Austrian mountaineer David Lama has soloed Les Barbares on Pointe Raphael Borgis du Pré de Bar at the back of the Argentierre Basin in the Mont Blanc Range. This 500m line was established by Frenchmen Stephane Benoist and Patrick Pessi over 5 days in 2003 and given the grade ED 5.9, A2+, 80degree. Repeated in 2010 Lama's ascent is likely the first solo of what is recognised as a highly demanding route.
From his camp at the base of the peak, Lama set off at 4am in the morning, reaching half height by 7.30am. Here he encountered a little aid climbing and a pendulum which gave access to the hardest section of the route. Lama describes this section on his blog. 'Just like on the first few pitches, thin veins of ice show you the line to climb. As I get higher, the veins get thinner and thinner, they pass into capillaries that barely can carry my weight. The ever-recurring process of self-belaying is getting me tired. I always have to climb up, rappel down to get my gear and pull myself up again.'
In all the ascent took Lama 13 hours with another 3 needed to descend the face. Lama feels it is the toughest route he has climbed in the Mont Blanc range, significantly tougher than the Colton MacIntyre for instance on the Grandes Jorasses. This solo come as one of an increasing volume of high standard repeats of more 'pure-alpine' routes as opposed to the Alpine Big Walls Lama is more typically known for. Together with his pedigree as a competition climber, sport climbing up to 8c+/9a, a new route on Cerro Kishtwar in the Indian Himalaya as well as his free ascent of the Compressor Route on Cerro Torre, Lama, still only 21, is establishing himself as a seriously impressive true all rounder. Look out for issue 89 of Climb where we have an exclusive 5 page in depth interview.