David Lama isn't the first climber to fall in love with Cerro Torre. The 10,262-foot Patagonian spire is considered, among climbers, one of the world's most beautiful mountains. For years they've attempted the difficult ascent of the Southeast Ridge without the aid of controversial fixed bolts, placed in 1970 by Italian Cesare Maestri on a 4,000-foot verical face that would come to be known as Maestri's Compressor Route. Lama attempted the route in 2010 and 2011, but it wasn't until two of his peers—Hayden Kennedy and Jason Kruk—removed some 120 of the bolts that Lama was forced to rely entirely on removable protection, a much riskier proposition. He was exposed to greater risk, yes, but the lack of fixed protection pushed the 22-year-old beyond his limits. On January 21, 2012, Lama and partner Peter Ortner free climbed Cerro Torre, advancing climbing to a new level.
It seems that climb also advanced the Austrian's confidence on big mountains. Always a sport and competition climber—going back to when he was just a 10-year-old phenom racking up competition titles—after Cerro Torre, Lama went on to tackle two more huge climbs in 2012: Trango Tower (6,251 meters) via the Eternal Flame and Chogolisa (7,665 metres), both in Pakistan's Karakoram Himalayas. “Cerro Torre will always be a special mountain to me," he recently told National Geographic Adventure. "It changed me from a sport climber into an alpinist.”
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