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Piolets d’Or Committee Hails Controversial Cerro Torre Climbs

The Piolets d'Or committee has decided to honor two ascents of the Compressor Route on Cerro Torre in 2012.

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Cerro Torre. Photo by <a target=Tim Kemple. Previously published in Tuesday Night Bouldering (R&I Issue 201).” src=”https://d1vs4ggwgd7mlq.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/Article-Images/News-Photos/patagonia-kemple.jpg” />The Piolets d’Or committee has decided to honor two ascents of the Compressor Route on Cerro Torre in 2012: Hayden Kennedy and Jason Kruk’s first ascent of the route without using Maestri’s bolts (and subsequent chopping of those bolts) and David Lama and Peter Ortner’s later first free ascent. While Kennedy, Kruk, Lama and Ortner will not actually receive Piolets’ d’Or for these ascents, they will receive a “special mention” in honor of their achievements.

“Over the last 20 years climbing has become more and more a ‘consumer’ product, where you simply pay to receive a pre-packaged predictable experience,” says Stephen Venables, the president of the committee, in a press release. “Kennedy, Kruk, Lama and Ortner have restored Cerro Torre’s southeast ridge to the realm of genuine adventure. My feeling is that this goes way beyond Cerro Torre. The relentless increase in bolting of every lump of rock in the world is seriously undermining the most basic values of mountaineering.”

The Compressor Route has a long and storied history in Patagonian climbing. Cesare Maestri essentially created the Compressor Route when he placed approximately 450 bolts up Cerro Torre in 1970. The route was known as the Compressor Route for the gas-powered compressor drill Maestri used to put in the bolts.

On February 18, 2007 Josh Wharton and Zach Smith challenged traditional methods for ascending the Compressor Route by climbing the majority–but not all–of the route sans bolts.

Then in January of 2012, Kennedy and Kruk made an ascent of the Compressor Route without using any of Maestri’s bolts (they clipped a total of four bolts placed on a different variation of the route, plus climbed one section of A2). They then chopped the majority of Maestri’s bolts on the way down. Shortly thereafter, Lama and Ortner climbed the Compressor Route completely free.

“It turns out that the physical presence of the bolts was not nearly as important as their psychological impact, and their tendency to focus attention on the manufactured path, rather than on the mountain’s natural features that allow passage,” says the Piolets’ d’Or Committee