Catherine Destivelle Earns Piolets d’Or Lifetime Achievement Award

Destivelle becomes the first woman to receive the award since it began in 2009.

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The Piolets d’Or jury has chosen Catherine Destivelle to be the recipient of their 2020 Lifetime Achievement Award. Since its inception in 2009, the Lifetime Achievement Award is meant to honor climbers who’s careers serve as inspiration to following generations, and has been awarded to legendary climbers such as Walter Bonatti, Reinhold Messner, and John Roskelley. Catherine Destivelle is the first female recipient of the award..


Destivelle was born in 1960 in French Algeria. Her family moved to France when she was a child. She began bouldering in Fontainebleau when she was 12 years old. As a teenager, Destivelle got a taste for mountaineering in the Alps, but in the 1980s turned her attention to sport climbing—a rapidly growing discipline in Europe at that time. She was the first woman to redpoint 8a (5.13b).

Destivelle was one of the pioneers of climbing competitions as well. She won the Italy’s Sportroccia in 1985, the first international climbing comp. Throughout the late-1980s, Destivelle and Lynn Hill often rivaled one another for first place at international competitions.

Though Destivelle was a top-tier sport climber, her true passion was alpinism, which she made a triumphant return to in 1990 with a solo ascent of the Bonatti Pillar on the Petit Dru. In 1992, she became the first woman to solo the North Face of the Eiger, which she completed in winter. The following year, she did a winter solo of the Walker Spur on the Grandes Jorasses, and a winter solo of the Bonatti Route on the North Face of the Matterhorn the year after that. Destivelle then took the skills she learned in the Alps to the Greater Ranges, climbing high-altitude routes in the Himalaya and Karakorum.

Catherine Destivelle crushed the stereotypes that top level sport climbing and daring alpinism were reserved for men. She is one of the most well-rounded climbers of all time—from the boulders of Fontainebleau to the Himalaya—and her storied career serves as inspiration to climbers everywhere.

Read the full Piolets d’Or announcement below: