Three alpine ascents, representing the best ethical, creative and committing alpine routes of 2014, will receive the Piolets d’Or on April 9 to 12 in Chamonix, France, and Courmayeur, Italy.
This year the 23rd annual Piolets d’Or—the highest award in mountaineering—has moved away from a competitive atmosphere to emphasize celebration of alpine achievement.
“I think it’s a good thing,” Alex Honnold, 2015 Piolets d’Or recipient, says of the change in format. “It’s kind of weird to consider outdoor climbing to be a competition, since it’s subjective. But I do think it’s important to recognize some climbs.”
Honnold and Tommy Caldwell will be receiving the Piolets d’Or for their traverse of the Fitz Roy massif in southern Patagonia.
In past years, a four-member jury conducted interviews with nominated alpinists and selected one or more winners for the Piolets d’Or, only announcing the final choices at the awards ceremony.
Liv Sansoz, French press contact for the 23rd Piolets d’Or, says that this year an international committee of nine top alpinists instead “independently and freely” chose ascents that they found to “best represent modern alpinism in 2014 complying with Piolets d’Or values.”
Sansoz says, “We want to get the word ‘winners’ out” of the process. “Winners implies losers and that’s not what we are about. We are trying to celebrate the spirit of modern alpinism and its values.”
With the Piolets d’Or no longer a competitive event, the organization announced the recipients ahead of the ceremony.
The 2015 Piolets d’Or will be awarded for:
First Traverse of the Fitz Roy Range, El Chaltén, Patagonia
Tommy Caldwell and Alex Honnold
In February of 2014, Tommy Caldwell and Alex Honnold completed the first full traverse of the Fitz Roy range, from north to south, climbing seven peaks—Aguja Guillaumet, Aguja Mermoz, Cerro Fitz Roy, Aguja Poincenot, Aguja Rafael Juárez, Aguja Saint-Exúpery and Aguja de l’S—in a five-day push.
Rolando Garibotti, author of the authoritative Patagonia climbing guidebook, Patagonia Vertical, has called this feat the “mother of all traverses. ”
With roughly three miles of climbing and 13,000 feet of vertical gain, the traverse involved free-climbing up to 5.11d, with some aid (C1), and 65-degree ice. For the majority of the terrain, Honnold and Caldwell simul-climbed.
In response to receiving the award, Honnald says, “I’m pretty psyched. I’ve joked before that if I ever won a Piolets d’Or I would just retire from climbing. Of course I said that before I ever alpine climbed so it seemed like some impossible thing.
“Whether or not we really deserve it is another question, since we only did a link-up, and it wasn’t even that hard compared to high-altitude stuff. But it’s thrilling either way.”
First ascent of the north face of Hagshu (6,657 m), Kisthwar, India
Ales Cesen, Luka Lindic and Marko Prezelj
In September of 2014, Ales Cesen, Luka Lindic and Marko Prezelj, a Slovenian team, opened a new 4,400-foot route on the North face of Hagshu, in Kisthwar, India, in a two-day bid. The team climbed until 2 a.m. on the first day, summiting the next, and descended via the original Polish route, first climbed in 1989.
First ascent of the first southwest face of Thamserku (6,618 m), Khumbu, Nepal
Alexander Gukov and Alexey Lonchinsky
Alexander Gukov and Alexey Lonchinsky, from Russia, forged a new route up the southwest face of Thamserku. They estimated the grade to be 6A/6B (Russian grading), with some section of steep ice and mixed sections of up to M4-M5, and aid climbing of up to A2. The ascent required six bivies and the descent via the South Ridge and the southwest face took 22 rappels. The team dubbed the route Shy Girl.
The awards committee (also called the technical committee) this year was comprised of: Michael Kennedy (USA), Ines Papert (Germany), Raphael Slawinsky (Canada), Andrej Stremfelj (Solvenia), Kazuki Amano (Japan), Valeri Babanov (Russia), Hervé Barmasse (Italy), Stéphane Benoist (France), and Andy Houseman (United-Kindgom).
Last year, the Piolets d’Or went to Ueli Steck for his solo of Annapurna South Face, and to Ian Welsted and Raphael Slawinski for their climb on the northwest face of K6.
Also at the Piolets d’Or Cermony this year, Sir Christian Bonington, from the U.K., will be receiving the 7th Piolets d’Or Lifetime Achievement Award. John Roskelley was presented the award in 2014.