It’s always exciting when different generations of climbers team up to dream up something interesting to do in the vertical realm. Case in point, legendary alpinist Conrad Anker and 24-year-old elite climber David Lama, one of our previous Adventurers of the Year, recently met up in Zion National Park to see if they might make a good team. The pair had a full Utah adventure: they climbed a new route, got pounded by weather, and removed a frayed rope from a route Anker had started 25 years ago. They also hatched plans for future big-mountain objectives. This fall, Anker, founder of the Khumbu Climbing Center, and Lama hope to go to Nepal to climb a peak and see how Lama’s father’s family’s village is doing after the earthquake last spring. Watch the video about this climb.
Here Lama tells us bit about climbing a new route with Anker in Zion.
What were you thinking at this moment in the photo above?
When I jugged up the rope that Conrad and I had fixed the day before, I didn’t look around to inhale the beauty of Zion, and I didn’t notice the national park visitors who were staring at us from the bottom of the canyon. I knew that another storm was about to roll in, and I knew that it would be our last day of climbing in Utah. At that moment all I cared about was to get to our previous highpoint and then lead the last two pitches to the summit.
What did you think of Zion and its climbing potential?
Certainly Zion is not Yosemite, but to me that’s already one good reason to go climb there. While in [Yosemite Valley] almost everything’s been discovered, and every rock feature has been climbed. In Zion, you can still find a great amount of white spots, where you can draw your own lines, and to me that’s one of the most beautiful aspects of climbing. It gives you the opportunity to look for the easiest and most logical route. You don’t have to avoid obvious rock features because someone else has already climbed them.
When did you first hear about Conrad Anker? Were you excited to climb with him?
I can’t recall when I first heard about Conrad, but it’s been a few years that we’ve been in touch via email. We talked about some mutual goals we have in the big mountains, so it was a logical first step to team up for a “smaller” project to get a feeling if we make a good team. It is always exciting to team up with someone for the first time, and for this trip with Conrad, it was even more special as we had never met in person before.
What did you notice about Conrad’s climbing?
Conrad definitely has a different climbing background than I have, and you can see that in the way he climbs. While I grew up sport climbing and could push my limits without thinking too much about the consequences of a fall, Conrad learned everything in the mountains, where a fall often ends with a broken leg or more severe injuries.
How important is it to have mentors? Which climbers have mentored you?
I have had people that influenced me and my thinking along the way, certainly not only climbers. I never considered or called anyone my mentor, my opinion was always that you can learn from anyone you spend time with, especially from people who have a strong personality and know who they are.
You are only 24, but are you already mentoring the younger generation?
Don’t know if people would call that mentoring, but I feel like I have a responsibility toward the next generation. I realized that during my attempts of the northeast face of Masherbrum in Pakistan. Hardly anyone believes that this face is climbable—I’m absolutely sure it can be done, but I’m not sure if I will be able to. However I would only want to climb it in a proper style and if I won’t be able to climb it this way, I rather don’t climb this face and preserve it for the climbers to come.
Are you still working on Masherbrum?
This year me and my climbing partners, Peter Ortner and Hansjörg Auer, decided to not travel to Pakistan, but somehow we just can’t let go of the idea of climbing this mountain. I don’t know if we’ll ever attempt it again, but we’re all working hard to be ready if one day we want to give it another go.
Do you have other big projects in the works?
I’ll fly to Nepal, the country my dad comes from, this autumn. I’ll first spend some time with my family there and then head out in the mountains together with Conrad.