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The 17th edition of the Piolets d’Or

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Boris Lorencic, at left, and Marko Prezelj, right, at the 2006 Piolet d’or awards. Photo courtesy of Montagnes Magazine


A celebration of mountaineering April 22-25, 2009 Chamonix-Mont-Blanc – Courmayeur

As a real celebration of worldwide mountaineering, the Piolets d’Or undertakes to its defend fundamental values. This revitalised 17th annual event will bring together mountaineers from all four corners of the Earth in a veritable festival. Conferences, debates, films, meetings and other cultural activities will be shared between Courmayeur and Chamonix-Mont-Blanc, from 22nd to 25th April 2009.

Piolets d’Or 2009

The Groupe de Haute Montagne, Nivéales publishing and the magazines Montagnes Magazine and Vertical, organisers of this edition, have selected the members of the jury. They are supported by the AAJ, American Alpine Journal, the gold standard, in terms of compiling and investigating the big first climbs achieved throughout all the mountain ranges of the world. For the first time the AAJ is officially supporting the Piolets d’Or, in keeping with the new spirit of promoting a taste for adventure, a desire for exploration and the art of climbing summits, rather than the spirit of competition.

An international Jury

The members of the Jury are all personalities in the world of mountaineering. Renowned mountaineers and journalists, they are informed and impassioned.

The members of the organisation committee do not participate in the selection of the nominees nor in the final vote of the jury but they vouch for the integrity of its work.

Doug Scott (GB) – Mountain Climber – President of the jury Mountain climber, explorer, also one of the pioneers of the light-weight style of climbing in the Himalayas, Doug Scott has completed some 45 expeditions on the highest mountains in the world. He has reached 40 summits, of which half of them opened new routes or were climbed for the first time in alpine style. Apart from his ascent of the south-west face of Mount Everest in 1975, where he had to use oxygen, he has achieved all the other ascents with classic, simple mountaineering equipment. He has also climbed the highest peaks of the 7 continents. In 1999, he received the Gold Medal of the Royal Geographic Society.

Dodo Kopold (Slovakia) – Mountain ClimberA top level mountaineer, aged 32, he opened up extremely difficult new routes (mixed and rock) in Pakistan, before ascending, in the past few years, 6 summits over 8000 metres in alpine style and without oxygen.

Jim Donini (USA) – Mountain ClimberCurrent president of the American Alpine Club, he is a specialist of Patagonia. In the Himalayas, among other things, he reached the highest point so far on the Northern Ridge of Latok I, with Jeff Lowe in 1978, a route that was still unconquered in 2008 despite several attempts.

Peter Habeler (Austria) – Mountain ClimberFrom 1969 he carried out record ascents of the big routes of the Alps and the Andes Cordillera before turning his attention to the Himalayas. In 1975 with Reinhold Messner, he achieved his first alpine style ascent of an 8000m mountain in the Grasherbrum, and in 1978, he climbed Mount Everest without oxygen. Guide, ski instructor, youth worker, editor, writer – always busy, Peter Habeler, is a great connoisseur of the world of mountaineering.

Im Duck Yong (Korea) – JournalistIndependent journalist, Im Duck Yong keeps the mountain community informed of accomplishments in Asia and he is the spokesperson of the Asian alpine culture. Notably, he has been involved for the last three years in the organisation of the Asian Piolets d’Or.

Dario Rodriguez (Spain) – Journalist Co-editor-in-chief of Desnivel magazine, the top Spanish mountaineering and climbing publication.

The Nominees

Maximum 6 teams nominated

The jury will have to choose between 57 big first ascents, achieved during 2008 by men or women of all nationalities on the 5 continents.

Mountaineering, climbs, expeditions – all these mountains exploits are unique performances. The jury is currently working on the selection of a list of 6 ascents that will be published by the end of February.

On 24th and 25thApril in Chamonix-Mont-Blanc and Courmayeur, the jury will reward the most significant achievements of the year.

And for the first time, a Piolet d’or will be awarded to a mountaineer for his exemplary career.

Visit: for more information



The Spirit

The purpose of the Piolets d’or is to introduce the big climbs of the year achieved throughout the mountains ranges of the world. Its aim is to celebrate the taste for adventure and the desire for exploration in the art of climbing summits. It is a celebration of Mountaineering.

The spirit of the Piolet d’Or finds its inspiration in the rich history of mountaineering. It is about celebrating the spirit of a rope party of sharing and solidarity, by promoting the beauty of an individual or collective act.

In modern alpinism, the style and the means used is more important than the accomplishment of an objective. It Is not any more about succeeding at all cost, using financial tricks, techniques (oxygen, fixed ropes, altitude carriers, drugs…) or massive human means (Sherpa, altitude carriers).

The Piolets d’Or give a value to everyone’s imagination in the research of innovative itineraries, encourages saving all means, and building on the experience in the process.

Criteria for assessment of performances

The climbs will be estimated without any discrimination of origin, on the basis of several criteria studied separately as well as a whole:

  • Elegance of the style

  • Spirit of exploration : originality of the itinerary and/or of the summit, creativity, innovation.

  • Involvement and autonomy.

