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Piolet d'or 2004, the six candidates


The jury, headed by Krzysztof Wielicki, and the six candidates for the Piolet d'Or 2004 promoted by Montagnes Magazine

Last December Montagnes Magazine announced the nominations for the Piolet d'or 2004, the prestigous award for the best ascent of the year (see news). Now, two weeks prior to the ceremony in Grenoble on 25 February, the editors of Montagnes Magazine have presented the jury, headed by Krzysztof Wielicki (a name and a guarantee) and have published brief texts for the six candidates.

As always there is no indication as to who will win the golden ice axe: the jury has not yet presented an official statement. And, as always, the mountaineering world has lost little time in discussing who could (or should) have been included in this list of chosen ones, and who has the greatest chances of winning.

Those interested in hedging their bets should read the cv's of Montagnes Magazine, published below. And those who don't completely agree should consider the fact that this is a partial (albeit important) award, especially if the many individual opinions about ethics and the style of ascent are bourne in mind.

So let's take the Piolet d'or for what it is: an award, by no means absolute, from which once a year we can draw comparisons and analyse what has been "achieved" and what the possible "future tendencies" are, all the while knowing full well that in theory there is no such thing at the "the best realization". In the meantime, to see how things turn out, check out the celebration on 25 February.


 Elio Orlandi (Italy), Luca Fava (Italy) and Horacio Codo (Argentina), for the first ascent of Linea di Eleganza, on the NE Face of Fitz Roy (3440 m), Patagonia.

This is the most direct line up the NE Face to the summit. One of the rare important ascents this year in Patagonia. This international team dared to climb for 8 days on the mountain, benefiting from the outstanding weather for this magnificent massif, where sun and snow storms can occur during the same day.

Date: expedition in loco from mid December 2003 to 8 February 2004.
Route length: 1450m
Grade: VI, 6c, A3, M7
Time: 8 days on the wall. 6 bivouacs with sleeping bags only, final night without any nivy gear.
Style of ascent: the majority of the pitches in the first 500m were free climbed, then fixed with rope. Capsule style for the next 350m, mostly aid. Alpine style and free climbing up the last 600m.

Tomaz Humar and Ales Kozelj (Slovenia), for the first ascent of Johan’s Route, on the S Face of Aconcagua (6960 m), Argentina.

With this new ascent Tomaz Humar has proved to have returned to top level ascents, after having spent several months in a wheelchair due to a houshold injury. Together with Ales Kozelj he climbed the immense south face in alpine stule in 5 days. The name of the route pays hommage to Janez Jeglic, Tomaz's climbing partner on Nuptse in 1997, but swept away by the wind on the summit crest.

Date: expedition in loco during the last two weeks of December 2003.
Route length: 2500m
Grade: VI, 6b, A2, M6, ice 100°.
Time: 6 days on the mountain from 17 to 22 December. 5 bivouacs
Style of ascent: alpine style, climbed free apart from one section which needed aid. No fixed ropes.

Alexander Odintsov, Alexander Ruchkin, Serguey Borissov, Michka Mikhailov, Guecha Kirievsky, Mikhail Perchin, Kolia Totmianin, Alexei Bolotov, Euvgeni Prilepa, Dimitri Pavlenko (Russia), for the first ascent of the direct line up the N Face of Jannu (7710 m), Nepal.

The first ascent of the direct line up the north face of Jannu has represented a challenge for the best mountaineers in the world from the start of the '80's. The Russian tactics (capsule style, relay teams on the wall fixed ropes) is not the most aesthetic, but most alpinists who know the wall say that, at present, this is the only conceivable style of ascent...

Date: expedition in loco from 5 April to 28 May 2004.
Route length: 2100m
Grade: VI, 6c, A3+, ice 4, M6.
Time: 50 days
Style of ascent: mostly aid climbing, fixed ropes along the route. The various teams alternated leads, bivying on the rock face. Capsule style from 6900m to 7710m.

Kevin Mahoney and Ben Gilmore (United States of America), for the first ascent of Artic Rage on the E Face of Moose’s Tooth (3150 m), Alaska

This ascent of ice and mixed relives the passion the great iced faces. The two mountaineers traced a superb line up technical gullies, climbing the crux in difficult atmospheric conditions and iin pure alpine style. Borrowing the start of one of Bridwell's two routes on the wall, this is now the most direct line up the emblematic Alaskan mountain.

Date: expedition in loco from 20 March to 3 April 2004.
Route length: 1500m
Grade: VI, A2, ice 6+.
Time: one first 2 day attempt on 22-23 March, then the second successful three-day attempt from 31 March to 2 April.
Style of ascent: Alpine style. Free climbing except for one aid section.

ean-Christophe Lafaille (France), for his most recent solitary ascent of the S Face of Shisha Pangma 8046m (main summit), Tibet.

Jean-Christophe Lafaille is the first in the history of Himalayan mountaineering to have climbed an emblematic 8000m+ summit in alpine style via a great and nice technical route (Scott/MacIntyre/Baxter-Jones with a variation at the start from 5800m to 7000m), alone on the entire mountain, without supplementary oxygen and in complete winter conditions.

Date: expedition in loco from 11 November to 15 December 2004.
Route length: 2200m
Grade: VII - ice 80°, mixed 55°.
Time: summit attempt 9, 10, 11 December. Descent to Base Camp on 12 December. Three nights at 7000m.
Style of ascent: 90% alpine style. Free climbing and 300m fixed rope Light Dyneema: 200m from 7000 to 7200m, then 100m for the first final creavace. Integral solitary ascent 98%.

Steve House (United States of America) for the solo first ascent on the SW Face of K7 (6942 m), Pakistan.

Steve saw this line in 2003 and attempted it 4 times this year. On only his third attempt did he manage to find his way through the rock face at the base of the wall. He was surprised by a storm at 6200m and had to descend. On 17 July 2004 he reached the main difficulties too late at 6800m, graded M6+ and A2. On 24 July her reached them at 11.00 and managed to overcome them.

Date: July 2004. 29 days in loco. Various attempts.
Route length: 2500m
Grade: VII, 6a, A2, M6+, ice 80°.
Time: 41 hours and 45 minutes, 24 and 25 July.
Style of ascent: Integral solo ascent, free climbed except for one 20m aid section without belay, simply belayed on two points.
Patagonia, Linea di Eleganza, Fitz Roy, Elio Orlandi
Krzysztof Wielicki 14 8000m peaks climbed, president of the Jury
Leslie Fucsko president GHM
Guy Chaumereuil founder of the Award Piolet d’or
Valeri Babanov and Yuri Koshelenko, winers of the Piolet d’or 2003
Stéphane Benoist nominated for the Piolet d’or 2003, GHM
Yvette Vaucher GHM
Montagnes Magazine the editors
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
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
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
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
SHISHAPANGMA 8046m – South Face
Voi Lafaille and Scott-MacIntyre-Baxter-Jones – 14 November to 13 December 2004.
VII, ice 80°, mixed 55°.
5 days for summit push, 2 nights above 7100m.
Jean Christophe Lafaille, solo, without oxygen.
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.
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)





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