Why the Piolet D’Or is the most important and most debated prize in climbing

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Garibotti knows the danger firsthand. According to his tally, more than 30 people he roped up with later died while climbing. The Piolets d’Or have tried twice to nominate Garibotti for the prize, once in 2006, for a new route on Cerro Torre, in Patagonia, and once in 2009, for the first crossing of the entire Cerro massif. Torre. Twice he refused.

Most shocking is the one the jury decided to honor in 1998: a Russian team that made the first ascent of the west face of the Himalayan summit Makalu in 1997. Two of the mountaineers on the expedition died in the process. Organizers introduced a new standard after the backlash that year, requiring, according to Trommsdorff, “that you have to come back in one piece.”

The problem, according to Garibotti, is not that the rewards encourage climbers to take more risk, but that by awarding risky climbs, they validate risky behavior. “If you have a representation of reckless climbs, there will be more reckless climbs,” he said.

After winning a Piolet d’Or in 2019 with his Slovenian teammates Ales Cesen and Luka Strazar, British climber Tom Livingstone wrote in an essay on his website that the prize “plays on my human ego” in an ominous way.

“I already have a devil on my shoulder at the end of a run-out” – a poorly protected climbing section that can lead to dangerous falls – “who whispers:” uh oh, you’re going to take a big one ! “Livingstone wrote.” I don’t want another to give me a gold trophy. “He accepted the award only because his teammates wanted it.

Of course, for many climbers, danger is a big part of the sport’s appeal.

“We have to recognize that in traditional mountaineering death is a possibility,” said Reinhold Messner, 77, one of the most lauded mountaineers of the last century. “If that’s not a possibility, it’s not mountaineering. The art of surviving is just that. It’s an art.


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