A golden ice axe
UKC News, Apr 2011
© Anna Piunova The Piolets d'Or nominations for 2012 have been announced. From an initial list of 88 routes, the Piolets d'Or jury has selected "6 routes that best illustrate explorative alpinism at a high technical level in minimal style undertaken with consideration for the environment".
The nominated alpinists will be in Courmayeur (Italy) and Chamonix (France) from 21st - 24th March to give presentations and perhaps be awarded with a Piolet d'Or.
The Piolets d'Or (French for The Golden Ice Axes) are annual mountaineering awards given by the French magazine Montagnes and The Groupe de Haute Montagne. The awards, despite widespread criticism a few years ago, have become one of the most respected mountaineering awards in the world.
2012 Piolet d'Or Nominees:
Pik Pobeda (7,439m), Kyrgyzstan
Pik Pobeda is the most northerly 7,000-metre peak in the world. A high altitude symbol for mountaineers on the Asian continent, its steep and exposed north face is 2,500 metres high. Kazakhs Gennadiy Durov and Denis Urubko added a fourth route to the central and highest part of this face, below the summit. Dollar Rod is a committing and technical route undertaken in alpine style, a modern feat. Last November it was awarded the sixth Asian Piolets d'Or.
Saser Kangri II (7,518m), India
Americans Mark Richey, Steve Swenson and Freddie Wilkinson's expedition to the Indian Karakoram is another example from 2011 of exploration and committed alpine style at high altitude. During a two month expedition, the three alpinists summited the second highest, previously unclimbed mountain in the world, Saser Kangri II. The team reached the summit on 24th August via the steep 1,700 metre south-west face, after four days of ascent and three bivouacs. The route's technical difficulties are concentrated in the higher part of the climb.
K7 West (6,615m), Pakistan
Young Slovenians Nejc Marcic and Luka Strazar, 26 and 23 years old respectively, reached the west summit of K7 in a three-day alpine style ascent of the previously unclimbed north-west face via a 1,600m sustained mixed route, completing the third ascent of this famous summit in the Charakusa valley. Exploration, technical difficulty, minimalist style and commitment are the characteristics of their ascent. It was their first Himalayan expedition.
Xuelian North-East (6,249m), China
Xuelian North-East was the last remaining unclimbed 6,000m peak in the Xuelian Feng, in the Chinese Tien Shan. Slovenians Ales Holc, Peter Juvan and Igor Kremser climbed it in pure alpine style, taking the long and aesthetic north-west ridge over four days, and then descending on the south-east side in a day and a half. The technical difficulty and length of this route, climbed in minimalist style, caught the attention of the jury.
Meru Central (6,310m), India
Attempted by many expeditions since 1986, this incredible route on the east pillar of Meru Central – the Shark's Fin – was climbed in its entirety for the first time by Americans Conrad Anker, Jimmy Chin and Renan Ozturk. This particularly aesthetic route has all the difficulties of modern alpinism; rocky terrain involving difficult free climbing and committing aid climbing, and delicate mixed terrain in the upper section.
Torre Egger (2,850m), Argentina
The Patagonian spires have always lured the best technical climbers on the planet. A distant land ravaged by the southern winds, its granite peaks covered in the strangest of glacial formations. Rime and ice can cover the walls of these polished rocks, and sometimes coat them completely, depending on the wind direction. At the end of December the entire wall of Torre Egger's south face was covered in ice. Norwegians Bjorn-Eivind Aartun and Ole Lied climbed this vertical tower taking the alpine community by surprise with their opportunism.
It is with great sadness that we have learnt of the fatal accident of Bjørn-Eivind Årtun and Stein-Ivar Gravdal while attempting a new route on Kjerag in SW Norway. As his ascent with Colin Haley on Mt Foraker had been nominated last year, we had the privilege to have Bjørn-Eivind with us last year in Chamonix and Courmayeur. A top alpinist, he was a very open, friendly and humble person. This year his impressive new route on Torre Egger with Ole Lied is one of the six nominated ascents.
In the name of the Piolets d'Or organisation,