The Piolet D’Or is Climbing’s Biggest and Most Debated Prize

Garibotti foresaw the danger. According to his statistics, more than 30 people he climbed died from climbing. The Piolets d’Or twice attempted to nominate Garibotti for the award, once in 2006, for the new route on Cerro Torre, in Patagonia, and once in 2009, for the maiden voyage of the entire Cerro massif Torre. Twice he refused.

Most shocking was who the judges decided to honor in 1998: a Russian team climbed the western face of the Himalayas for the first time in 1997. Two of the climbers on the expedition were die in the process. Organizers introduced a new criterion after backlash that year, which, according to Trommsdorff, required “you must be back in a competition”.

In Garibotti’s opinion, the point is not that awards incentivize more adventurous climbers, but that when awarding adventurous climbers, they endorse risky behaviour. “If you have representation of reckless climbs, there will be more reckless climbs,” he said.

After winning the Piolet d’Or in 2019 alongside his Slovak teammates Ales Cesen and Luka Strazar, British climber Tom Livingstone wrote in a essay on its website that the award “impacted my human ego” in disturbing ways.

“I had a demon on my shoulder at the end of the run” – a sparsely protected climb that can lead to a dangerous fall – “who whispered, ‘uh oh, you’re going to lose a big one! ‘ “Livingstone wrote. “I don’t want other people to offer me a gold trophy.” He accepts the award just because his teammates want it.

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

Reinhold Messner, 77, one of the traditional mountaineers, said: “We have to admit that in traditional mountain climbing, death is a possibility. “If it’s not a possibility, it’s not climbing. The art of survival is just that. It’s an art. ” The Piolet D’Or is Climbing’s Biggest and Most Debated Prize

Olly Dawes

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