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Piolet d'Or 2004 nominees

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The six Piolet d'Or 2004 nominees for the most important alpine achievements of the year

Time has nearly come to analyse 2004. And so, like every year, it's time for the candidates of the Piolet d’or, the French oscar promoted by Montagnes Magazine. The prize, for the six most important alpine achievements of the year, will be awarded in Grenoble on 25 February.

The first nomination goes to Linea di Eleganza’, the new route on the NE Face of Fitz Roy, climbed in February by the Italians Elio Orlandi, Luca Fava and Horacio Codo.

The second nomination remains on South American soil and goes to 'Johan's route', first climbed by the Slovenians Thomaz Humar and Ales Kozelj on the grandiose, and dangerous, South Face of Aconcagua (6960m). Climbed in December 2003, it is perhaps the timing, not the value of the route and the wall, that makes this nomination surprising.

As was to be expected, the Russian team together with Alexandre Ruchkin and Dmitry Pavlenko has been nominated for its success up the towering North Face of Jannu (7710m). The direct line pinned the 11 mountaineers down for 50 days in base camp before the final rush, a porta-ledge bivvy above 7000m, to reach the summit.

Another line that figures in this prestigious top six is 'Arctic Rage', by the Americans Kevin Mahoney and Ben Gilmore. The two climbed the East Face of Alaska's Moose’s Tooth via Jim Bridwell and Mugs Stump's 1981 "Dance of the Woo-Li Masters, before continuing along an in dependant line. Worth highlighting, other than the fast and light approach, is the hostile and inhospitable terrain in which the two attempted, twice, to climb the wall. It was finally climbed in a three day. pure alpine-style push.

The fifth nomination goes to Jean Christophe Lafaille and his recent solitary and oxygenless ascent of the South Face of Shisha Pangma (8046m). The Frenchman reached the summit on December 13 after having climbed a brief independent line: his variation connects the direct couloir, climbed by Britons Victor Sanders and Andy Parkin and then by Simone Moro and a Polish team in 2003, to the British route climbed by Scott, MacIntyre, Baxter and Jones. This is undoubtedly a nice ascent even if, as many have already pointed out, his success came 10 days prior to the official start of winter and cannot therefore be considered a true winter ascent of one of the 14 highest peaks.

Last but certainly not least is the fast, solitary ascent along the SW Face of K7 by Steve House. The American needed just 41 hours from basecamp to the 6934m summit and back for the second ascent of the mountain. The 2700m line encounters difficulties of 5.10, ice 80°, M6+, A2. A fantastic, rapid ascent!

It's common knowledge that comparisons are never easy, and this is particularly the case in mountaineering. It's almost always impossible to form a single, unanimous opinion, but the Piolet d'Or certainly acts as a good indicator in defining the parameters with which cutting-edge ascents can be judged. Apart from Lafaille's Shisha Pangma ascent, no other +8000m peak is in the list. And apart from the Russian expedition on Jannu, all other are small, lightweight teams. And all are new routes, or at least in part follow independent lines. Then again, for quite some time now the frontiers of mountaineering have been pushed alpine style in remote places.

On 25 February we'll know just that bit more.

News archive Piolet d'Or
1. Linea di Eleganza - Fitz Roy
2. Johann's Route - Aconcagua
3. Jannu
News archive J.C. Lafaille
News archive Steve House
Expo Grivel

Photo: Fitz Roy and the line of "Linea di Eleganza" (archive E. Orlandi)

Patagonia, Linea di Eleganza, Fitz Roy, Elio Orlandi
NOMINEES PIOLET D'OR 2004
1. FITZ ROY 3440m – NE Face
Linea di Eleganza – February 2004
VI, 6c/A3, M7 - 1450m.
8 days and 6 bivvies
Elio Orlandi - Luca Fava - Horacio Codo
2. ACONCAGUA 6960m - South Face
Johan's route - December 2003
6b/A2, ice 100°, M6 - 2500m
6 days on the face – alpine style
Thomaz Humar and Ales Kozelj
3. JANNU 7710m - North Face
Russian Direct line – April/May 2004.
6b/A3+, M6 - 2100m.
50 days at Base Camp.
11 mountaineers, Alexander Odintsov expedition leader
4. MOOSE’S TOOTH 3150m - East Face
Arctic Rage – attempt 22/23 March then 31 March to 3 April 2004
VI, A2, ice 6+ - 1500m
1st attempt: 2 days. 2nd attempt and success: 3 days – alpine style.
Kevin Mahoney - Ben Gilmore
5. SHISHAPANGMA 8046m – South Face
Voi Lafaille and Scott-MacIntyre-Baxter-Jones – 14 November to 13 December 2004.
VII, ice 75° - 1300m + 1000m soit 2300m.
5 days for summit push, 2 nights above 7100m.
Jean Christophe Lafaille, solo, without oxygen.
6. K7 6.934m – SW Face
New route - 24/25 July 2004
Second ascent
5.10, ice 80°, M6+, A2
41 hours from Base Camp to summit and back
Steve House solo.

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