Cerro Torre’s Compressor Route Freed by Lama and Ortner

Hot on the heels of news that Jason Kruk and Hayden Kennedy put up the first “fair means” ascent of the southeast ridge of Patagonia’s Cerro Torre, word has it that David Lama and partner Peter Ortner have established the first free ascent of the Compressor route. Controversy rages (as I write, there are 748 posts on this Supertopo thread) around Kruk and Kennedy’s climb, after they chopped over a hundred pressure bolts that had been put there by Cesari Maestri in 1970. But what Lama and Ortner have accomplished, though not controversial, is even more impressive. During a window of perfect weather from January 20-21, it took the pair 24 hours and one bivy from the Col of Hope to make the ascent. Lama has posted an account of the climb on his Facebook page, which you can find below. Details continue to come in on both the Kruk/Kennedy and Lama/Ortner stories. We’ll keep you posted!

I can’t believe it… For more than three years I was driven by the idea of freeclimbing the Compressor route on Cerro Torre and now this dream has become true!

My partner Peter Ortner and I started on January 19th from El Chalten and hiked in to Nipo Nino, our first camp. The next morning we climbed up to the Col de la Paciencia (Hope), rested there for a few hours and then started our attempt at around 1pm.

We climbed to the start of the Bolt Traverse, but instead of turning right, we went straight up on the technically difficult arete, a few meters left of the Salvaterra crack. I took a couple of falls, until I figured out the right sequence and then was able to send the pitch on my second try from the belay. A few pitches higher we reached the Iced Towers, where we picked a small ledge into an icefield to bivi.
Early the next morning we climbed to the start of the headwall. The fact that Hayden and Jason had chopped Maestri’s bolts a couple of days ago made my endeavour even more challenging, especially mentally as the protection was poor and I had to do long run outs. Climbing on hollow and loose flakes we followed the original Compressor route for three pitches. About 20 meters below the compressor we traversed to the right and then reached a system of cracks and corners that lead us to the summit. Climbing the route in alpine style took us 24 hours from the Col.

To me this first free ascent of the south east ridge of Cerro Torre is the end to the probably greatest adventure I experienced in my life so far. I’m especially proud having it done without adding any bolts. I learned a lot during the past years and climbing in this amazing mountain range has simply been great. Realizing dreams – it couldn’t be any better!

Photo of Lama and Ortner in February 2011 from Red Bull.