Piolet d’Or – truly a need for awards?

Piolet d’Or – truly a need for awards?

Much ink has been shed on this issue and many wise -and sometimes less so- opinions have been thrown into the arena. Many of the leading alpinists of our day have voiced an opinion about the place and meaning of this award. And here is something one might see as the root of all evil: ‘leading alpinists’. Most of us embrace the adage launched by Alex Lowe: “the best alpinist is the one who is having the most fun” but for too many the pressures of sponsorship and other outward benefits allow competition to sneak in, hence – the rankings.


It would seem natural that those who are likely to get the award to decide what this one is given for and who deserves it, but what if the whole ‘award thing’ as understood here goes against the very idea of what alpinism is really for? Is it about who snatches a golden clad tilling tool every year for leaving behind one biner and a pair of socks or for nailing up the most improbable line? Fun and inspiration are their own awards and I, for one, while not being by far a ‘leading alpinist’ am a great one, for I have tremendous fun anytime am out on the hills.


We all see and recognize those who push the limits of what it is possible, and we also notice the ridicule they are subjected to when set against each-other to win the ‘best of’, when there is, really not such need at all.


If ‘Piolet d’Or’ is to contribute to something, besides egos and image, it should be a festival, a celebration of visionary climbs and inspiring ascents. It should be a place where people would share experiences through the medium of film or pictures and then through climbing together outside.


I probably share most in the view expressed by Rolo Garibotti in his letter a while ago and somehow cannot bring myself to wish to see a new Pd’O rewritten on the same template like the old one – and am afraid this is more or less how it transpires from Steve House’s letter. One cannot complain about bad competitive spirit and media setting climbers against climbers while maintain, in the same sentence, the need of an award meant to recognize, undiluted, “the best”. There is little doubt that maybe only 50 people in the world truly understand the feat of climbing the Rupal face as Steve House and Vince Anderson did but then again, pitching climbers against climbers and having 50 people vote for each other’s ascents year after year is anything but inspirational.


What would be, in my view, inspirational would be a meeting where people can share the dreams and climbs, experience them and celebrate vision. That can be done around a fire, tied on a rope and watching slides, films and exchanging stories and lessons. Alpinism is about inspiration and has to give such inspiration – then let people decide for themselves, each in their own inner forum, who’s the best and for what reasons!


Media? Media unites people around the globe and being the medium through which such celebrations are diffused is a worthy task for such a loud voice. To let people who cannot, for various reasons be there SEE and HEAR, and maybe TRULY UNDERSTAND and then FEEL INSPIRED.

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