The Piolet D’Or is Climbing’s largest and most controversial award


Charcoal knows the danger in person. By his reckoning, he had killed more than 30 people. Piolets d’Or twice nominated Caribou for the award, once in 2006, for a new route on the Cerro Torre in Patagonia, and once in 2009 for the first voyage of the entire Cerro Torre Massif. Twice refused.

It is shocking who the arbitral tribunal decided to honor in 1998: a Russian team that first climbed the western face of the Himalayan peak Makalu in 1997. Two of the passengers on board died in the process. After the setback that year the organizers introduced a new criterion that, according to Tromstorf, “you have to come back as a piece.”

The problem, according to Caribotti, is that the awards do not encourage climbers to take too much risk, but in providing risky climbs, they check for dangerous behavior. “If you represent irresponsible climbs, there will be more irresponsible climbs,” he said.

After winning a Pilot D’Or award in 2019 with his Slovak teammates Ales Chechen and Luka Strauss, British climber Tom Livingstone wrote in an article on his website that the award “plays on my human ego”.

“At the end of the run-out I already have a devil on my shoulder” – part of a rarely protected climb, which can result in a dangerous waterfall – “Oh oh, you’re going to pick up the big one! ‘ Livingston wrote, “I do not want to be given another gold trophy.” He accepted the award only because his teammates wanted it.

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

“In traditional trekking, we must recognize the possibility of death,” said Reinhold Messner, 77, one of the most admired albinists of the last century. “If that’s not possible, it’s not mountaineering. It’s the art of survival. It’s an art.”


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