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Piolets d'Or - 6 winners

PostPosted: Fri Apr 05, 2013 11:30 pm
by richardh
The Piolets d'Or jury has picked this year's winners - all 6 of them!
At the presentation ceremony in Courmayeur thsi evening (Friday 5 April) they announced that they had decided unanimously to give the prize to all 6 of the teams nominated for it. The decision might not go down too well with the climbing press, who would probably like the annual award to be a bit of a cliff-hanger.

Re: Piolets d'Or - 6 winners

PostPosted: Sat Apr 06, 2013 5:34 am
by pvnisher
While I'm sure they are all deserving, I don't like the idea of choosing 6 winners. I feel it cheapens the award.

Re: Piolets d'Or - 6 winners

PostPosted: Wed Apr 10, 2013 1:13 pm
by richardh
The row deepens - on Monday the editors of Montagnes magazine and Vertical magazine (both based in France) announced that they are resigning from the Piolets d'Or organising committee. There seems to be no reaction yet from committee Chair Christian Tommsdorf, who led the way to the revival of the Piolets d'Or in 2009 after earlier controversy over the ethics of the award.

Re: Piolets d'Or - 6 winners

PostPosted: Wed Apr 10, 2013 2:00 pm
by pvnisher
It's like they took my comment to heart. Heck, why aren't I on the Piolets d'Or Steering Committee? Oh wait, don't answer that.

"Montagne magazine, co-founder and co-organizer of the Piolets d'Or since 1991 therefore regrets the outcome of this 21th edition, which weakens the event and its status, which in a way blurs the image of mountaineering in the eyes of the public, and does not reflect the real personality of the alpinists who are making history."
The resignations of Manu Rivaud (Editor-in Chief of Montagnes magazine) and Claude Gardien (Editor-in Chief of Vertical magazine) from the Piolets d'Or Steering Committee seem for the moment inexplicable. They are the founders, movers and shakers of the Piolets d'Or.

Re: Piolets d'Or - 6 winners

PostPosted: Wed Apr 10, 2013 7:01 pm
by Damien Gildea
pvnisher wrote:They are the founders, movers and shakers of the Piolets d'Or.

Hmm, no. But anyway, I was there. I had a few beers afterwards with Venables and others. They said the media would be unhappy but I guess I didn't realise just how much, as I'm surprised at the resignation of the editors. I do know, though, that there are some other factors involved. It's not all about the decision. I agreed with the decision, as if that means anything, as I could not choose between three or four of the nominees. Either pick one or pick them all, I say.

Some final night pics at: ... ype=1&l=50

Re: Piolets d'Or - 6 winners

PostPosted: Fri Apr 12, 2013 8:07 pm
by Vitaliy M.
Hahaha. A while back I said that all these seemed similar in difficulty and deserving of the award. I think it is a very good choice to award it to all. I believe it is pretty damn hard to judge which climb was the hardest. Many things should be considered.


Re: Piolets d'Or - 6 winners

PostPosted: Fri Apr 12, 2013 11:28 pm
by sharperblue
I think it's ridiculous to award a single 'winner' among such a superlative series of climbs; these aren't the Oscars; no one cares - it's about recognizing the merits of a climb or climbs with no presumptions, and following the climber's ad-hoc tradition of no set rules. i think they did the right thing hands-down

on an aside: Dempster/Kennedy: awesome team! man, i'd love to see a full slide show of that climb!

Re: Piolets d'Or - 6 winners

PostPosted: Fri Apr 26, 2013 4:13 pm
by Vitaliy M.
sharperblue wrote:on an aside: Dempster/Kennedy: awesome team! man, i'd love to see a full slide show of that climb!

Heard he gave a nice slide show at Pasadena. I believe was here giving one at Stanford, but I didn't go..

