And the winners are: Raphael, Ian and Ueli
This year’s jury of the Piolet’s d’Or has given the “Oscar of mountaineering” to two teams. The jury lead by the former US top climber George Lowe awarded “two very different ascents to represent the spirit of modern mountaineering”, as the members said. The Golden Ice Axes go to the Canadians Raphael Slawinski and Ian Welsted for their first ascent of the 7040-meter-high K 6 West in Karakoram on a new route via the Northwest Face and to the Swiss climber Ueli Steck for his solo ascent via the South Face of the eight-thousander Annapurna in Nepal. The awards were given to the climbers during a gala in Courmayeur in Italy at the foot of Mont Blanc on Saturday evening.
Do not paint with the same brush!
“Raphael Slawinski and Ian Welsted were confronted with difficult technical climbing including an overhanging ice crux”, the jury said. “On the fourth day they realized they couldn’t continue on the ridge as it turned out to be a knife edge of smooth granite. After careful consideration they found another possibility, rappelling to a glacial bench on the south side and climbing back up the ridge above the unclimbable section to continue to the summit.” Moreover the jury described the Canadian expedition as being “a wonderful example of consideration of the welfare of the local people”, because the two climbers had continued their project in Pakistan despite the murder attack on Nanga Parbat. “Ian and Raphael want to encourage other mountaineers not to paint all Pakistanis with the same brush.”
Accepted great risk
The other winner of the Piolet d’Or 2014 was the outstanding favorite. Ueli Steck was awarded for his marvellous solo climb via the South Face of Annapurna. The Swiss completed the difficult route which Pierre Béghin and Jean-Christophe Lafaille had opened up to 7300 meters in 1992. Bad weather had forced the French to return. During the descent Béghin had fallen to death. Ueli Steck climbed through the night and needed only 28 hours for his ascent and descent. “In soloing the south face of Annapurna Ueli Steck accepted great risk”, tells the jury. “For 28 hours he maintained absolute concentration, knowing that one false step would cause his demise. Ueli described himself as climbing very close to his limit.”
State of the art
Both projects were “representative examples of the state of the art of mountaineering today”, the Piolet d’Or jury summarized and in addition gave a “special mention” to the French climbers Stephane Benoist and Yannick Graziani. They had repeated Uelis Route via the Annapurna South Face only two weeks later, but under more difficult conditions. The jury also praised the three other nominated expeditions: the Czech climbers Zdenek Hrudy and Marek Holecek who climbed firstly via the North Face of Talung (7439 m) in India (Hrudy later died on Gasherbrum I), the Austrian brothers Hansjoerg and Matthias Auer und the Swiss Simon Anthamatten, who summited Kungyang Chhish East (7400m) in Pakistan for the first time and – last but not least – the US climber Mark Allen and Graham Zimmerman from New Zealand who climbed firstly via the North Face and the North Ridge of Mount Laurens (3052 m) in Alaska. “All the nominations should be celebrated as representing the highest ethical ideals of mountaineering”, said the jury. This also applies for the former US top climber John Roskelley who was awarded with a lifetime Piolet d’Or.
The jury itself is also worthy of applause, because the members did their job. Last year’s jury had awarded all six nominated expeditions. That really should remain the exception.
Update 31.3.: Hansjoerg Auer has complained bitterly about the jury. “If a member of the Piolet d’Or Jury sees it critically why my brother Matthias never reported about his climbs until now, it´s time to change something”, wrote Hansjoerg on Facebook. “This is only one sign of how superficially they were dealing with our adventure on Piolet d’Or.” Only George Lowe and Catherine Destivelle had understood the challenge of climbing Kunyang Chhish East, meant the Austrian: “But the teardrops of George and Catherine, when they apologized to us for the final decision are meaning a way more than the headlines of the newspapers tomorrow.”
Date30. March 2014 | 17:53