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Nobel Prize Winner Awarded Arco Climbing Nod

John Mike Kosterlitz was awarded the Nopel Prize in Physics in 2016 and Climbing Ambassador by Arco Rock Legends 2017 Awards.

Mike Kosterlitz featured in Ken Wilson’s Hard Rock

The award will be presented on Aug. 25 in the city of Arco to the 74-year-old Brown University Physics professor.

As the Arco association notes, this award goes to, “Those who, through their passion, energy and vision have guided and influenced the development of this sport.”

Kosterlitz’s father was an early researcher of biochemistry who left Germany in 1943 for Scotland, where John was born.

As noted by The Alpine Club, by the 1960s, Kosterlitz had made the second ascent of American Direct up Les Drus in Chamonix and the first ascent of the British Route on the north face of Piz Badile.

He then moved to Italy and met the right group of climbers who were busy establishing routes in Orco Valley. He developed a number of hard lines, including the Kosterlitz Crack on a boulder next to the road.

From Italy, Kosterlitz moved to America and worked at Princeton University, Cornell University, Harvard University and Bell Labs. He was struck with illness and could not longer climb.

Paul McSorley on Kosterlitz Crack. Photo Brandon Pullan

He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for, “Theoretical discoveries of topological phase transitions and topological phases of matter.” For more on that see here.

Climber Glyn Hughes recalls times with Kosterlitz: “After graduating from University in 1963 I spent six weeks in the Dolomites and the Alps before starting work… This was probably the high point of my climbing career, but just the beginning for Mike.

John Mike Kosterlitz

“He followed this by becoming one of the leading British climbers in the UK and the Alps at that time, and one of the first to tackle hard routes in Yosemite. Perhaps best known for the Kosterlitz/Isherwood route on Piz Badile (known locally as the ‘via degli Inglesi’, although Mike is of course Scottish), climbed in 1968 when they went off-route on the Corti-Battaglia, and now a classic route of that area.”

A few previous Arco award recipients include Lynn Hill, Jerry Moffatt, Maurizio Zanolla, Luisa Iovane, François Legrand, Yuji Hirayama, Stefan Glowacz, Mauro Corona and John Ellison of CAC – Climbers Against Cancer.

Kosterlitz noted after receiving the award, “My climbing years were very important to me and it is very special to be honored for my early climbing exploits.”