Ueli Steck and Raphael Slawinsky & Ian Welsted win the Piolets d'Or 2014
The Piolets d'Or 2014 was assigned this evening in Courmayeur to two ascents: the NW Face of K6 climbed by Raphael Slawinsky and Ian Welsted and the South Face of Annapurna climbed solo by Ueli Steck. The South Face of Annapurna ascent carried out by da Stephane Benoist and Yannick Graziani received a Special Mention from the Jury, while the "Walter Bonatti" Lifetime Achievement award was given to John Roskelley.
The Piolets d'Or 2014 goes to Raphael Slawinsky and Ian Welsted for Northwest Face of K6
This year's Piolets d'Or goes to a previously unclimbed summit, the target of several earlier attempts. The team was confronted with difficult technical climbing, including an overhanging ice crux. 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 climbed back up the ridge above the unclimbable section to continue to the summit.
The Piolets d'Or 2014 goes to Ueli Steck Annapurna South Face Solo
After reaching the final bergschrund, one of the members of this team thought the risk too high so the sole remaining climber had to face it alone. In climbing the face alone, he subjected himself to maximum exposure. Despite not knowing what was awaiting above the 6500 meters, he managed to complete the unfinished route of Pierre Béghin and Jean-Christophe Lafaille (of 1992). Achieving a first ascent on this wall, climbing alone, in very rapid alpine style seems to be a new dimension in high altitude climbing.
Special Mention - Annapurna, 8091m (Nepal)
The jury decided to award a special Brotherhood of the Rope mention for the second ascent of the Steck route by Stéphane Benoist and Yannick Graziani. They found much more difficult conditions (M5+/M6) through the rock band due neve melt since the Steck ascent forcing these two accomplished climbers to spend from 16-26 October on the face. Stephane fell ill high on the face, making the descent very difficult. None the less, they managed to return alive, demonstrating that a partnership can be greater than the sum of its parts.
THE VIDEOS OF THE ASCENTS
PIOLET D'OR 2014 - K6 West, 7040m (Pakistan)
K6 West has also been the target of several previous attempts. Canadians Raphael Slawinski and Ian Welsted first had to climb through a complex and dangerous icefall to reach an elegant ice/mixed line on the Northwest face, which led in turn to the crest of the upper west ridge. The pair took five days to reach the summit, gaining 2,700m of vertical height above base camp. A further day was needed to descend the route.
PIOLET D'OR 2014 - Annapurna, 8091m (Nepal)
The South face of Annapurna has been a high altitude forcing ground for progressive Himalayan climbing. An alpine style ascent of this face was completed as early as 1984. In 1992 Pierre Béghin and Jean-Christophe Lafaille tried a route to the right of the 1970 British south pillar, reaching above 7,300m. Retreating from this point in poor weather, Béghin fell to his death. Ueli Steck (Switzerland) completed this route in a 28-hour round trip (8-9 October) from an advanced base beneath the ca 2,700m wall, climbing up and down the top section at night to escape strong daytime winds.
PIOLET D'OR 2014 - Mount Laurens, 3052m (Alaska)
This isolated icy giant is situated on the Lacuna Glacier, south of Foraker. Mark Allen (USA) and Graham Zimmerman (USA/New Zealand) took two days to get to the base of the peak from their drop-off point, and then succeeded in making the first ascent of the northeast buttress and north ridge. They reached the summit after two bivouacs, for only its second ascent, negotiating unprotected climbing around large gargoyle cornices. Their ascent, and subsequent descent via the east face, was completed in a total of 67 hours from 20-22 May.
PIOLET D'OR 2014 - Kunyang Chhish East, 7400 metri (Pakistan)
The Kunyang Chhish still has virgin summits and the east peak had been the object of several previous parties. After two attempts defeated by storm, Simon Anthamatten (Switzerland), Hansjörg and Matthias Auer (Austria) climbed the 2,700m mixed Southwest face in six days, two of which were spent trapped at 6,700m by foul weather. The corniced summit ridge, with its baroque architecture, proved spectacular.
PIOLET D'OR 2014 - Talung, 7439m (Nepal)
Marek Holecek and Zdenek Hruby completed the first ascent of the North face of Talung, a summit situated immediately south of Kangchenjunga. This side of the mountain, previously the target of several attempts, gives a challenging 2,000m of vertical ascent. Despite considerable difficulties, the Czech pair summited in five days, ending the climb in unfavourable weather. The descent of the west face took an additional day. Sadly, Zdenek Hruby died in August on Gasherbrum I.
PIOLET D'OR LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD - JOHN ROSKELLEY
The Piolet d'Or Lifetime Achievement Award - after Walter Bonatti, Reinhold Messner, Doug Scott, Robert Paragot and Kurt Diemberger - will be given to American alpinist John Roskelley. Born in 1948, he undertook a series of great climbs in the 1970's and '80's such as Nanda Devi, Great Trango Tower, K2 and Makalu.