Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Six Piolets d’Or 2013 Award Winners - The Videos & links

Most people have an opinion on the Piolets d’Or Awards, its been marred since the decision of the jury at the 2013 Piolets d’Or to share the prize among all six shortlisted, half the organising committee quit, Ed Douglas wrote a good article here;

Following in the footsteps of Walter Bonatti (2009), Reinhold Messner (2010), Doug Scott (2011) and Robert Paragot (2012), Kurt Diemberger wins the fifth Piolets d'Or lifetime achievement award, here we have a good account by Lindsay Griffin of the what makes someone worthy of such an acheivement;

I don't do that much high stuff in the Mountains and the Alps any more, I have no real drive or enough time, I enjoy the shorter and less condition dependent valley ice trip however I did always like to follow the awards and have been lucky enough to meet people that have won awards, I met one of last years winners Luka Strazar on a recent trip to Slovenis and it was excellent to hear about his experiences first hand.

So with that and enough rambling, here are a series of short video clips highlighting the six ascents that were chosen as the winners of the 2013 Piolets d’Or Awards, you can make your own minds up or just sit back and watch some excellent footage.


A coveted line, having been the goal of at least seven previous expeditions, the first ascent of the 2,200m south pillar of Kyashar was one of the finest technical alpine-style climbs in Nepal last autumn. Japan's Tatsuya Aoki, Yasuhiro Hanatani and Hiroyoshi Manome took six days to climb this elegant line to the summit, making only the second known ascent of the mountain. A crux section of ridge on the fifth day was deemed irreversible, adding to the commitment. The three descended the west ridge with one further bivouac.

Muztagh Tower; 

Much discussed, though never previously attempted, the 2,000m northeast spur of this iconic Karakoram peak took Russians Dmitry Golovchenko, Alexander Lange and Sergey Nilov 17 days to complete. The three climbed alpine-style but took a large haul bag of food and fuel, a strategy which allowed them to sit out, or persevere slowly through bad weather. The technical crux proved to be the very steep rock barrier between 6,600m and 6,900m. Supplies ran out shortly before they gained the main (east) summit, and in bad weather they were unable to reach the northwest ridge, their planned descent. Instead, they came straight down the north face.  

Baintha Brakk (The Ogre);  

The Ogre is one of the most celebrated of the world's mountains yet until last year had been summited only twice, and never from the south, despite many attempts. The Americans Kyle Dempster, Hayden Kennedy, and Josh Wharton chose a cunning line up the southeast ridge to southeast face to south face. Gaining the upper south face involved a steep traverse across complete rubble and, higher, they overcame hard sections of mixed ground. From a bivouac at 6,900m, Dempster and Kennedy reached the summit but then had to make a difficult descent with an unwell Wharton.

Mazeno Ridge Nanga Parbat;

The Mazeno Ridge of Nanga Parbat - at over 10km probably the longest ridge of any 8,000m peaks - was one of the most famous unclimbed lines on the great Himalayan mountains. Accompanied by Cathy O'Dowd (S Africa), Lhakpa Rangdu Sherpa, Lhakpa Zarok Sherpa and Lhakpa Nuru Sherpa (Nepal), British alpinists Sandy Allan and Rick Allen made a first summit bid from their bivouac at 7,200m but this proved unsuccessful and all but Allan and Allen gave up and made a difficult descent to the south. The British pair traversed the north flank to the summit and made a difficult descent of the Normal Route on the north flank, reaching the bottom after an alpine-style traverse lasting 18 days.


Kamet is the highest mountain in India for which it is currently possible to gain a permit, and the ca 2,000m southwest face was previously unattempted. After establishing an advanced base in the glacier bowl below this steep mixed wall, France's Sébastien Bohin, Didier Jourdain, Sébastien Moatti and Sébastien Ratel climbed it, alpine-style, in five days. They found conditions excellent and connected a succession of steep snow fields linked by often vertical ice pitches to reach a bivouac on the south ridge at 7,500m. The summit day presented unexpected difficulties, after which the team descended to the bivouac and next day went down the previously untouched south face.