Re: Piolets d'Or - 6 winners

PostPosted: Thu May 09, 2013 8:12 am
by ericvola
As with Damien, I was at the Courmayeur POs award celebration. Better even than with their five precedent participations, always superbly professional, our Italian friends made it a fantastically entertaining event. They had a young and talented local band from their mountains (L'Orage i.e. The Thunderstorm) entertaining us in interludes. The band adapted their songs to the "wisdom sentences of great ancient alpinists " of whom the PO career, Kurt Diemberger, displayed on the screen of the cinema. All the people I know in both the Chamonix and Courmayeur valleys were very happy with the PO jury's decision and I also shared a good glass of wine with Stephen at Ruggiero Montesano's home in Courmayeur, one of Walter Bonatti's best friends where he was warmly congratulated by all, including the president of the Courmayeur's guides association.

What is quite despicable is the way Manu Rivaud, Montagnes magazine chief editor used his newspaper to deal with a feud started years ago with the POs chairman (in fact in 2009 when the then PO chairman of the jury, Doug Scott, managed to give 3 POs after having threatened to resign - 2 given in 2010, 2 in 2011 and 3 in 2012) and used the 2013 PO's jury as a sgapegoat, accusing it and so Stephen Venables, its chairman of no less than "despising the public and private partnerships which make the event exist (i.e. the towns of Chamonix, Courmayeur, Rhône Alpes and Aoste regions, a set of private and institutional parternships dedicated to mountaineering)" and even worse "...this jury has harmed alpinism... in neglecting to praise the commitments factors, problems linked to altitude and the capacities of men to innovate. .. it is betraying the history of alpinism. It is neglecting the art of climbing the highest summits and their artits and also making fun of the ascent nominated during the first 20 POs events... "

Absolute bullshit!

On the blog of Montagne Magazine, a counter-attack was made quoting Doug Scott's position:

"Subject: Piolets d'Or
Piolets d'Or have evolved over the last 21 years through many highs and lows and now, to the satisfaction of all climbers I know who primarily climb for its own sake, the organisers of the Piolets d'Or and the judge and jury have taken a brave step into the unknown by awarding the Piolets d'Or to all climbers nominated for 2012 rather than as before, deciding that one was better than the other.

The Piolets d'Or has thus become a marker in the sand, sending out the message that climbing cannot be quantified, that any judgement that one climb, even one's own climbs, are better than another, is doomed to subjectivity since it is an impossibility to compare like with like. This was realised long ago in 1912 by the Swedish IOC official Eric Ullen, when tasked with having to decide if mountaineering could become an Olympic event. He decided that it was an inappropriate pastime for the Olympics.

The climbing magazine editor/proprietor has to make a choice between upholding great traditions or taking the easy option of going with the flow of all those who would subvert climbing for their own ends. They could either promote the modern Piolets d'Or award as it now is, make it the flagship award it now deserves to be, or they can ridicule the Piolets d'Or if they see it as in their interests to promote winners and losers and indulge in show business and razzmatazz that goes with competition.

There are editors who might find life easier if they applied their journalistic skills to reporting on athletics or the intricacies of golf. These days there is no guarantee that outdoor press editors have known the exhilaration of leading across an exposed rock face or of commitment high in the thin, cold air going Alpine Style where no-one has gone before, day after day, always at the mercy of a change in the weather.

Responsible editors should enquire of the rationale behind Piolets d'Or judge and jury decision making. Manu Rivaud of Montagnes rightly questioned the judgements made last month in Chamonix. Such examination ensures Piolets d'Or abides by its own criteria. In fact criteria were met - the climbs were original, climbed in commiting style without drilling, the team members looked out for the environment, for local people and each other and better still, came back as friends having climbed just for the sake of the climb. It would be a great step forward if the climbing magazines' editors helped the Piolets d'Or award to extend these virtues far and wide.

Doug Scott
Kandy, Sri Lanka
24 April 2013

and Kurt Diemberger:

From: kurt diemberger
To: christian trommsdorff

Dear Christian, thank you for calling and telling me about some negativ opinions for giving the piolet d'or to each nominated party; however, if the jury thought, that they all did outstanding climbs - what is the matter? To put a higher value to one than to the other of these different climbs seems to me, as if one should decide - assuming the first ascent of the Eigernorthface, the Matterhornnorthface and the Walkerspur would have happened all in 2012 - to grant different ranking piolets d'or to the Heckmair-Voerg-Kasparek-Harrer-teams versus the Schmid-brothers and the brilliant Cassin-Team of the Walker!
These great northfaces are very different and in my opinion impossible to compare, besides their climbing conditions!
Therefore nobody today would ever think of different ranking values for those great climbs... and the 2013 jury simply respected all teams of the very different climbs
I cannot see a problem. Best wishes! Kurt.

