Piolets d'Or 2013: the incomprehensible universal tie
Some thoughts about the Jury verdict of the 21st Piolet d'Or 2013 which assigned the award to all six nominated ascents.
Piolets d'Or 2013: everyone won, or did everyone lose a little bit? It's all over now: the Jury presided by Britain's Steve Venables has awarded the 21st Piolets d'Or to all six nominated ascents. As if to say that there is no difference between them. Or better still that (to use a statement used on various occasions in the past) in alpinism one cannot make comparisons. No ascent, so the argument goes, can be compared to another: which means that by definition there is no best ascent. One might object immediately and say that, if one starts on this basis, then what is the point of an Award in the first place? Or, should all this be true, how were the 6 nominated climbs selected from the original list of 80? Were all the rest less "equal"? But these questions, old, almost taken for granted, we know will remain unanswered.
This leads to believe that perhaps even those questions that deal with alpinism could do with a healthy dose of "lightness" (as in Calvino's Six Memos for the Next Millennium). Perhaps alpinism needs to consider itself less as the territory of the gods. So ethereal that it does not even fall into the category of the normal world.
I am among those who have always stated that all juries must be free and independent, and that their views must be respected. But, never before as in this case, I feel as if there is the sacred right to criticize. Never before, in fact, did the solution to the enigma seem so clear. There was a real winner. And how! It was clear to all - except evidently to the Jury - that the ascent of the year could be no other than the Mazeno Ridge on Nanga Parbat. That of Sandy Allan and Rick Allen is a truly powerful story, epic and incredible, an alpinism reminiscent of yesteryear. But no. All equal. An incomprehensible decision to say the least. So much so that any other decision would have been better, perhaps in favour of any other climb. Especially since all nominated ascents are (by definition and in deed) superb climbs. Personally, for example, I really liked that the Russians on Muztagh Tower - 17 days in the midst of a storm, simply because they chose to remain so isolated from the world so as not to receive any information regarding the weather forecast. But, we repeat, the decision was made to head in a different direction. To make a "non-choice". And, if I'm permitted to say so, to also not be courageous.
The thing, if you want, which is saddest is that we haven't understood this choice, just like the many other alpinists and journalists - specialised and mainstream - who were there at Courmayeur for the Award's ceremony. And if we didn' understandt, then how of earth can we communicate and share this with the outside world? And, exactly for this reason, on www.montagnes-magazine.com (the site of the French magazine which co-founded the Piolets d'or) Manu Rivaud, the journalist and a member of the Piolets d'or organising committee, confirmed his resignation from the Award as well as that of Claude Gardien, the editor of Vertical and member of the organisation of the Piolets.
Yes, we have lost another opportunity. If we continue in this direction we will always remain in our small little world. And, unfortunately, we will continue to see alpinism and the mountains splashed onto front-page news only when there are tragedies.
In truth, on the "communicability" front not even the Jury Special Mention shone particularly brightly, for the "bolt removal" of the Cerro Torre Compressor route. The Special Mention united the ascent and above all the removal of the bolts by Kennedy and Kruk with the (subsequent and yes, truly outstanding) first free ascent by David Lama. The argument goes that the bolt removal eliminated the scars while at the same time restored the mountain's virginity. Please do excuse me, but it seems to me as if Cerro Torre's "virginity" has not changed in the slightest, while the jab has (once again) been made at Cesare Maestri. A man for whom, for better or for worse, it would be just and humane to leave in "peace."
Thankfully at this Piolet d'Or there was also Kurt Diemberger who quite rightly received the Lifetime Achievement Award, named in honour of Walter Bonatti. Once again wise Kurt whisked the Courmayeur audience away with his stories of an alpinism marked by exploration, beauty and poetry. These are the things that will always make us dream. Just like when we were transported into other dimensions, those of poetry and great music by L'Orage which provided the soundtrack to the awards. Yes, at the end of the day this is how we would like alpinism to present itself to the world. Simplicity and beauty. And then, luckily, there's still alpinism that continues to happily go into the mountains, and only this makes it truly alive.
PIOLETS D'OR 2013
06/04/2013 - Piolets d'Or 2013: everyone wins
22/03/2013 - Piolets d'Or, special mention to Kennedy, Kruk, Lama and Ornter
11/03/2013 - Piolets d'Or 2013, the nominations for the 21st edition
06/02/2013 - Piolets d'Or 2013: Kurt Diemberger receives Lifetime Achievement Award