On April 5 in Courmayeur, Italy, the Piolets d’Or jury–Stephen Venables, Silvo Karo, Katsutaka Yokoyama and Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner–awarded all six of the nominated ascents with golden ice axes. They also recognized Hayden Kennedy and Jason Kruk’s fair-means ascent of the Compressor Route and David Lama and Peter Ortner’s first free ascent of the line. Kurt Diemberger was presented with a Lifetime Achievement award.
“2012 was an exceptional year for groundbreaking ascents. The jury struggled to reduce that list [from] six,” the press release read. “…[I]n light of the very high level of the six ascents, the jury has decided to award each of the nominated ascents a Piolet d’Or.”
The “everybody wins” approach aligns with the Piolets d’Or emphasis in recent years on the non-competitive nature of climbing. In 2007, Marko Prezelj rejected his award in part because of the rivalry that he believed the Piolet and other awards inherently encourage.
“…[T]he competitive spirit created and fueled by the event’s organizers…pushed [nominated climbers] into an arena where spectators thrive on drama, where winner and loser are judged,” Prezelj wrote in his editorial on alpinist.com afterward. “If the romantic idea of the Piolet d’Or will survive in the future it must evolve into a simple gathering where climbers can exchange ideas, and share their dreams, illusions and realities.”
That same year, Steve House also called for a re-examination of the award’s purpose, but while he objected more specifically to the constitution of the jury and its definition of the “best” climb, he still supported recognition of a single ascent. He stated in an open letter to the public, “I believe there should be only one award for the best ascent of the year…. The best way to make it meaningless is to divide it into as many pieces as possible.”
The founding organizations of Piolet d’Or–Montagnes Magazine (published by Editions Niveales) and Groupe de Haute Montagne–opened a public discussion to redefine the spirit of the award. They produced a new charter, but many still disagreed with recognizing just one “winning” climb each year. The seventeenth Piolet ceremony was cancelled in 2008 when the jury could not agree on which ascents to nominate in time for the scheduled event. The 2009 jury of the newly pluralized Piolets d’Or gave awards to multiple climbs for the first time in Piolet history. Since then, each ceremony has had multiple winners.
This year, the decision to award all six climbing teams has drawn mixed opinions, most notably within the organizing committee. Montagne Magazine‘s Manu Rivaud resigned from the committee April 8, stating his objections in an article on Montagne‘s website. Most recently, Montagne‘s publisher, Editions Niveales, left the organization. (For other reasons, Vertical Magazine Editor-In-Chief Claude Gardien broke ties with the Piolets d’Or on March 4.) Groupe de Haute Montagne will hold a meeting in the next few days to “review the event and establish a basis for the continued future of the Piolets d’Or.”
Winners of the 2013 Piolets d’Or:
South Pillar of Kyashar (6769m), Nepal
In a 12-year span, eight teams attempted a single line up the loose rock and snow on the South Pillar of Kyashar (6769m) in the Khumbu Region of Nepal. Czech Marek Holek and David Stastny climbed for 60 hours and reached 5600m in 2001; in 2008, Holek and Jan Doudlebsky retreated after climbing a WI6 M7 attempt up the southwest side of the Pillar; Andy Houseman and Tony Stone also tried the southwest flank in 2010, marking a new highpoint at 5700m.
Last November, a Japanese team made up of Yasuhiro Hanatani, Tatsuya Aoki and Hiroyoshi Manome finally finished the route they call Nima Line (5.10a A0 M5, 2200m). The trio started up Houseman and Stone’s line on the southwest flank. Above the 2010 highpoint, they found the height of the rock climbing difficulties on one pitch of 5.10a. The overall crux of the climb came with five pitches of loose snow on an 80-degree arete at circa 6400m. The next day, an angled rappel brought them around the steep headwall to a four pitches of mixed terrain, thick ice and 5.9 rock that led to the summit. The climb took them seven days total, camp to camp. (Read a full report in the January 23, 2013 NewsWire.)
