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A New Route in Canada Recieves a 2021 Piolets d’Or

Ethan Berman and Uisdean Hawthorn have received the award for a new 2020 route up Mount Robson's Emperor Face

The Piolets d’Or 2021 recipients have been announced, the event will be held at the Briancon, France, from Nov. 26 to 29 for the award ceremony. Two major climbs will receive the 2021 award, and one climber gets a special mention.

Canadian-based Ethan Berman and Uisdean Hawthorn received an award for their first ascent of Running in the Shadows, a 2,300-metre VI M6 AI5 A0, on the Emperor Face of Mount Robson. It’s the first time a new route in the Canadian Rockies has received the award.

The Piolets d’Or committee, said, “All technical climbing was on new terrain, with the hard pitches through thinly iced, steep rock barriers that often had a very Scottish feel. Next day, in poor weather with bad visibility, they made a complex one-kilometre traverse along the west flank of the Emperor Ridge to gain the summit.”

Berman told us after their FA, “We climbed the whole face in 19 hours from the lake. We bived on the ridge and then continued to summit, bivied again on the summit and then descended. It was really wild, and the conditions were amazing.”

Alpinists Berman and Hawthorn are no strangers to the Rockies and have been at the cutting-edge of hard Canadian mountain ascents over the past few years. “On a cool historical note, we followed the original 1974 attempt line through the Jaws, which was subsequently followed by Walsh and Kruk, before heading up and right into a new gully system 14-ish pitches to the Emperor Ridge.”

And French climbers Pierrick Fine and Symon Welfringer received an award from their first ascent of Revers Gagnant, 2,500-metre M4+ WI4+ 90°, on the previously untouched south face and southwest ridge of Sani Pakkush (6,952 m) in the remote Tolltar Valley region of Pakistan.

A special honoree mention this year goes to big wall soloist Silvia Vidal for her continued contributions to the world of remote rock development. In 2020, she single-handedly established Sincronia Magica in El Chileno Grande, Chile, an 1,180-metre 6a+ A3+. The full trip took 49 days, with 33 on the wall.

The Piolets d’Or jury said, “Her most notable ascents have been achieved mainly in total autonomy: entirely alone, no radio, no mobile, no GPS, no weather forecasts, no communication. Drilling tends to be minimal, and always by hand.”

Some of her many new routes, include Life is Lilac 6a A4+ 870m on Shipton Spire, Pakistan in 2007; Naufragi 6a+ A4+ 1,050m in Raldang, India in 2010; Espiadimonis 6b A4 1,050m in Serrinia Avalancha, Chile in 2012, and Un Pas Més 6a A4+ 530m in Xanadu, Alaska in 2017.

A 2012 conversation with Silvia Vidal