"Climbing is more art than science, yet a growing number of awards attempt to evaluate the year's best climbs. The controversy surrounding the biggest of them, France's Piolet d'Or, raises a central question: Is it possible to choose a winner in an inherently unquantifiable pursuit?"
The Piolet d'Or award is an annual mountaineering award which has been given by the French magazine Montagnes and The Groupe de Haute Montagne since 1991. Recently the The Groupe de Haute Montagne withdrew from the award.
This years Grivel Piolet d'Or award (The Golden Ice Axe) was awarded to the Slovenians Boris Lorencic and Marko Prezelj for their first ascent of the Northwest Pillar of Chomo Lhari (c. 7,314m) in the Himalaya near the Tibet-Bhutan border on October 16, 2006 . Marko Prezelj also won the first Piolet d'Or in 1991 with fellow Slovenian Andrej Stremfelj for their ascent of the South Pillar of Kanchenjunga's south summit.
Now Prezelj has penned two articles arguing against awards in alpinism.
In an article called 'Gladiators And Clowns d'Or - Trading (virtual) sex with Miss Fame?' at Alpinist.com
"Several people criticized me for participating in the Piolet d'Or ceremony this year. None of them were in Grenoble.
Joining this circus gave me the opportunity to present my opinion about the award publicly. Time will tell if doing so was a mistake.
I don't believe in awards for alpinism, much less trophies or titles presented by the public or the media. At the ceremony I could see and feel the competitive spirit created and fueled by the event's organizers. Most of the climbers readily accepted this mood without understanding that they had been pushed into an arena where spectators thrive on drama, where winner and loser are judged.
It is not possible to judge another person's climb objectively: each ascent contains untold stories, influenced by expectations and illusions that develop long before setting foot on the mountain. In alpinism, even the most personal judgments are extremely subjective. When we return from the mountains we remember moments differently than they were – there and then – in the moment when we had to make decisions under the pressure of many factors."
Read the full essay at Alpinist.com
He follows up, the next day, 27 February 2007 with 'Alpinism and the media: A way forward' again at Alpinist.com
Photo of Marko Prezelj courtesy of climbandmore.com