Manu Rivaud has accepted that his article could have been seen as an attack and he has published in the May issue of his magazine the 'very civil' response of Stephen Venables to a set of questions he sent him as follows:

"1. Nanga Parbat, Shiva, Kyashar, Kamet, Mustagh tower and Baintha Brakk, these were the six climbs nominated, very promising to be discussed.
Did you spend a good moment with the climbers during the nominated climbs presentations ? Did you get more informations about the climbs thanks to these slide shows and climbers answers ?

2. After this, did you have all together a good discussion to clarify your ideas, thanks to the new elements whitch had been put in the light during the presentations?
Did someone remember you what criteria had to be study for each climbs in order to evaluate how proximate these climbs were to the pur alpine style and how proximate these climbs were from the Piolers d'Or Charter?

3. I am rather curious about two ascents facts.

a) On Baintha Brakk, Kyle Dempster and Hayden Kennedy left Josh Wharton, not in good form, at the last bivouac around 6900 m., and pushed to the summit. They got back, picked up Josh and then had a long and hard down climb. This is their story, nobody can "judge" it. But, does this "rope team spirit" deserve a Piolet d'Or ?

b) About Mustagh tower, the team has pushed the limits in the bad weather, was coaching from the base, apparently has lost the way few times, certainly because of a lack of past experiences… and "the russian spirit". Does it deserve a Piolet d'Or ?"

I have not read the magazine May issue yet, but I give you a copy of the mail that Stephen sent to me:

Dear Manu

I was sorry not to see you at the Piolets d’Or and even more sorry to hear that you have decided to withdraw from the event. I was also appalled by some of your public criticisms of me and my jury. I was shortlisted for the first ever Piolets and I have been involved with the event at various stages over the last twenty years, promoting it in the press and serving once before as president. As for my fellow jurors, all three of them are amongst the finest mountaineers in the world, so I think you were rash to question their judgement so aggressively.

I will answer your specific questions in a moment, but first the general principle behind our decisions. Over the last few years it has become increasingly obvious that choosing a single ‘winnner’ – or two winners, or three winners – from a shortlist of outstanding climbs is highly haphazard and subjective. More important, it goes completely against the whole spirit of alpinism. Mountaineering is not an Olympic sport with simple quantifiable criteria. It is creative and diverse and every ascent is unique. Amongst a shortlist of six outstanding climbs, we will never be comparing like with like. That is why previous Jury presidents were so reluctant to choose ‘winners’ and that is why several prominent nominees decided to boycott past events.

This year’s jury relied considerably on the expertise of the Piolets d’Or organisers and advisers, in particular Christian Trommsdorff, Rolando Garibotti and Lindsay Griffin. (The latter has far more detailed knowledge of current world climbing than anyone on the Jury, and probably anyone else in the world!). We were also grateful for the advice of former presidents, such as Michael Kennedy. It was with all these people's expert advice and support that we all decided, before Christmas, that we would like, ideally, to award Piolets d’Or to all the nominees. This was a deliberate decision, agreed unanimously, to suggest what we felt should be the future direction of the event, representing the best traditions of alpinism.

I should also point out that in February, whilst I was away leading an expedition in Antarctica, the organisers relied heavily on advice from Silvo Karo, who is of course a hugely experienced Patagonian expert. It was he who suggested that the Cerro Torre ascents should be highlighted with a ‘special mention’ rather than a Piolet d’Or.

As for the shortlist of six ascents, of course it is very, very hard to say that there was not a seventh, or eighth, equally valid ascent worthy of inclusion. However, as you know, the event is constrained by its budget, so we had to have a limit of six teams. Thanks to expert advice from Lindsay Griffin, however, we felt quite confident that each of the six teams finally selected shared the kind of qualities which the Piolets d’Or seeks to celebrate. In particular, every one of the six shortlisted ascents, shared a huge sense of commitment.

