The Piolet d'Or is Back


Marko Prezelj accepting the 2007 Piolet d’Or for a new route on Chomolhari, climbed in 2006 with Boris Lorencic. Prezelj used the occasion to criticize the concept of prizes for alpinism, and the 2008 event was scrapped while the prize program was reorganized. Courtesy of Montagnes Magazine.

The Piolet d'Or is Back

The Piolet d’Or will return this spring after a one-year hiatus and a search for a new format that aims to make such prizes acceptable to those who believe alpinism has no winners and losers. Created in 1991, the Piolets d’Or—now offered in plural—will be presented again in late April as part of an international mountain festival.

The Piolet d’Or event in 2008 was canceled in the face of criticism from many top alpinists, including winners of the award. Since then, under the leadership of Christian Trommsdorff, co-president of the French Groupe de Haute Montagne (GHM), the Piolets d’Or have been significantly reorganized.

This year, the jury will have the option of choosing multiple “winners” from the pool of final nominees. In addition, one climber each year will be honored with a Piolet d’Or for lifetime achievement. The jury will have no representatives from the event sponsors, which include the GHM, Vertical and Montagnes magazines, and the towns of Chamonix-Mont Blanc, France, and Courmayeur, Italy. The formerly French-dominated award ceremony will be held in two countries—France and Italy—and the jury will be broadly international. Doug Scott from the U.K. will be this year’s jury president.

The new Piolets d’Or charter reflects a commitment to lightweight alpinism. It says, “In modern mountaineering, questions of style and means of ascent take precedence over reaching the objective itself…. The Piolets d’Or throw the spotlight on imaginative and innovative new routes, using a minimum amount of equipment, and building on experience.” In addition to climbing difficulty, the jury will consider three categories of “respect”: for people (including porters and other local employees); for the environment; and for future generations of mountaineers.

Coincidentally, the most recent edition of Climbing announces the 2008 Golden Piton Awards, Climbing’s annual prize for achievements in various climbing disciplines. The Golden Pitons went to:

• Chris Sharma (sport)

• Beth Rodden (trad)

• Fumitaka Ichimura, Yusuke Sato, and Katsutaka Yokoyama (alpine)

• Tommy Caldwell (big wall)

• Paul Robinson (bouldering)

• Alex Honnold (solo)

• Malcolm Daly (humanitarian)

• Alex Johnson (breakaway success)

Check-out Climbing 272 for write-ups on each of the winners.

Dates of Event: April 24-25, 2009

Sources: Christian Trommsdorff, Manu Rivaud, Climbing 272

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