Muztagh Tower (7284m)
Three Russians (Dmitry Golovchenko, Alexander Lange and Sergey Nilov) ascended the northeast buttress of Muztagh Tower in semi-alpine style. They used two fixed ropes, but completed the climb in a single, 18-day push. They ran out of food and fuel on the final summit ridge and “sucked snow” during the 24-hour descent back to camp. The route was “very strenuous physically, psychologically, meteorologically,” Lange wrote in his trip report. The weather window that spurred their attempt closed shortly after they started up the peak.
Ogre I (aka Baintha Brakk, 7285m), Pakistan
Despite sections of “complete choss” and one team member’s bout with altitude illness, Kyle Dempster, Hayden Kennedy and Josh Wharton established a new route (5.9X AI5 M6R) up the south face of the Ogre I (7285m) on the Choktoi Glacier in the Karakoram Range. Read Kennedy’s trip report here, and Dempster’s own reflections on the climb in “The Torch and The Brotherhood,” Alpinist 42.
Mazeno Ridge, Nanga Parbat (8125m), Pakistan
Estimated to be as long as 13 kilometers, the full Mazeno Ridge on Nanga Parbat (8125m) was one of the better-known unfinished lines in the Greater Ranges. The ridge, dividing the Diamir and Rupal Faces, has seen almost a dozen attempts by the likes of Voytek Kurtyka, Erhard Loretan and Doug Chabot, including three near-complete ascents in 2004 and 2008.
In August 2004, Steve Swenson and Doug Chabot had climbed all but the eighth and final sub-peak before the summit when Swenson developed a respiratory infection. “The hanky he carried said it all. It was grotesquely covered in blood and chunks of god-knows-what; I had to look away every time he pulled it out,” Chabot wrote in the 2005 American Alpine Journal. They descended via the Schell Route from the Mazeno Col at 6940m, just two days of easy climbing from the top of Nanga Parbat. Three years later, Germans Joseph Lunger and Luis Stitzinger also descended at Mazeno Col, this time via the Messner Solo Route, because of deep snow and a low food and fuel supply.
Over 18 days last summer, Brits Sandy Allan and Rick Allen finished the route and completed a full traverse of the mountain. Joining the pair on part of the climb were South African Cathy O’Dowd and Nepalese Lhakpa Rangdu Sherpa, Lhakpa Zarok Sherpa and Lhakpa Nuru Sherpa. They acclimatized on the lower part of the ridge before making their attempt. O’Dowd and the Nepalese climbers descended after a failed summit bid from their 7200m camp. Allan and Allen continued over the Nanga Parbat summit and down the normal route on the north flank.
Southwest Face of Kamet (7756m), India
On September 22, Frenchmen Sebastien Bohin, Didier Jourdain, Sebastien Moatti and Sebastien Ratel left advanced base camp on the Pachmi Kamet glacier. Their goal was the 2000-meter-high southwest face of Kamet (7756m), the highest peak you can legally climb in India. Carrying only two pieces of non-essential gear–extra soup and a camera–the four started up the easiest line on the wall, though it included overhanging ice in parts of the gully. They spent four nights on the climb, taking two hours each evening to chop out a bivy. After reaching the nearly 8000m summit, they made 13 rappels down the south face to the ground. They graded Spicy Game ED-: 5.10- 90 degrees. Unlike the other routes nominated for the Piolets this year, the southwest face of Kamet had never seen an attempt.
Prow of Shiva (6142m), India
On October 11, Brits Mick Fowler and Paul Ramsden summited the long-attempted northwest buttress of Shiva (6142m) in the Garhwal Himalaya. After taking two days to approach, they followed the steepening ridge for five days, encountering ED+ ice-choked cracks and verglassed granite slabs. “It had been a brilliant climb, and a short hug was felt to be appropriate,” Fowler reported to the American Alpine Journal. Fowler and Ramsden’s marked the fifth ascent of the peak and by far the most difficult line.
The videos above were created by Vinicio Stefanello (Planetmountain.com) and Francesco Mansutti for the Piolets d’Or 2013, Courmayeur, Chamonix – Mont Blanc.–Ed.