The Ice-axe swings back: Reactions to Piolet dOr

Posted: Feb 14, 2006 03:08 pm EST

(Mounteverest.net/K2Climb.net) Steve Houses eyes shone as he stepped on stage to retrieve the Piolet dOr 2005, according to Vinicio Stefanello, journalist with Planet Mountain. Last year, Steve was not so moved. In 2004, the award eluded him and instead went to the Russian team who opened the North face of Jannu. This year Steve dedicated the award to alpine style and pure spirit. The voting public, unlike 2004, supported the jurys decision.

No one seems surprised

I met Steve some weeks ago and he was sure of his victory in France, said Vladimir Bogdanov, from BASK company.

Finally, the Piolet d'Or was awarded to American climbers very interesting, finalist Denis Urubko told RussianClimb. I wasn't surprised by that decision. And I'm happy that the sport is important for me first of all, and that I'm free in my preferences and future plans... However, international media reports seem to agree that the new route opened by Denis and Serguey Samoilov on Broad Peaks SW face was no less meritable than that of House and Anderson on Nanga.

Cerro Torre trios rebellion

All finalists were there to applaud the winners, except for Stefan Glowacz who was unable to attend due to health reasons. The Cerro Torre team: Ermanno Salvaterra, Alessandro Beltrami and Rolando Garibotti, who had previously asked the organizers to withdraw their climb from the nominees list, were also absent.

We will not attend the ceremony, and would very much appreciate it if our Cerro Torre climb is withdrawn from the list of nominees, they wrote to the organizers and members of the jury Silvio Karo, Stephen Vanables and Twid Turner.

We sent that letter already on January 10, Rolo told ExplorersWeb.

What really matters

We were fortunate enough to have succeeded in our attempt to climb Cerro Torre - our interest and motivation for the climb was the quality of the experience itself."

An award such as the Piolet d'Or attempts to judge the quality of the experience. But mountaineering is practiced without well-defined governing principles; any attempt to judge the quality of one ascent over another is necessarily very subjective. It is like trying to compare different fruits.

Accusations fly

The 'alpinism hierarchy' - federation officials and sponsored climbers - seem to benefit most from such an event," said Garibotti in his letter to the judges. "A 'Grand Prize' enhances the public profile of the activity, justifying money received and money spent. But for the majority, those who practice mountaineering as 'amateurs', the benefits are elusive, perhaps non-existent.

Last year's Piolet d'Or serves as an example: The overpoweringly negative feedback toward the winning Russian team bordered on the xenophobic, resulting in a confrontation that divided climbers rather bringing them closer into a constructive dialogue," he added.

Awarded by French Montagnes Magazine according to the decision of an international jury, its importance makes the Piolet dOr (The Golden Ice Axe) something like the Oscars of Alpinism.

2006 Piolet d'Or jury:

1. Stephen Venables
2. Jannu: Bolotov and Mikhailov
3. Guy Chaumereuil (France), founder of the prize
4. Mike Twid Turner (UK)
5. Pierre Hofmann (Swizerland) GHM
6. Sylvo Karo (Slovenia), Mountain Wilderness International
7. François Marsigny (France)
8. Im Duc Young (Korea)
Montagnes magazine staff.

The American climb on Nanga's Rupal face took six days on the ascent and two days to descend, in alpine style. Vince and Steve summited on September 6, 2005. The summit day lasted 24 hours. They took two days to descent via the Messner route - they reportedly found fixed ropes there, but didn't use them.

In addition to House and Anderson's new route on Nanga's Rupal face, favorites were also Kazakhs Denis Urubko and Serguey Samoilov, who opened a new route on Broad Peaks SW face. They accomplished the feat in unknown terrain, in bad weather conditions and in pure alpine style. They were also the only ones to reach the main summit of Broad Peak in 2005.

Italians Ermanno Salvaterra and Alessandro Beltrami, and Argentinean (US resident) Rolo Garibotti summited Patagonian Cerro Torre at 11.30 pm on November 13. The trio had to endure two bivouacs on the wall: One on the way up and one right below the summit mushroom after reaching the top. Salvaterra reported the climb was done in alpine style, via a new route the team has called El Arca de los Vientos" (The chest of winds).

At the upper sections of the wall, the climbers traversed from the North face in order to join the Ragni di Lecco route. The team had hoped to complete the first repetition of the controversial route opened by Cesare Maestri and Toni Egger in 1959. Retracing Maestris footsteps, the goal was not only to climb the route, but also check if there were pegs or other rests left by the 59 climbers, to prove they actually climbed the wall. They found no traces and the riddle remains unsolved.

Other candidates for the Piolet d'Or were:

French P. Wagnon, Ch. Trommsdorf, and Y. Graziani for the first climb on Chomo Lonzo's Central summit (Makalu area).

Swiss Ueli Steck for The Khumbu Express combination of solo climbs on Cholatse's North face and Tawoche.

Swiss Robert Jasper and German Stefan Glowacz for a new route on Cerro Murallon, Patagonian Ice Cap.


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Image of Vince Anderson (left) and Steve House receiving the Piolet d'Or last year, by photographer Giulio Malfer, courtesy of PlanetMountain (click to enlarge).
"Piolet d'Or was awarded to American climbers very interesting," said nominee Denis Urubko. Image of Denis by Gleb Sokolov, courtesy of RussianClimb (click to enlarge).
We were fortunate enough to have succeeded in our attempt to climb Cerro Torre - our interest and motivation for the climb was the quality of the experience itself," ensured Argentinean Rolando Garibotti after refusing to be part of the Piolet d'Or awards. Image of Rolo during the Cerro Torre climb, courtesy of team-mate Ermanno Salvaterra (click to enlarge).

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