Now, to answer your specific questions:

Yes, Jumbo and I did spend a whole morning paying very careful attention to the presentations by the six teams. If we had discovered anything negative about any of the climbs, we might have changed our minds about giving all of them awards. In fact the opposite was the case. For me, certainly, the presentations reinforced my admiration for every one of the climbs. In particular, I discovered just how impressive were the four climbs I had previously been less familiar with – Kyashar, Kamet, Mustagh Tower and Baintha Brakh. Most of all, I learned just how committed the Russian team had been on the Mustagh Tower.

After the presentation there was little need for discussion. Two members of the jury, Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner and Silvo Karo, were unable to attend, but they had already agreed to the principle of giving everyone an award. Jumbo and I were so impressed by all the presentations that, as I said, it simply reinforced our decision. There was nothing more to discuss.

This is an interesting point. I did have some doubts about Kennedy and Dempster leaving Wharton at the high bivouac. However, after discussing this with the two climbers, we learned that they continued to the summit with the blessing of Wharton. They climbed very fast and efficiently, and one day later were still in perfectly fit condition to help Wharton down the mountain. I have been in similar positions myself in the past. On some occasions – eg Kusum Kanguru – we decided to descend with the sick partner; another time – on Everest – we let our sick companion descend alone. Every situation is different and it is not for me to judge. Kennedy and Dempster climb at a much harder standard than I have ever achieved and they are much, much faster. They were able to complete their route safely and look after their companion.

I am not sure what you mean about the Russians ‘losing their way’. Perhaps you are referring to the descent, where they took a different route from the one intended. My own feeling is that they made an astounding ascent and descent, showing fantastic tenacity – as remarkable – in its different way – as the seventeen day traverse of Nanga Parbat. As for your suggestion that they were rash to climb in such bad weather, that is for them to decide, not you. They operated as a highly efficient team, moving carefully and slowly, despite terrible condition during the first week. None of them suffered illness, injury or frostbite, and they succeeded in making a difficult, unplanned descent on sight. I think we should applaud their panache.

I hope this answers your questions. I also trust that you will publish this letter as a riposte to the wild accusations you made earlier this month. I am sorry that I have had to write this letter in English, but my French is not good enough to respond adequately to such harsh criticisms.

Best wishes


As one can see, there was nothing so 'revolutionnary' in the POs jury decision, nothing justifying the resignation of the two leading magazines of the event and certainly nothing justifying the 'ad personam' attack on Venables and his jurors. One must bear in mind, that French have the most elitist educational system in the world (notation starts at primary school and goes on throughout your working life - your diploma will still count far more than your past achievements and capabilities when you postulate for a job even after 50 years old - and 80% of all civil and public activities are chaired by our High schools elites created by Napoleon... the most selective in the world with an unchanged numerus clausus for a century) and it stays in their genes all their life. Usually climbing is such a place of freedom that it escapes such 'high intellectual and cartesian' feuds typical of the political arenas in France where insults and personal verbal agressions are very commonly used to weaken the opponent. There is nothing that French love more than a good argument (again this is due to our educational system the main topic in secondary school French classes and quite unique: the 'dissertation'. You would be surprised in knowing that the antithesis part is the the most loved one, easily averaging 8 pages while the synthesis i.e. the most important part in average is no longer than half a page. Demolishing the opponent is so much more fun! Finding a compromise is not French, we prefer the 'panache' in everything we do: 'tirez les premiers, messieurs les Anglais!" Fontenoy battle 11th May 1745 as written by Voltaire in his history of Louis the 15th, battle which by the way ended in a French victory!).

Let's hope that in the end reason will prevail and that the POs will remain, enlarge its international status to avoid such further typically French controversies. Whatever it is up to the young generations to decide what to make of alpinism not the old timers nor two mountain magazines chief editors whatever their past climbing talents. The future is for those who climb not to those who just talk about what they have climbed and cannot climb anymore or not much.

