Time once again for the annual Piolets d’Or, the climbing world’s equivalent to the Cannes Film Festival but without all the supermodels and yacht parties. And yes, I know, supermodels and yacht parties are the whole point of Cannes, but bear with me. The Piolets d’Or has something that Cannes, with its mercurial actors, megalomaniacal directors and bunga-bunga hangers-on, hasn’t. Y’see, while the entire film industry throws bazillions of dollars into packaging the triumph and tragedy of the human spirit into a one-hour and 25-minute multiplex mega-hit starring Vin Diesel and Lindsay Lohan in their most demanding roles ever, the Piolets d’Or is something that Cannes or the Oscars or surreality TV can never be. The Piolets d’Or is about the world’s hardest men and women staring the impossible straight in the eye and charging it with every ounce of strength, courage, wisdom and luck they can muster. The Piolets d’Or, gentle reader, is the real deal.
In 1991, Guy Chaumereuil (editor-in-chief of Montagne magazine) and the Groupe Haute Montagne launched the initiative “to raise awareness about the year’s greatest ascents across the world.” A list of recipients can be found here starting with the first Piolet d’Or, awarded in 1992, to Marko Prezelj and Andrej Stremfelj for opening a bold 3000-meter route on the south pillar of Kangchenjunga (8476m).
Certainly a lot has changed in the 19 years since the first Piolet d’Or was first presented and 2011 represents the third year of a new and improved Piolets d’Or. The updated charter states…
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.
19th Piolets d’Or Nominees
Colin Haley and Bjørn-Eivind Årtun – Southeast face of Mount Foraker, Dracula (M6R, AI4+, A0, 3170m)
Colin Haley, Bjørn-Eivind Årtun
Southeast face of Mount Foraker (5304m), Alaska
Yasushi Okada and Katsutaka Yokoyama – Southeast face of Mount Logan, I-TO (ED+, WI5 M6, 2500m)
Katsutaka Yokoyama and Yasushi Okada
Southeast face of Mount Logan (5959m), Canada
Malcom Bass and Paul Figg – Vasuki Parbat, West Face (6792m)
Malcom Bass and Paul Figg
Wasr face of Vasuki Parbat (6792m), India
Max Belleville, Mathieu Détrie, Mathieu Meynadier and Sébastien Ratel – Lunag 1, Close the Door (IV/5, F5, 1,200m)
Couldn't find a photo of the Lunag crew. Please accept this image as a token of my sincerest apology.
Southeast face, Lunag I (6830m), Nepal
Bruce Normand and Kyle Dempster – East Face Mount Edgar, The Rose of No Man’s Land (VI, WI5+, M6, 2400m)
Quite possibly not Bruce Normand or Kyle Dempster.
East face of Mt Edgar (6618m), China
Sean Villanueva, Nicolas and Olivier Favressse (Belgium) and Ben Ditto – Big walls, Greenland
OK, I didn't even try to find an image of these guys. But you could at least give me credit for finding a photo with green land in it.
Devil's Brew, Seagull Wall, Greenland
The jury evaluates performances based on:
– 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.
Lifetime Achievement Piolet d’Or
In 2009, the “Piolet d’Or organising committee proposes an alpinist who, apart from their commitment and ethical stance, has profoundly marked their era.” The two previous winners were a couple of relative unknowns by the names of Walter Bonatti and Rheinhold Messner. The venerable Doug Scott will be in town to receive this year’s award.
Program of Events
Wednesday, 13 April, 21:00 – Chamonix, Cinéma Vox (€8.50)
Ascension du Mont Blanc 1903 (10 min.) – first filmed ascent of Mont Blanc.
Samsara (22 min.) Conrad Anker, Jimmy Chin & Renan Ozturk on Mt. Meru
The Swiss Machine (20 min) – Ueli Steck, speed climber extraordinaire
Thursday, 14 April, 21:00 – Chamonix, Majestic Congress
– Greg Child – president of the Jury, author of Postcards from the Ledge and Over the Edge.
***Tribute to Maxime Belleville – nominated for the Piolets d’Or 2011 for Lunag I expedition.***
Max Belleville - R.I.P.
Friday, 15 April, Chamonix, Majestic Congress
15:00-17:00 Selection of mountain films (free admission) 17:00 Doug Scott, Greg Child, Mick Fowler & Chris Bonington book signing 21:00 Piolets d’Or 2011 – the ascents of the year. Doug Scott, Chris Bonington and Jean Afanassieff share memories. Presentation of the jury. Presentation of the six nominated ascents. Presentation of the 2011 Piolets d’Or.
Saturday, 16 April – Courmayeur, Palanoir Cinema
18:00 Procession through town center by Courmayeur Mountain Guides. 21:00 Presentation of 2011 Lifetime Contribution Award to Doug Scott.
Sunday, 17 April – Chamonix, Salle du Bicentenaire
19:00 Slideshow and presentation by Doug Scott. €15 with all proceeds going to Community Action Nepal.