Red Bull has recently been sponsoring/pouring their time and energy into something decidedly not-rad. With all the awesome things Red Bull does for skiing, biking, and other extreme sports, this incident is a major transgression and a disgrace to the brand and what they promote. I thought I would spread word of this to the skiing community here on NS, to show a little of what Red Bull is doing that is not kosher.
In the rock climbing community (my other passion), Red Bull has been sponsoring a gifted climbed named David Lama, and his attempt to free one of the proudest lines (climbs) in the world - Cerro Torre in Patagonia. Cerro Torre could be thought of as the Chad's Gap of climbing. If you have heard of El Capitan in Yosemite, and understand how the climbing world revolves around it, then think of Cerro Torre as being the equivalent in a much more alpine, harder to reach, prouder destination.
The Compressor Route, the prominent line on Cerro Torre, has always been an aid climb. Aid climbing is where hooks, pitons, bashies, etc, are used to reach the summit, in addition to the usual cams and stoppers. Gear is place, then pulled on, in an effort to move upward in areas where the rock is particularly difficult. Freeing a line is where one climbs a route without pulling on gear, doing all the moves "free." Gear is still placed, but only used in case of a fall.
Free climbing an aid line is a particularly proud accomplishment. Old aid routes have been freed on El Capitan, and all over the world. Freeing the Compressor Route would be like throwing a triple on Chad's Gap, times 10.
David Lama, media-hungry that he is, launched a MAJOR undertaking to free the Compressor Route, complete with porters, a film crew, etc last year. This was all funded by Red Bull. The problem is that Lama did not adhere to strict climbing protocols and ethics. He added many, MANY bolts to the route. Bolts are where one drills a hole into the rock, screws in a bolt, and attaches a hanger to it. Bolts are bombproof, and should only be used when all other options are exhausted. I can't think of a similar skiing analogy, but maybe it would be like using snowblades to spin a 2160, then claiming it as a ski trick.
Lama added 450 bolts to the Compressor Route. The film crew installed an additional 60 bolts just to film Lama. Not only did Lama blow up Chad's Gap, he blew up all of Alta. Upon leaving after the 2009/2010 season without a successful free ascent, Lama left large amounts of rope and gear on the route, a major no-no. This is littering, plain and simple. Instead of realizing their error, Red Bull has promoted Lama and his "project." Indeed, Lama is currently heading BACK to Cerro Torre, for another attempt, with full Red Bull sponsorship AGAIN!
This is one of the most hotly contested issues in the climbing world. There is almost 100% disagreement with Lama and his tactics. There have been numerous articles written, angry letters sent to both Red Bull and climbing magazines, but yet here he is, heading back to Patagonia. Two other teams are headed to the Compressor Route this year, with the same goal. However, they, like other climbers, will do so in a proud, respected style. Lama has, and still is, committing a sin, with the full and knowing help of Red Bull. Climbers have suggested a boycott of Red Bull. While this is impractical, people outside of the climbing world should at least be aware of what is going on. If you should feel so motivated, write a letter to Red Bull, letting them know that you do not approve, and that their energy and finances would be much better used elsewhere.
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