Re: Piolets d'Or - 6 winners

PostPosted: Thu May 09, 2013 5:01 pm
by sharperblue
That is an extremely fascinating and sad window into the awards - thanks for posting! Personally, I think Doug should just pick Manu up by the ears and shake him a bit :)

What is it with the tradition of the Italian and French mountaineering magazines being little children -? If this were a kindergarden playground, I would say it's jealousy

Re: Piolets d'Or - 6 winners

PostPosted: Thu May 09, 2013 7:50 pm
by ericvola
I had forgotten to give the Montagnes Magazine article which caused so much reaction. Here it is:

"Piolets d’Or 2013: an unacceptable non-result, Montagnes Magazine and Vertical resign from the steering committee

Manu Rivaud / Translation by Darin Reisman

By awarding a Piolet d’Or (golden ice axe) to all six expeditions nominated for the 21st edition that took place on April 5, 2013, in Courmayeur, Italy, the jury, chaired by British mountaineer Steve Venables, sought to highlight the current zeal for alpine-style ascents and the exploration of summits all around the world. It goes without saying that each of these extraordinary ascents deserves the public recognition they received via their nomination for this 21st Piolets d’Or. However, none of them deserved to have their extraordinary feat so trivialized by receiving the exact same award as everyone else, especially given the unique elements that differentiate each of these ascents.

Did the jury, on April 5th in Courmayeur, do a disservice to mountaineering by neglecting to highlight these differences? How could providing the the exact same award to the ascents of Nanga Parbat’s Mazeno ridge and the Prow of Shiva not make the jury members feel even a little bit uneasy? That written and in spite of this non-result, the jury’s nominations were very promising at the outset.

Acting in this manner completely negates the notion of commitment, makes light of the problems inherently linked to climbing at high-altitude, and fails to recognize the innate human ability to innovate in challenging conditions. This decision blurs the benchmarks for future generations. In part, this act is a snub to who we are and to the history of mountaineering. All in all, it represents a total disregard for the art of climbing the highest summits in the world and for the artists who climb them, going as far as to make a mockery of each and every ascent nominated over the past twenty editions of the Piolets d’Or that did not win the award, an award that had set the standard until today.

The jury’s decision is in contempt of the public and private partners without whom the event would not exist (Note: the Piolets d’Or is financed by the cities of Chamonix and Courmayeur, the Rhône-Alpes and Aosta regions, a group of private and institutional mountaineering partners).

Montagnes Magazine, co-founder and co-organizer of the Piolets d’Or since 1991 is disappointed with the outcome of this 21st edition, which considerably weakens both the event and its stature, which obscures the general public’s image of mountaineering, and fails to appropriately take into considering those mountaineering personalities who have made or who are currently making history.
Montagnes Magazine would like to point out that it has always fought hard within the Piolets d’Or organization to ensure that all nominated ascents receive proper recognition during the ceremonies, all the while maintaining the jury’s independence and freedom to award one or multiple prizes.

As a co-organizer and content provider for the Piolets d’Or from 2002 through this edition, as a member of the Piolets d’Or steering committee since 2008 alongside Christian Trommsdorff, co-president of France’s GHM, the cities of Chamonix and Courmayeur, your humble servant joins Claude Gardien, Editor Vertical Magazine and member of the steering committee until he resigned on March 4, 2013, in resigning on this day, Monday, April 8, 2013, from said steering committee."

Re: Piolets d'Or - 6 winners

PostPosted: Sat May 11, 2013 5:06 pm
by ericvola
Al last reason is back!

As promised Montagnes Magazine did publish in its May issue Stephen Venables's response to Manu Rivaud' questions in extenso as you can read above.

Also the Magazine general manager added a short 16 lines "right of reply" stating that he would not comment any further Stephen's response as it is for the readers to make their own judgment. He still stated that to him the assessment in details of climbs by external parties (such as those journalists) to select the very best is a much easier way to transmit to the public its examplary nature, particularly to the youth. Not a very solid argument but quite civil.