  • High technical level.

  • Pertinence of the itinerary considering the obvious dangers.

  • Saving of means.

  • Transparency in the used means

  • Respect of men, partners, and members of other rope parties, carriers and local persons involved.

  • Respect of the environment.

  • Respect of future generations of mountaineers by leaving them the possibility to live the same adventures.


To conquer the Mont-Blanc in 1786, Jacques Balmat and Michel Gabriel Paccard had to defeat the ancestral fears of the whole population of the high alpine valleys.

Even in the XVIIIth century, a night spent on the haunted glaciers meant certain death. During an attempt to climbing Mont-Blanc, the bad weather forced Jacques Balmat to bivouac on the Bossons glacier. He survived and realised he would be the first one to reach the top of Mont-Blanc.

Today, there are still lost valleys in the Himalayas, ignored ranges of mountains at the edge of our continents with virgin summits, unknown faces and ridges that the mountaineers of the XXIst century will probably explore.

The irrational fears have given way to a high level preparation of athletes, a taste for adventure and commitment. The mountaineers take responsibility for the risks taken during these extreme climbs, where the only rescue available will come from their climbing companions or their expedition team.

Mountaineering, an incongruous activity in our societies, is a vehicles for the values of commitment and high performance, achieved with a deep respect for nature in one of its most powerful expressions: the high mountains. The performance is difficult to assess. The summit cannot be the only goal: the manner in which it is achieved is the only important thing.

While a major crisis destabilizes our society, a few men and women without forecasting any return on their investment, without any desire of celebrity, perpetuate the ideal of going up there, using the most beautiful way, because the mountains are there and offer them this challenge “by fair means”.

It seemed obvious for Courmayeur and Chamonix to give back to these « Conquerors of futility » what their undertaking means and values.

Here, where mountaineering was born 250 years ago, it will be celebrated. The Piolets d’Or awards are a return to the roots, a celebration to attempt to understand the essence of this discipline, which is still growing and the surpassing itself and us.

Fabrizia DERRIARD Mayor of Courmayeur (I)

Eric FOURNIER Mayor Chamonix-Mont-Blanc (F)

Co-organisers of the 17th Piolets d’Or.

The Piolet d’or: 16 years of accomplishment

Piolet d’or 91 The first Piolet d’or was awarded to the Slovenian duo Marko Prezelj and Andrej Stremfelj for the first ascent of a 3000m route on the Southern pillar of Kangchenjunga (Himalaya, 8 476 m).

Piolet d’or 92 Michel Piola(CH) and Vincent Sprungli (F ) were rewarded for opening up a rocky route of an extreme difficulty in the Paine range ( Patagonia).

Piolet d’or 93 Collective award for the high level young team of the Club Alpin Français (average age : 20 years old) and the success of their expedition in the Pamir Altaï range.

Piolet d’or 94 François Marsigny (F) and Andy Parkin (GB) opened up a new ice line at the Pass of Hope (Cerro Torre, Patagonia) and for the long days of survival on the way down.

Piolet d’or 95 Awarded to the team Andreas Orgler, Heli Neswabba et Arthur Wutsher (Germany) for opening up several extreme routes, in particular the South face of mount Bradley (Ruth Glacier, Alaska).

Piolet d’or 96 Second award for Slovenia: Thomas Humar and Vania Furlan for opening up a new route on the North- West face of Ama Dablan, 6812m, one of the most graceful mountains of Nepal.

Piolet d’or 97 First ascent of the West face of Makalu (8 841 m, Népal), achieved by the Russian expedition « Ville d’Ekaterinburg ».

Piolet d’or 98 First ascent of the North face of Thalay Sagar, Northern India(6 904 m) by Athol Whimp (New-Zealand) and Andrew Lindblade (Australia).

Piolet d’or 99 First ascent of the South-East face of the Burkett Needle (3 049 m, Alaska), by the French climbers Lionel Daudet and Sébastien Foissac.

Piolet d’or 2000 First direct itinerary of the Headwall on Shivling (6 543 m), India, by Thomas Huber (Germany) and Iwan Wolf (Switzerland).

Piolet d’or 2001 Valery Babanov (Russia) awarded for opening up a solitary itinerary on Meru Peak (6 310 m), India.

Piolet d’or 2002 Mike Fowler and Paul Ramsden (United Kingdom) awarded for opening up the North face of Siguniang (6 250 m), China.

Piolet d’or 2003 Valery Babanov et Yuri Koshelenko (Russia) awarded for the Southern pillar of Nupse (7703 m), Nepal.

Piolet d’or 2004 Expedition of 11 Russian mountaineers lead by Alexander Odintsov, for the first ascent of the North Face of Jannu (7 710m), Nepal.

Piolet d’or 2005 Steve House and Vince Anderson (USA), awarded for the first ascent of the Central pillar of Nangat Parbat (8 125 m, Pakistan) on its Rupal side.

Piolet d’or 2006 The Slovenian Marko Prezelj and Boris Lorencic were awarded for the first ascent in alpine style of the North West pillar of the Chomo Lhari (7326m, Tibet).

Piolet d’or 2007 Cancelled