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Raphael Slawinski Receives Summit of Excellence 2020

For his 30-plus years of contributions to Canadian and international climbing

The 45th annual Banff Centre Mountain Film and Book Festival has announced that Calgary-based Raphael Slawinski, leading visionary of ice, alpine, and mixed routes, is the recipient of the 2020 Summit of Excellence Award.

The Summit of Excellence Award celebrates long-term contributions, service, and demonstrated impact within the mountain culture community in Canada by an individual or group from across the country.

Born in Warsaw, Poland in 1967, Slawinski has built a storied career that includes first ascents of dozens of ice, mixed, and alpine climbs, and three first accents of six and seven thousand metre peaks in Pakistan.

Slawinski has been featured in many Gripped articles and news stories over the past 22 years for his historic first winter alpine ascents, including the first winter ascents of Mount Alberta via the Japanese Route with Eamonn Walsh and Scott Semple, the Sphinx Face V M6 with Valery Babanov, and The Greenwood-Locke route V M6 with Ben Firth, both on Mount Temple.

He was part of the start of the M-climbing revolution three decades ago, and climbed some of the first M10s and M11s in North America. In 2013, he received the Piolets d’Or with Ian Welsted for the first ascent of K6 West (7,040 m).

He’s one of the few professional climbers who keeps an up-to-date blog. In a post from earlier this year, he said: “When I first got serious about climbing in the early nineties, I’d devour every issue of Climbing magazine as soon as it came out. I was living in Chicago at the time, going to graduate school and acutely missing the Rockies.

“The bright pages of the magazine were an escape from the grey skies and slushy streets of the big city. Perversely, I’d skim over the images of lycra-clad gymnasts on sunny rock, and instead linger over those of modern knights in Goretex armour going to do battle on vertical walls of ice.”

Joanna Croston, Banff Centre Mountain Film and Book Festival director, said, “Raphael is regarded as a friend to many and a master at seeking out new lines. His unique vision for pushing the boundaries of difficult climbing has left an unprecedented legacy in mixed climbing. All Canadians should be proud of Raphael’s contributions.”

Presented by Banff Centre Mountain Film and Book Festival since 1987, the annual award is presented in memory of Calgary climber Bill March, an internationally respected mountaineer, author, and educator, who led Canada’s first successful Everest climb in 1982. Recent recipients of the Summit of Excellence Award include: David Smart (2019), Jacques Olek (2018), Don Serl (2017), David P. Jones (2016), Pierre Lemire (2015), and Urs Kallen (2014).

“In 1995 a friend and I were walking down Woolley Creek, the gateway to some of the Rockies’ most impressive faces, after climbing our hardest alpine route yet,” said Slawinski.

“As we followed the faint trail beside the stream, I thought of all the Rockies pioneers who’d walked this same path on their way to legendary adventures. I’m honoured and humbled to have my own ascents recognized as having added a little to the crazy and wonderful history of Rockies climbing.”

The Peach

Slawinski and Grant Meekins made the first ascent The Peach M8 WI5 110m in 2011. The impressive bolt-free mixed route climbs a steep in on the Storm Creek Headwall.

Slawinski returned with Jerome Yerly to make the second ascent. Wiktor Skupinski joined to film the action.

Sub Zero Series

In 2014, Slawinski was part of the Sub Zero Series that focused on Canadian ice and mixed climbers. From the press release:

Raphael Slawinski is a rare creature – a Professor of Physics at Mount Royal University in Calgary, Alberta and a National Geographic Adventurer of the Year nominee. He is one of Canada’s most prolific ice climbers and this interview about why he ice climbs and what keeps him motivated is a must-watch for any climber or, indeed, anyone who enjoys the outdoors.

“Even if you’re the most conservative climber, just by going climbing you subject yourself to things outside your control, that’s kind of the definition of mountain adventure,” said Slawinski.

Not only is he smarter than you, he speaks more eloquently, too. FYI, enrollment at Mount Royal University starts in the spring, meaning there’s still time to get a class with this master. Screw the physics, get him to take you ice climbing.