet border, combines high-altitude climbing with alpine features and seemingly unsustainable holds. Meanwhile, Austrian David Lama, the son of a Nepali mountain guide and an Innsbruck Alps native, is a born climber. He was “discovered” by Peter Habeler at only five years old and soon became the youngest champion on Austria’s national climbing team. He quit competition in 2011 after tasting the Eiger’s North Face with mentor Habeler and turned toward the big mountain faces. His transition has been flawless. Milestones include free climbing Cerro Torre’s compressor route and the first ascent of Bird of Prey on The Moose’s Tooth. Thus, his recent achievement on Lunag Ri is remarkable, yet not surprising.

Lunag Ri ridge

Spidering up the ridge on Lunag Ri. Photo: Red Bull/David Lama collection

Lunag Ri was a long-cherished goal for the intergenerational pair of Lama and American Conrad Anker. The joint venture ended dramatically, when Anker suffered a heart attack while acclimatizing during their second attempt on the peak. After Anker’s evacuation, Lama had time for an impromptu first solo attempt, which was thwarted on the upper sections of the route. He returned home and waited for his climbing mate to recover. Anker did heal, but the brush with mortality had ended the Lunag game for him. It was only then that Lama decided to solo the peak.

The result was a swift ascent, with the mountain in drier conditions than in previous years. After the first day, Lama waited out high winds for 24 hours in his bivy tent. When the gale passed, he hurried up the ridge, virtually jumping from Nepal to Tibet and back on each pitch, up to a second bivy at 6,800m, as he explained in an interview with Rock and Ice.

David lama on Lunag Ri

David Lama during his solo ascent of Lunag Ri. Photo: Red Bull/David Lama collection

On the third day, a difficult traverse and numb toes slowed him down but didn’t stop him. His elegant push showed no doubts, no mistakes and perfect Buddhist temperance. He reached the summit mid-morning.

He barely permitted himself a couple of minutes to breathe in the views and have a thought for Conrad Anker. He sped down as quickly as he could to his second bivy, then rappeled down to Advanced Base Camp by midnight, toes numb but intact. Below, a short video of the feat:

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David Lama Solos Lunag Ri

About the Author

Angela Benavides

Angela Benavides

Sport journalist, published author and communication consultant. Feeling back home at ExplorersWeb after five years exploring distant professional ranges.

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Wow what a climber