Of the 76 climbs reviewed by the Piolets d’Or Technical Committee, five nominations have been selected for the prestigious high-level mountaineering Piolets d’Or award.
The jury for the award nominations this year includes alpinists Erri de Luca, Catherine Destivelle, Sungmuk Lim, Denis Urubko, mountaineering journalist Karin Steinbach, and American alpinist George Lowe who is heading the jury. Among Lowe's many accomplishments are his 1974 first ascent of the North Pillar of the North Twin in the Canadian Rockies with Chris Jones, and a one day ascent of The Nose on El Capitan with Alex Lowe in 1991.
1) American climber Mark Allen and New Zealand native Graham Zimmerman completed the first ascent of the Northeast Buttress (V A1 WI 4 M7, 4,650 meters) on Mt. Laurens (3,052 meters) located in the southwest fork of Lacuna Glacier in the Alaska Range. It took them just 67 hours to complete their climb. Allen and Zimmerman first spotted the east face of Mt. Laurens during their first ascent of Voyager Peak (3,722 meters) in 2011. They nicknamed it the “Mastodon Face.”
2) Accomplished Czech climbers Marek Holecek and Zdenek Hrudy succeeded in the fourth ascent of Talung (7,349 meters); a Nepalese peak south of Kangchenjunga. Their new route, dubbed Thumba Party (WI6 M6+, 2,500 meters), ascends via the north face of the peak. Sadly, Hrudy was killed on the decent of Gasherbrum I in August.
3) Simon Anthamatten of Switzerland and Austrian brothers Hansjorg Auer and Matthias Auer claimed the first ascent of Kunyang Chhish East (7,400 meter) in Karakarum, Pakistan, via the southwest face. The climb has been attempted several times, most notably by Steve House and Vince Anderson in 2006. House and Anderson were forced to turn around 300 meters [985 feet] shy of the summit.
4) Lyman Spitzer Award winners Raphael Slawinski and Ian Welsted of Canada ventured to Pakistan for the first ascent of K6 West (7,040 meters) in the Charkusa Valley. They completed their climb in five days via the Northwest face and the upper west ridge.
5) Finally and most famously, Ueli Steck is nominated for his solo climb of a new route on the South Face of Annapurna (8,091 meters). The route was first attempted in 1992 by Jean-Christophe Lafaille and Peirre Beghin. Due to poor weather conditions Lafaille and Beghin decided to turn back before reaching the summit. Tragically, Beghin died during their retreat. Steck completed their route in a ground-breaking 28 hours.
Stephane Benoist and Yannick Graziani also climbed the South Face of Annapurna and faced difficulties on their decent due to a lung infection that Benoist contracted. For their team spirit and perseverance, the Piolets d’Or committee has nominated the team for a Special Mention.
The awards will be presented March 26-29 in Chamonix and Courmayeur.