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XV Piolet d'or, the candidates

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The six candidates for the prestigious Piolet d'or, promoted by the French Montagnes Magazine and awarded in Grenoble, France on 10 February.

Here they are, once again the curtains have been raised revealing the nominations for the Piolet d'Or 2005. The magnificent six mountaineering achievements (with their magnificent protagonists) chosen to be the most significant in 2005 by the jury of the prestigious award and promoted by the French Montagnes magazine. And in Grenoble on 10 February 2006 only one of these six routes (all are first ascents or exceptional repeats) will receive the golden ice axe. Just like with all awards, a bit of suspense is in the making...

In the meantime, to be elevated within this group of "pretenders to the throne" is a great thing in its own right. Because it's useless trying to hide the obvious: what is considered to be the mountaineering Oscar always generates suspense and hopes. So much so that, as the year progresses, all new important ascents are tagged with the question as to whether they will (or won't) be worthy of the Piolet. it's a recurring game. And to be a candidate is by no means a small thing.

So let's have a look at who (and what) has been put in the running for this 15th Piolet d'or by the jury, presided this year by the Englishman Stephen Venebles. Let's begin with the most recent ascent, that of Cerro Torre and “El Arca de los Vientos” concluded on 13 November by Ermanno Salvaterra, Alessandro Beltrami and Rolando Garibotti with a beautiful weaving ascent up the east, west and north faces of the Torre. As many will remember, these are the same walls ascended in 1959 by Maestri and Egger, and this is a line of ascent which in the past 45 years no one else managed to re-ascend...

Apart from this (truly important) historic note and the known dispute as to whether this ancient 1959 ascent was or wasn't carried out, what these three Patagonian mountaineers carried out is definitely noteworthy, and therefore a Piolet candidate for sure! It's worth pointing out that this is the second consecutive year that Italian Patagonian mountaineers are candidates: last year Elio Orlandi, Horacio Codò and Luca Fava were in the running with their new route on Fitz Roy.

We remain in Patagonia for another of the six candidates, namely with Robert Jasper and Stefan Glowacz. The famous two German climbers succeeded in climbing a new route up the impressive north face of Cerro Murallion: 27 pitches, with 7c+ climbed free as the jewel in its crown, and some sections graded A2 and M4. Glowacz and Jasper succeeded on their second attempt on the line which they had tried in 2004. Persistence rewarded by success!

And persistence (in its highest forms) certainly weren't lacking in the American Steve House and his compatriot Vince Anderson, who summited on Nanga Parbat's 8125m. they did this via the impressive central pillar on the Rupal Face, and this is without a doubt one of the most important achievements of the year (and more). Their new 4100m route was climbed in one single non-stop 6 day ascent, followed by another 2 in descent. As we have become accustomed, House and Anderson climed in "extremely lightweight" style on the absolute forefront of mountaineering. True alpine style therefore, on the absolute limit of what is humanly possible. During the descent (along the line chosen by Reinhold Messner) the two stumbled across fixed ropes and... chose not to use them. This is “Steve House” style. Last year the American brushed upon victory (not without polemics) with his solo ascent of K7... This year he's in with another ascent, and what an ascent it is!

Talking of alpine style and solo ascents one cannot fail to mention another candidate: the Swiss Ueli Steck. His Khumbu Express took in three splendid ascents on the difficult north faces of Cholatse (6440m), Tawoche (6505m) and the NW face of Ama Dablam up to 5900m. His turned out to be a great, fast, lightweight tour and, given the choice of mountains, out of the ordinary, since Cholatse and Tawoche are often "obscured" by sacred monsters in the Khumbu valley. Although not as famous as her majesty Everest, Lhotse and Nuptse, these two definitely represent a frontier of modern mountaineering.

We return to one of the 14 highest mountains in the world to talk about Denis Urubko and Serguey Samoilov and their new route on Broad Peak (8047m). One again it's a new route, a lightweight team and cutting edge ascent which demanded 8 days (6 in ascent and 2 in descent) off the Kazak team, who climbed up 75° ice and 6b terrain. An absolutely beautiful first, on one of the earth's giants... fantastic!

