You’re the BC Red Bull athlete of the month for making the first free ascent of the southeast ridge of the famous Cerro Torre in Patagonia, the subject of the Red Bull Media House movie, “Cerro Torre- A Snowball’s Chance in Hell.” Tell us about that.
I had the idea back in 2008 when I was climbing in Chile, and in 2009 I made my first visit to Patagonia and knew I wanted to free climb Cerro Torre. But back then I had no idea what it would take to free climb this mountain. It took another three years to free climb Cerro Torre. When I started on the project in 2009, I was more of a sport climber than an alpinist. To climb this mountain you have to be a very good alpinist. I had to gain this experience and therefore climbed some stuff in the Himalayas and a lot in the Alps.
How did that climb compare to others you’ve made?
It is one of the projects that took the most time. It took over three years to make it happen. And starting as a sport climber and competition athlete, I had to increase my skills in alpine climbing. This climb for me was so important because it marked my transition as a sport climber to an alpinist. Physically, this wasn’t the hardest climb I’ve done, but that transition from a sport climber to an alpinist changed my life not only as a climber, but in my personal life as well.
Tell us about your background. How did you get into climbing?
My father is from Nepal and my mom Is from Austria. My parents did some aid projects in Nepal, and they got to know Peter Habeler who climbed Everest, and one day he took me out climbing when I was five and that was my first climbing experience. From then on, I got more into competition climbing and more into sport climbing.
What’s more important for climbing – physical or mental toughness, and why?
I think the mental toughness. The physical toughness is something every good athlete should have – it shouldn’t be a question of whether you’re fit or not. The mental is much harder. First, a climber has to see the line he wants to climb, and how he wants to climb it and that’s the visionary aspect that determines if he meets his goal or not.
How do you prepare for climbs?
I do not have a training plan, but I try to listen to my body, and I feel like he tells me what I need to work on or if I should take a rest. Specifically, where I focus the most is on general physical fitness, not the climbing itself. That’s why I do a lot of skiing in winter, running in summer and biking, so that I can stay in shape when I reach the base of a mountain.
As a climber, how do you not get scared when you’re dangling on the side of rock in the middle of the sky?
You get used to it. I don’t really get scared. I get more scared or I am more scared before a climb when I think about all the dangers and risks I have to take in order to climb to the summit. Fear in general is not as important as knowing that you really want to do it. If you really want to do it, you’re willing to take the risks and you don’t think about them as much anymore and instead think about how to minimize those risks.
What climb have you not done and would like to do?
A project I have been working on for the last two years is on a mountain in Pakistan called Masherbrum. It’s 7,800 meters [25,590 feet] high and it has a face that I always compare to the north face of the Eiger with a Cerro Torre or an El Capitan on top – more than a 3,000 meter [9,842 feet] face – which no one has climbed. I tried it in 2013 and 2014 and so far my partners and I weren’t able to climb that face.
It’s a well-known fact that chicks dig athletes in mainstream sports like football, basketball, baseball. What are “climber groupies” like?
If the exact definition of a “groupie” is an annoying fan, then there are not many climbing groupies. Climbers spend a lot of time hanging out at 10,000 feet at a base camp on glaciers, and the first thing we always talk about are the climbs themselves and the mountain, and the second thing is always about girls.
When you finish a climb, do you add vodka to your Red Bull or not?
Yes, from time to time.
You can watch Lama’s ascent of Cerro Torre on the film, Cerro Torre- A Snowball’s Chance in Hell, available for download on the iTunes Store, Google Play and other digital retailers on February 9th. Film trailer available at www.CerroTorre-Movie.com. Follow @RBMHFilms on Instagram and Facebook.com/RedBullMediaHouseFilms.