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Everyone Is a Winner at 2013 Piolets d'Or

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All the nominees for the 2013 Piolets d’Or take home golden ice axes. Photo by Pascal Tournaire / Piolets d’Or

4/6/13 – For the first time in the 21-year history of the Piolets d’Or, all six teams nominated for a golden ice axe won the prize. The awards jury, chaired by British mountaineer Stephen Venables, announced its decision last night in a ceremony in Courmayeur, Italy.

In a press release, the Piolets d’Or said, “2012 was an exceptional year for groundbreaking ascents. The jury struggled to reduce that list [from] six, but…in 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 six prize-winning climbs each reached summits over 6,000 meters (19,685′), and five of the six resulted in  traverses over the top and down another route. They are:

• South face of the Ogre, Pakistan, by Kyle Dempster, Hayden Kennedy, and Josh Wharton (USA). • Complete Mazeno Ridge, Nanga Parbat, Pakistan, by Sandy Allan and Rick Allen (UK). • Northeast spur of Muztagh Tower, Pakistan, by Dmitry Golovchenko, Alexander Lange, and Sergey Nilov (Russia). • Southwest face of Kamet, India, by Sébastien Bohin, Didier Jourdain, Sébastien Moatti, and Sébastien Ratel (France). • Northeast ridge of Shiva, India, by Mick Fowler and Paul Ramsden (UK). • South pillar of Kyashar, Nepal, by Tatsuya Aoki, Yasuhiro Hanatani and Hiroyoshi Manome (Japan).

In addition to Venables, the jury included Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner, the first woman to climb all the 8,000-meter peaks without supplementary oxygen; Silvo Karo, the Slovenian alpinist famed for his exploits in Patagonia; and Katsutaka “Jumbo” Yokoyama, the Japanese “Giri-Giri Boy” who has done many new routes in Alaska and elsewhere.

For years, the Piolets d’Or awards, spearheaded by the French Groupe de Haute Montagne (GHM) and Montagnes magazine, have struggled with the question of how to choose the year’s “best” mountaineering ascents. In the mid-2000s, several climbers withdrew their nominations or refused to be considered for the awards.  And in 2007, Slovenian alpinist Marko Prezelj rejected his golden ice axe (the second he’d won) on stage, citing the inherent problems and contradictions with competition in alpinism.

The event was canceled in 2008, and the following year it was reconstituted as the Piolets d’Or (plural), under the leadership of French alpinist Christian Trommsdorff, with the goal of becoming a festival that celebrates high-end mountaineering rather than an overt competition. In 2009, for the first time, three teams won Piolets d’Or, and every year since there have been multiple winners. But 2013 marks the first time all the nominees have won.

Also in Courmayeur, a Piolet d’Or for lifetime achievement was awarded to Kurt Diemberger, the Austrian alpinist who led the first ascents of Broad Peak and Dhaulagiri, among many other ascents. The organization also presented a “special mention” to Hayden Kennedy and Jason Kruk for their bolt-free ascent of Cerro Torre in early 2012, as well as to David Lama and Peter Ortner for their all-free ascent.

Date of event: April 5, 2013