The Piolets d’Or (Golden Ice Axe) is an annual mountaineering award that has been handed out since 1991 by the French magazine Montagnes and the Groupe de Haute Montagne.
The 2014 Piolets d’Or is promising to make an impression on the climbing scene, despite years of controversy. Here are some of the Canadians that made the 2014 preliminary list which includes nearly 100 climbers. For the complete list, see here.
The purpose of the Piolets d’Or awards is to raise awareness about the year’s greatest ascents across the world. They aim to celebrate the taste for adventure, the bravery and sense of exploration that lie behind the art of climbing in the world’s great mountain ranges.
A celebration of mountaineering.
The Piolets d’Or draw their inspiration from mountaineering’s rich history. They are a celebration of a sense of partnership and solidarity, of shared experiences, and reward individual or collective achievement.
In modern mountaineering, questions of style and means of ascent take precedence over reaching the objective itself. It is no longer a matter of employing huge financial and technical resources (bottled oxygen, fixed ropes, high-altitude porters, so-called ‘performance-enhancing’ substances…) and large numbers of people to reach the top at all costs. The Piolets d’Or throw the spotlight on imaginative and innovative new routes, using a minimum amount of equipment, and building on experience.
Criteria for evaluating performances
The jury judges these ascents irrespective of a climber’s nationality and against the following criteria, both on a point-by-point basis and as a whole:
- Style of ascent.
- Spirit of exploration: original (previously unclimbed) route and/or mountain, creative and innovative approach.
- Level of commitment and self-sufficiency.
- High level of technical ability required.
- Suitability of route in light of objective dangers.
- Efficient and sparing use of resources.
- Transparency regarding the use of these resources.
- Respect for people, climbing partners, members of other teams, porters and local agents.
- Respect for the environment.
- Respect for future generations of mountaineers by leaving them the possibility of enjoying the same kind of experiences and adventures.
Because of the non-quantifiable nature of climbing accomplishments, and the varying interpretations of ‘alpinism’ and ‘respect for the mountains,’ there has been controversy surrounding the award. In 2005, Ian Parnell withdrew his nomination, as did Alessandro Beltrami, Rolando Garibotti and Ermanno Salvaterra in 2006 for what might have been the first ascent of the North Face of Cerro Torre. In 2008, during the selection process Garibotti asked the jury not to take into consideration the Torre Traverse he completed with Colin Haley. Marko Prezelj rejected the award in 2007 on stage to express his opposition for competition in alpinism. In 2013, to avoid controversy, the award was given to all six nominated ascents. For more on the 2013 winners, see here.
The 2014 Jury
From the 2014 Piolets d’Or website, “These protagonists, bearers of those values and symbols of that code of ethics which constitute the founding principles of alpinism Piolets d’Or intends to promote, nurtured the flame of their passion, and that remained unchanged since the first day. With spontaneity and modesty they accepted to become members of the 2014 Piolets d’Or Jury. They are the ambassadors of alpinism, intended as a discipline concerned with respecting the mountains and those who live under them. Beyond their performance, they enhance those behaviours and gestures which prove that mountaineering is a universal adventure, inherently human and cultural as well as enjoyable as a sport.”
George Lowe (USA)
Erri de Luca (Italy)
Catherine Destivelle (France)
Denis Urubko (Russia)
Sungmuk Lim (Korea)
Karin Steinbach, (Germany)
Souce: Piolets d’Or