The list of candidates is completed by the French nomination comprised of Patrick Wagnon, Christian Trommsdorf and Yannick Graziani, who climbed the hitherto untouched north and central summits of the 7500m high Tibetan Chomo Lonzo. In alpine style with the some fixed ropes on the traverse, though the fact that they reached two unclimbed 7500m summits makes it all the more impressive. It's as if to say, at the start of the third millennium, there's still a lot out there for those who know how to look.

What becomes clear when looking at this list of candidates is how the Piolet d'or (and above all mountaineering) orientates itself along the lines of "new" and "lightweight" being beautiful. And it rewards "alpine style" (in its pure and less pure forms). One could argue therefore that the old philosophy is increasingly modern, or rather, that this philosophy never ages. And so, having archive the Piolet d'or 2004 and the achievement of the large Russian team on Jannu, let's wait out for the winner (of the best ascent) in 2005. One thing is certain: it'll be as light and great as all other prizes! See you on 10 February.


News archive Piolet d'or
Salvaterra, Garibotti, Beltram, Cerro Torre
Steve House and Vice Anderson, Nanga Parbat
Denis Urubko and Serguey Samoilov, Broad Peak
Ueli Steck, Khumbu Express
Robert Jasper and Stefan Glowacz, Cerro Murallon
Expo Grivel


Photo: the line of ascent in the upper section of the route on Cerro Torre by Ermanno Salvaterra, Rolando Garibotti and Alessandro Beltrami
ph arch. E. Salvaterra)
Patagonia, Cerro Torre, Salvaterra, Garibotti, Beltrami
NOMINATIONS PIOLET D'OR 2005
NANGA PARBAT, Rupal. 8125m, Pakistan
New route up Central Pillar for
Steve House and Vince Anderson (USA)
Length: 4100m
Grade: WI4 M5, 5.9
Alpine Style. Ascent 6 days, descent 2 days via Messner route.
House and Anderson did not make use of the in-situ fixed ropes down the Messner route.
BROAD PEAK 8047m, Pakistan
new route on S Face for
Denis Urubko and Serguey Samoilov (Kazakhistan)
Length: 2500m
Grade: 6b, ice 75°
Alpine style. Ascent 6 days, descent 2 days via the normal route.
CHOMO LONZO (7500m), Tibet.
Patrick Wagnon, Christian Trommsdorf, Yannick Graziani (FRA)
Traverse North - Central summit
Length: 1500m
Grade: ED
Two unclimbed summits in alpine style with some fixed routes.
KHUMBU EXPRESS, Nepal.
Ueli Steck (CH).
Solo enchainment: n Face of Cholatse (6440m) 1600m route, M6; E Face of Tawoche (6505m) 1500m route; NW Face of Ama Dablam (up to 5900m).
CERRO MURALLON, Patagonia
N Face for
Robert Jasper and Stefan Glowacz (GER).
27 pitches, max 7c+, A2 and M4.
2nd attempt (1st in 2004). Fixed ropes on first 10 pitches.
CERRO TORRE, Patagonia
New route for
Ermanno Salvaterra e Alessandro Beltrami (ITA), Rolando Garibotti (ITA) E, W and N Face.
Alpine Style. grade 6b+ and A1.
Jury of 15th Piolet d'or
- Stephen Venables (GB) president
- Pierre Hofmann (CH) GHM
- A. Bolotov and M. Mikhaïlov (RUS) winner of Piolet d'or 2004 for the ascent of Jannu
- Mike "Twid" Turner (GB)
- Silvo Karo (SLO) Mountain wilderness international
- François Marsigny (FRA)
- Im Duc Young (KOR)
- Guy Chaumereuil (FRA) founder of the Piolet d'or
- Editors of Montagnes magazine

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