Piolets d'Or 2014, the five nominations for the 22nd edition
From the most remote mountains in Nepal and Pakistan to the frozen lands of Alaska, via the imposing Masherbrum massif and symbollic Annapurna. Five ascents, carried out by some of the world's most talented alpinists, are in the running for Piolets d'Or 2014, the most important mountaineering award that will be celebrated from 26 - 29 March 2014 at Courmayeur and Chamonix, at the foot of Mont Blanc.
The Jury of the 22nd edition of the Piolets d’Or - comprising Catherine Destivelle, Erri de Luca, Karin Steinbach, Sung-Muk Lim, Denis Urubko, together with this year's president George Lowe - had the difficult task of selecting those ascents from 2013 that represent the state of the art in mountaineering today.
The quality and variety of achievements in 2013 has been exceptional, with an increase in innovative and imaginative ascents in all the world's mountain ranges, including those in the "Old World" - the playground of Europe. Here, as well as on the world's highest mountains, a form of alpinism is growing; one that respects the mountain, limits its use of technology, and is characterized by a strong sporting ethic.
Making a choice is never easy: the Jury’s work has been outstanding, focusing on four high altitude climbs in the Himalaya/Karakoram and one in Alaska, the latter drawing attention to the vitality in fields other than high altitudes. The Jury has also nominated one climb for a Special Mention, due to the team spirit which made the achievement possible.
From the 76 climbs reviewed by the Piolets d’Or Technical Committee, six will be presented from 26 to 29 March, 2014, in Chamonix and Courmayeur, to celebrate high level mountaineering. Furthermore, American alpinist John Roskelley will receive the Piolet d'Or Carrière.
THE NOMINATED ASCENTS
Talung, 7,439m (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.
Kunyang Chhish East, 7,400m (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.
K6 West, 7,040m (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.
Annapurna 8,091m (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.
Mount Laurens, 3,052m (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
Annapurna 8,091m (Nepal)
From 16 - 24 October Stéphane Benoist and Yannick Graziani (France) also climbed the South face, following, with variants, the route climbed by Ueli Steck. The descent proved taxing with Stéphane suffering from a lung infection. The 2014 Piolets d’Or Jury has singled out this adventurous climb for a Special Mention, especially for the team spirit that forced a successful conclusion.
THE 2014 JURY
George Lowe (USA) was born in 1944. He started climbing in California at the age of 18. His mountaineering career extends over more than 40 years. His most famous ascent is the 1978 attempt on the northern ridge of Latok 1 (7145 m.), in Pakistan, together with his cousin Jeff Lowe, Jim Donini and Michael Kennedy, which stopped short of the summit of 150 m. The performance has not been matched since and the ridge remains untouched. From the long list of his achievements Lowe frequently mentions the adventure on the Nose (El Capitan, Yosemite) with Alex Lowe, accomplished in one day in 1991, or Grand Teton in 1980 with his father, George Jr, and his son, George IV. The physicist and mountaineer also climbed famous new routes in Alaska, notably on Mount Hunter and Mount Foraker.
If Erri de Luca (Italy) is universally known by the lovers of literature, many will be surprised to discover his passion for alpinism and free climbing, disciplines in which he attained high level performances. In 2002 he was the first fifty-years-old to climb the 8th (B) grade. He extensively explored the Dolomites, and traveled in the Himalayas. Not infrequently the mountains feature in his work, particularly in two books: Sulle tracce di Nives and Il peso della farfalla. A keen reader of the Bible, this is the man who, in the seventies, following his ideals, decided to become a construction worker, and to teach himself hebrew and yiddish, day in and day out, in order to study the Holy Book more closely. A passionate spirit, a thinker out of the box, a virtuoso of the page, as well as with his climbing gear. For the record, Erri de Luca has been a member of the Cannes Film Festival Jury...
Catherine Destivelle (France) showed to be an extraordinarily gifted climber from an early age. She succeeded in climbing the highest grades in the eighties, reaching the podium in various competitions, before reverting to alpinism, only to obtain similar success. She solo climbed a new route on the western face of Drus in 1991. In the following three winters she attempted, solo, the three classic north faces of the Alps: Eiger, Jorasses, ending with the Bonatti route on the Matterhorn. In the Himalayas she climbed solo the Yugoslav route on the Great Trango Tower (with Jeff Lowe) and the southern face of Shishapangma (with Erik Decamp). A mountaineering star, Catherine Destivelle is currently a publisher, lecturer, and yet still finds the time to climb with the same passion.
Denis Urubko (Russia) was born in 1973 in the Caucasus. He climbed all of the world’s eight-thousand-metre peaks. It is mostly his Alpine style first ascents, however, especially those in 2005 on Broad Peak (with Samoilov), in 2006 on Manaslu (again with Samoilov), and in 2009 on Cho Oyu, with Boris Dedeshko, which gained him his reputation as an expert in Alpine style high-altitude mountaineering. The extremely arduous climb on Cho Oyu was awarded with a Piolet d’Or in 2010. Denis is an habitué of the Piolets d’Or ceremony: in 2012 he was acclaimed for his first ascent on Peak Pobeda, with Genadi Durov. He also completed the winter ascents of Makalu and Gasherbrum 2.
Sungmuk Lim (Korea), 45 years old, lives in Seoul, where he works for the magazine Men and Mountains. He completed several ascents in Pakistan, amongst which are the new routes on Brakk Zang on the Nagma glacier, on Khache Brangse (5560 m) and on Ghonboro (5500 m) in the valley of Arandu. He also climbed Shikari (5928 m) and Mustum (5620m) in the Hindu Raj region. In 2003 he climbed a new route on the Great Trango Tower; the following year he completed the ascent of the southern face of the magnificent Mount Siguniang, in China; in 2009 he climbed Hunza Peak, in Pakistan. He confesses to have a penchant for the mountains of eastern Tibet. Let us not forget that mountain territories cover 70 % of the total surface area of Korea, and that mountaineering devotees amount to millions in the Land of the Morning calm.
Karin Steinbach, (Germany), hailing from Munich, lives in St. Gallen, Switzerland, where she works as an independent journalist, writer and lecturer. She curated scientific works on alpinism and mountain environment. She wrote the biographies of Peter Habeler (first ascent of Everest without oxygen, in 1978 with Reinhold Messner), Ines Papert, Norbert Joos and Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner. Karin also collaborated with Alex Huber and Ueli Steck, world renowned protagonists of the discipline. She is the author of a book on women mountaineers, written with Caroline Fink. She regularly enjoys skiing and free climbing, favouring rock routes in the Alps and the great classics, such as the Mittellegi Ridge on the Eiger and the Weisshorn.
Further information on the official website: www.pioletsdor.com