Finally in his editorial, Manu Rivaud explains that after his resignation he had second thoughts and sent questions to the jury to find out the reasons of their decision and hence the publication of Stephen's response containing all the answers. He does not write anything else on the issue but ends up reminding the charter of the Piolets d'Or:

- style of ascent.
- Spirit of exploration: original (previously unclimbed) route and/or mountain, creative and innovative approach.
- Level of commitment and self-sufficiency.
- High level of technical ability required.
- Suitability of route in light of objective dangers.
- Efficient and sparing use of resources.
- Transparency regarding the use of these resources.
- Respect for people, climbing partners, members of other teams, porters and local agents.
- Respect for the environment.
- Respect for future generations of mountaineers by leaving them the possibility of enjoying the same kind of experiences and adventures.

All criteria which were met by the 6 teams who were awarded a Piolet d'Or! Maybe such words had a different meaning for him when he first wrote his article or was it his subconcious? Whatever we are at last on much more peaceful grounds. Alpinism is all about freedom and certainly not about poilitical battles. In other times, if instead of Stephen Venables, the president of the jury had been a chap from Marseille, my home town, such as our past mayor, Gaston Deferre, Manu Rivaud's contemptuous attack would have resulted in a duel with swords to the first blood.

But those times have gone and I gladly consider the feud now ended particularly as Manu Rivaud when not taking himself for a Robespierre, is quite a good journalist, writing very good articles on climbers and climbing.

Re: Piolets d'Or - 6 winners

PostPosted: Sat May 11, 2013 10:59 pm
by richardh
Glad to see an outbreak of common sense. Not sure I'd join with with Eric in pinning the blame on the elitist French educational system (there's plenty else it can be blamed for, of course). I suspect pressure from Montagne's publisher might have had something to do with it. See the second part of the article at

Earlier this year, the Nivéales group announced that it will be implementing a restructuring plan involving the removal of five of its eight editors-in-chief. The restructuring programme was first put forward in 2010 and at that time drew strong criticism from the Syndicat National des Journalistes, the main French journalists' union. The union pointed out that, even before re-structuring, the group had very few journalists on its permanent staff, and that these staff were "a guarantee of professionalism and journalistic quality of the various publications."

So it probably shouldn't be a surprise that the editors of two Nivéales publications have become rather aggressive in pursuit of an issue that their employers may believe to be in their commercial interest.

Good luck to next year's Piolets d'Or jury.

Re: Piolets d'Or - 6 winners

PostPosted: Sun May 12, 2013 2:04 am
by ericvola
I guess you must be right. I did not know what is indicated by but it goes quite well with the 'right of response' added after the publication of Stephen Venables's response by the boss of Montagnes Magazine which is:

'Right of response from Montagnes Magazine
Stephen Venables’s response has the merit to give directly for our readers to judge the decision-making process which awarded the 2013 Piolets d’or: we will not comment it here any further. In a general way, it goes along the recurrent context of a thesis which would like that mountain climbs cannot be critically assessed by external parties: the impossibility to establish any objective measurement, the solidarity of the mountain community, the absolute commitment of the individual who seeks to get up a summit, would prevent all possibilities to judge the value of an alpinist' actions. However, if one agrees that the mountain world has within itself values of courage, enterprise and ethics, one must admit that their exemplary nature cannot be transmitted to the public – we believe in the youth – in enlightening it with choices, made according to criteria built on those same values and proclaimed around events capable to hold their audience’s breath.
Jean-Pierre Roger, Directeur de la publication.

Obviously the man wants heros but in very limited numbers as too many would be less easy to market!

Greed and pressure from the magazine bosses make a more credible explanation than mine about the French educational system, I quite agree. But this seemed such a stupid attitude from such good journalists that I had to find an 'intellectual' reason.

Re: Piolets d'Or - 6 winners

PostPosted: Fri May 17, 2013 12:34 pm
by claudegardien
I did not talk a lot since the 4th of March, when I resigned from the Piolets d’Or organization.
But I have to give an answer to Eric Vola who felt free to write that together with Manu Rivaud we were under pressure from our bosses. He’s wrong and talk about things he doesn't know. We did resign from our own decision. Our bosses then supported us when they have listened our explanations. We are working altogether about this affair. Everyone have to know that our editorial freedom is fully respected in our company.