The alpinistic music is currently not playing on the eight-thousanders, but on lower peaks. This is also demonstrated by the three groundbreaking climbs that will be awarded Piolets d’Or this year. The “Oscars of Mountaineering” will be handed out on 15 November in Briancon in the French Alps.
One Golden Ice Axe each will be given to three teams that have opened extremely challenging routes on six-thousanders. Already on the longlist, the pre-selection of the 53 “significant ascents” of the year 2022, neither tours on eight-thousanders nor on seven-thousanders had appeared, but instead 16 new routes on six-thousanders. The last Piolet d’Or for an eight-thousander ascent had been awarded in 2018 to the two Czechs Marek Holecek and Zdenek Hak, after they had climbed for the first time through the complete Southwest Face of Gasherbrum I in the Karakoram.
The two Britons Paul Ramsden and Tim Miller are awarded in Briançon for their first ascent of the 6,563-meter-high Jugal Spire – also known as Dorje Lhakpa II – in the east of Nepal’s Langtang National Park. They climbed in alpine style through the steep, rocky North Face of the mountain, traversed the summit and descended via the south and then the west side of the mountain.
For Paul, it is already the fifth Piolet d’Or of his career. The 54-year-old is thus the climber most frequently honored with the prestigious award. Previously, Ramsden had shared the “title” with this year’s Paul Preuss Prize winner Marko Prezelj from Slovenia, who had been awarded four times. “Style is everything, without good style climbing becomes a meaningless physical activity,” Paul told me a few years ago. “For me good style is climbing in pure alpine style, small team, no bolts, no fixed ropes, no outside support.”
The French climbers Christophe Ogier, Victor Saucede and Jerome Sullivan also made a first ascent. They were the first to stand on the 6,850-meter-high Pumari Chhish East, the lowest of the three Pumari Chhish peaks in the Karakoram in Pakistan. The trio climbed through the South Face and via the West Ridge to the highest point, on an “elegant line, a line of strength that was full of uncertainty, on one of Pakistan’s big unsolved (alpinistic) problems,” according to the statement of the seven-member jury, which included top German climber Ines Papert.
This year’s third Piolet d’Or goes to the two Canadians Alik Berg and Quentin Roberts, who succeeded in climbing a spectacular new route on the 6,094-meter-high Jirishanca in the Peruvian Andes. For the first time, they mastered – in alpine style – the steep South-Southeast Spurr of the mountain, which is also called the “Matterhorn of Peru” because of its beautiful shape.
Sailing and climbing
A special mention from the jury went to a women’s expedition to Greenland. The eight women from France, Spain, Argentina, Austria and Switzerland sailed a 15-meter yacht from La Rochelle for six weeks in sometimes bad weather and through pack ice to the east coast of Greenland. There, Capucine Cotteaux (France), Caro North (Switzerland), and Nadia Royo (Spain) mastered the extremely steep and difficult East Face of the 1,527-meter-high Northern Sun Spire for the first time. The team then sailed back to France in four weeks. A real adventure – as are the three Piolet d’Or-winning projects.