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Grivel Establishes St. Vincent Awards

Following a year of turmoil regarding the mission, sponsors and general future of the Piolet d’Or (read the January 9, 2008 NewsWire for the full story) and the cancellation of the 2008 Piolet d’Or (read the January 23, 2008 NewsWire), supporter Grivel has announced that a series of five climbing prizes, the St. Vincent Awards, will be presented in March 2008. Primarily these awards are designed to honor the mountaineering achievements of industry professionals and mountain stewards.

Grivel has assembled the event, which will occur on March 7 in Val d’Aoste, Italy. The location, Grivel’s home turf, was the proposed site for the 2008 Piolet d’Or that was canceled in mid-January. Grivel hopes the new award ceremony becomes an annual event and “creates incentives for all [mountain] professionals.”

The awards have not been conceived as replacements for the Piolet d’Or, which historically has aimed to select the “best” alpine achievement of the preceding year. Piolet co-founders Montagnes Magazine and the Groupe de Haute Montagne (GHM) plan to reinstate their event–adorned with the prize, a golden ice ax presented by Grivel–in 2009, once there has been “total approval of the changes [to the Piolet d’Or contest].”

Five categories have been established for the St. Vincent Awards: best world climbing achievement by a guide; best world climbing achievement by a guide from Val d’Aoste; best service performed in the mountains by a “uniformed professional” (e.g. rescue); best world climbing achievement by a guide-client team; the mountaineer or climbing achievement that best distinguishes itself with “excellent ethics.”

Two-thousand Euros will be awarded to the winner of each category, decided by a jury panel. Permanent panelists include the President of the Val d’Aoste, the President of the Mountain Guide Association of Val d’Aoste, a member of the Gobbi family (Gioachino Gobbi is the director of Grivel) and a couple rescue-team and mountain-safety members. Jury members that will rotate each year include civil and environmental stewards and journalists.

It remains to be seen whether the climbing community will embrace these awards, and whether the new awards will dilute the re-envisioned 2009 Piolet d’Or event. One certainty remains: the new category defined by “excellent ethics” is sure to provoke controversy among alpinists, especially those outspoken critics of these contests.