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From 21 - 24 March 2012 Chamonix and Courmayeur will host the world's most famous award for alpinism.
Photo by Piolets d'Or 2012
Walter Bonatti at Courmayeur during the Piolets d'or 2010
Photo by Giulio Malfer
Venas Azules, Torre Egger, Patagonia.
Photo by archivio Bjørn-Eivind Årtun
Abseiling from the summit of Sasser Kangri II to the last bivouac
Photo by Steve Swenson

Piolets d'Or 2012, the international alpinism festival starts today


The Piolet d'Or gets underway in Courmayeur and Chamonix today and 2012 celebrates the 20th anniversary of the world's most famous alpinism award. Four days of international alpinism at the foot of Mont Blanc to discuss, watch and celebrate alpinism in all its forms, to pay homage to Walter Bonatti and to present the Lifetime's Achievement award to Robert Paragot.

This is it. Today marks the start of the XXth Piolet d'Or, or rather, with the new formula introduced in 2009 today marks the start of the Piolets d'Or, where the plural underlines the fact that the golden ice axe can be assigned to not just to one, but to various different ascents. Once again six climbs have been nominated and on Saturday, during the Award's celebration, we will know who takes home the most prestigious award in world mountaineering. But before this special evening at Courmayeur, the two small towns at the foot of Mont Blanc will live, talk and witness some great alpinism.

It all begins today, Wednesday 21 March, at Punta Heilbronner with a day dedicated to youngsters and the effects of altitude, organised by the Safe Mountain Foundation in collaboration with the Courmayeur Mountain Guides. This initiative is certainly both interesting and important, and in the evening Chamonix celebrates the official start of the Piolets d'Or, while at the Jardin de l'Ange in Courmayeur the "TrentoFilmFestival at the Piolets" will screen the films "Linea Continua" by Hervé Barmasse and "Asgard Jamming" by Nico and Olivier Favresse. These film makers and alpinists will take part in the event and, for those who follow the mountain chronicles, Barmasse and Favresse certainly need no introducing.

Only those who are capable of being in two places at the same time will be able to fully enjoy Thursday evening, for two special events are scheduled to start at 21:00: "Alpinism and innovation" at Chamonix and "A way of life, Walter Bonatti in his own words and those of others" at Courmayeur. The former pays homage to the mountaineering career of Robert Paragot and will finish with a conference held by Jerome Blanc Gras, while the latter, at Courmayeur, promises to be something truly special. We'll admit that we're biased - the show is based on an idea by Vinicio Stefanello of Planetmountain - but we really feel that this "theatre reading" dedicated to the great Walter Bonatti, staged by Vasco Mirandola with live music by Piccola bottega Baltazar and videos by Raffaella Rivi, is something one really mustn't miss.

For those not directly involved in the event, Friday will be a rest day - but only partial - because in the late afternoon Chamonix will screen a series of mountaineering films. For the 6 nominated ascents though, the time comes to deal with the first important hurdle: they will present their ascents to the Jury, presided by American Michael Kennedy. Each of the six teams will be able to recount and relive those dreams and efforts, mixed with the thin air, of their climbs... and, as usual, the task of the international jury will be by no means easy. Kennedy is joined by first-class names such as Valeri Babanov, Alberto Inurrategi, Ines Papert, Liu Yong and Alessandro Filippini and it goes without saying therefore that they are well "equipped" for the task in hand.

The highlight of the festivities takes place in Courmayeur on Saturday evening, when the official award ceremony will present the Lifetime Achievement Award (as of this year called Walter Bonatti Award) to Robert Paragot. This will be followed by the proclamation of the winner of the Piolets d'Or 2012. As everyone knows the 6 teams are comprised of Denis Urubko and Gennady Durov (Kazakhstan), by Mark Richey, Steve Swenson and Freddy Wilkinson (USA), by Conrad Aker, Renan Ozturk and Jimmy Chin (USA), by Luka Strazar and Nejc Marcic (SLO), by Ales Holc, Peter Juvan and Igor Kremser (SLO), and by Ole Lied and the unforgettable Bjorn Eivind-Aartun (NOR). This year's magic mountains are Pic Pobeda, Saser Kangri II, Meru Peak, K7, Xueliang Feng and Torre Egger. Yes, these are dreams that will be told by those who lived them... and this, regardless of the outcome as all alpinists know, is already a great little victory.

Wednesday 21st March
Courmayeur – Pointe Helbronner (3462m)
8.30am - A discovery day in the high mountains for the younger generations.
Chamonix - Cinéma Vox
9.00pm – Mountaineering films (entry charge) - Vertical Sailing, Piolets d'Or 2011 expedition. - Les Piolets d'Or, Jean Afannasieff
Courmayeur - Jardin de l'Ange
9.00pm - The Trento Film Festival at the Piolets d'Or (free entry). Mountainnering films: Linea Continua, Hervé Barmasse and Asgard Jamming, Favresse brothers.

Thursday 22nd March
Chamonix - Le Majestic
9.00pm - Alpinism & innovation (free entry).Homage to Walter Bonatti.Introduction- Robert Paragot. Present day innovation in the mountains: Jérome Blanc Gras
Courmayeur – Jardin de l'Ange
9.00pm - A way of life (free entry) Walter Bonatti: in his own words and those of others

Friday 23rd March
Chamonix - Le Majestic (free entry)
2.30-5.00pm Showing of mountaineering films. 5.30pm Book signing – mountaineering themes. 9.00pm An evening with the jury and nominees of the 2012 Piolets d'Or

Saturday 24th March
4.30pm - Press conference with Robert Paragot and the nominees (Jardin de l'Ange). 6.00pm - Parade by the mountain guides of Courmayeur (town centre)
9.00pm - Palanoir cinema – (free entry) Award ceremony for the 20th Piolets d'Or: Lifetime Achievement Piolet d'Or Walter Bonatti Award presented to Robert Paragot. Piolet/s d'Or 2011 ascent/s of the year award/s

K7 West (6,615m), Pakistan
Luka Strazar and Nejc Marcic

Meru Central (6,310m), India
Conrad Aker, Renan Ozturk and Jimmy Chin

Pik Pobeda (7,439m), Kyrgyzstan
Denis Urubko ande Gennady Durov

Saser Kangri II (7,518m), India
Mark Richey, Steve Swenson and Freddy Wilkinson.

Torre Egger (2,850m), Argentina
Ole Lied and Bjorn Eivind-Aartun

Xuelian North-East (6,249m), China
Ales Holc, Peter Juvan and Igor Kremser

JURY 2012
Michael Kennedy
(USA, alpinist), President
Valeri Babanov (Russia/Canada, alpinist)
Alberto Inurrategi (Spagna, alpinist)
Ines Papert (Germany, alpinist)
Liu Yong (China, alpinist)
Alessandro Filippini (Italy, journalist)





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