Last weekend saw the 2013 Piolets d'Or (Golden Ice Axe) ceremony in Chamonix (France) and Courmayeur (Italy). In an unprecedented move, all six of the nominated ascents were awarded an ice axe this year.
Amongst the six nominated ascents were two British teams, Mick Fowler and Paul Ramsden as well as Sandy Allan and Rick Allen (full nominee details here: UKC News).
The Piolets d'Or Award has had a rocky history, with many top level alpinists criticising the award back in 2007 spearheaded by Slovenian alpinist Marko Prezelj rejecting his nomination. This led to the awards being scrapped in 2008.
They came back in 2009 with a new ethos and things have been pretty rosy since then, with the ceremony being well received by most alpinists involved.
However with this year's award going to all the teams, it seems the Piolets d'Or committee are keen to be even more inclusive and not to single out an individual climb as being 'better' than the rest. But this is climbing, and of course some people aren't happy. By giving all the ascents a golden ice axe, some say the judges may have devalued the award itself.
Sandy Allan (Nanga Parbat); Sebastien Bohin (Kamet); Rick Allen (Nanga Parbat); Yasuhiro Hanatani and Tatsuya Aoki (Kyashar)
UKC News, Apr 2013
© Piolets d'Or
The two founding organisations behind the Piolets d'Or are the Groupe de Haute Montagne (GHM) and also Editions Niveales the publishers behind Montagnes Magazine. Following this year's awards Manu Rivaud, the Editor in Chief for Montagnes Magazine, has resigned from the organisational committee, stating that Montagnes Magazine are "disappointed with the outcome which considerably weakens both the event and its stature".
Manu went on to comment at length on the Montagnes Magazine Website:
"How could providing the exact same award to the ascents of Nanga Parbat's Mazeno ridge and the Prow of Shiva not make the jury members feel even a little bit uneasy?
...Acting in this manner completely negates the notion of commitment, makes light of the problems inherently linked to climbing at high-altitude, and fails to recognize the innate human ability to innovate in challenging conditions. This decision blurs the benchmarks for future generations. In part, this act is a snub to who we are and to the history of mountaineering. All in all, it represents a total disregard for the art of climbing the highest summits in the world and for the artists who climb them, going as far as to make a mockery of each and every ascent nominated over the past twenty editions of the Piolets d'Or that did not win the award, an award that had set the standard until today."
His resignation follows that of Claude Gardien, the editor of Vertical Magazine, who resigned from his duties at the Piolets d'Or in March.
Whether Editions Niveales will pull out of the awards is as yet unannounced, and whether the awards could continue if they did is also unknown, however despite the petty politics of a few, it is undeniable that this last year has been a great year in the mountains, and the nominated ascents are a collection of outstanding achievements that we as climbers should be proud to celebrate.
Mountaineering will live on, with or without the current Piolets d'Or committee.
Our friends over at PlanetMountain have put together a collection of excellent short videos showcasing each of the nominated climbs. Watch, be inspired and go climbing!
Piolets d'Or Winners 2013:
Kyashar (6,770m), Nepal
Muztagh Tower (7,284m), Pakistan
Baintha Brakk (a.k.a The Ogre, 7,285m), Pakistan
Nanga Parbat (8,125m), Western Himalaya, Pakistan
Kamet (7,756m), India
Shiva (6,142m), India