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Lama Solos Les Barbares

Les Barbares (ED 5.9 A2+, 500m, ) on Pointe Raphel Borgis du Pre de Bar, David Lama soloed the route in thirteen hours. A topo for the route shows three bivy sites. [Photo] David Lama

Continuing a streak of stunning alpine climbs, David Lama has completed a fast solo ascent of Les Barbares (ED 5.9 A2+) on Pointe Raphel Borgis du Pre de Bar (Argentiere, Mont Blanc, France.) The 500m route follows an obvious line up the NW face of Pointe Raphel Borgis du Pre de Bar, and is likely the third ascent of the line.

Starting from his tent on the Argentiere glacier at 4 a.m., Lama quickly soloed the moderate lower sections of the route before self-belaying the more severe terrain. After multiple sections of technical rock climbing, Lama reached the line’s approximate midpoint at around 7:30 a.m.. Here he rested before starting the final sections of aid climbing.

Done with the aid portions, Lama rigged a small pendulum to access the final difficult pitches. Of this part of the climb Lama wrote, “The following fifty meters are the crux of the whole face. The placements are not too good and the climbing is even more demanding than the pitches before. It takes me one and a half hours to reach the next belay. Now the way to the top is free.” After a final portion of thin tool work, Lama summitted in the late afternoon sun, a full thirteen hours after his start from the glacier. His decent took three hours.

“Les Barbares” was established by the French duo of Stephane Benoist and Patrick Pessi during a five day push in 2003. In 2010, the route was climbed again, this time by Louis Laurent, Pierre Labre and Aymerik Clouet. Lama’s ascent marks perhaps the line’s first solo ascent. Alpinist contacted Lama, and asked him about his new line.

Firstly, why is it that you chose this route in particular? Is there a special reason you decided to solo it?

I really like the climbing and mountaineering in the Mont Blanc Area. To me it’s one of the best places in Europe you can go to if you’re looking for big alpine faces. Les Barbares a route I wanted to climb for a long time. It’s a beautiful and logical line through a vertical shield of rock and ice.

I soloed the route, simply because the weather was good for only two days and none of my partners had time or wanted to travel to Chamonix.

It seems like you’ve moved away from competition and sport climbing and are focusing much more on alpine climbing now.

A “dog tired” David Lama on the summit. [Photo] David Lama

Even during the days I mostly sport climbed I was interested in doing multipitch and sport climbing. I think this has changed because the only way I could improve was to train more and train harder, but not by learning or discovering anything new. I think it’s always more interesting to set your mind on something where you have to grow in order to reach your goal.

You’ve done a number of solos in the past few months. Are you preparing for any special projects, or upcoming solos?

In my opinion every climb you make adds up to your experience as a climber, in that respect also my solo of Les Barbares can be useful when looking into the future. Normally though I prefer climbing with a partner, but there are not too many people I know, who are interested in this kind of climbing, have time and are strong enough. In mid July I’ll travel to Pakistan to climb the Trango Towers and gain some high altitude experience on Chogolisa and in fall I might go to Yosemite to climb some big walls.