Elegance summarizes the traverse of this mountain east of Kishtwar, effected via the arrow-like northeast ridge, dubbed the Prow of Shiva, followed by a descent of the south ridge. It was the fifth known ascent of the mountain. British alpinists Mick Fowler and Paul Ramsden, 2003 recipients of a Piolet d'Or, completed a traverse in a nine-day round trip from base camp, finding sustained climbing on the Prow, which ranged from numerous pitches up icy cracks in Chamonix-style granite to long, protectionless leads on thinly-iced slabs reminiscent of winter climbing on Ben Nevis.

Here is the latest in the discussion about the Awards;

Here is the reply from Stephen Venables to Manu Rivaud that was posted on Facebook;

For anyone following the Piolets d'Or controversy, here is the reply I sent to Manu Rivaud at Montagnes magazine. There is a full discussion at:

Dear Manu

I was sorry not to see you at the Piolets d’Or and even more sorry to hear that you have decided to withdraw from the event. I was also appalled by some of your public criticisms of me and my jury. I was shortlisted for the first ever Piolets and I have been involved with the event at various stages over the last twenty years, promoting it in the press and serving once before as president. As for my fellow jurors, all three of them are amongst the finest mountaineers in the world, so I think you were rash to question their judgement so aggressively.

I will answer your specific questions in a moment, but first the general principle behind our decisions. Over the last few years it has become increasingly obvious that choosing a single ‘winnner’ – or two winners, or three winners – from a shortlist of outstanding climbs is highly haphazard and subjective. More important, it goes completely against the whole spirit of alpinism. Mountaineering is not an Olympic sport with simple quantifiable criteria. It is creative and diverse and every ascent is unique. Amongst a shortlist of six outstanding climbs, we will never be comparing like with like. That is why previous Jury presidents were so reluctant to choose ‘winners’ and that is why several prominent nominees decided to boycott past events.

This year’s jury relied considerably on the expertise of the Piolets d’Or organisers and advisers, in particular Christian Trommsdorff, Rolando Garibotti and Lindsay Griffin. (The latter has far more detailed knowledge of current world climbing than anyone on the Jury, and probably anyone else in the world!). We were also grateful for the advice of former presidents, such as Michael Kennedy. It was with all these people's expert advice and support that we all decided, before Christmas, that we would like, ideally, to award Piolets d’Or to all the nominees. This was a deliberate decision, agreed unanimously, to suggest what we felt should be the future direction of the event, representing the best traditions of alpinism.

I should also point out that in February, whilst I was away leading an expedition in Antarctica, the organisers relied heavily on advice from Silvo Karo, who is of course a hugely experienced Patagonian expert. It was he who suggested that the Cerro Torre ascents should be highlighted with a ‘special mention’ rather than a Piolet d’Or.

As for the shortlist of six ascents, of course it is very, very hard to say that there was not a seventh, or eighth, equally valid ascent worthy of inclusion. However, as you know, the event is constrained by its budget, so we had to have a limit of six teams. Thanks to expert advice from Lindsay Griffin, however, we felt quite confident that each of the six teams finally selected shared the kind of qualities which the Piolets d’Or seeks to celebrate. In particular, every one of the six shortlisted ascents, shared a huge sense of commitment.

Now, to answer your specific questions:

Yes, Jumbo and I did spend a whole morning paying very careful attention to the presentations by the six teams. If we had discovered anything negative about any of the climbs, we might have changed our minds about giving all of them awards. In fact the opposite was the case. For me, certainly, the presentations reinforced my admiration for every one of the climbs. In particular, I discovered just how impressive were the four climbs I had previously been less familiar with – Kyashar, Kamet, Mustagh Tower and Baintha Brakh. Most of all, I learned just how committed the Russian team had been on the Mustagh Tower.

After the presentation there was little need for discussion. Two members of the jury, Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner and Silvo Karo, were unable to attend, but they had already agreed to the principle of giving everyone an award. Jumbo and I were so impressed by all the presentations that, as I said, it simply reinforced our decision. There was nothing more to discuss.

This is an interesting point. I did have some doubts about Kennedy and Dempster leaving Wharton at the high bivouac. However, after discussing this with the two climbers, we learned that they continued to the summit with the blessing of Wharton. They climbed very fast and efficiently, and one day later were still in perfectly fit condition to help Wharton down the mountain. I have been in similar positions myself in the past. On some occasions – eg Kusum Kanguru – we decided to descend with the sick partner; another time – on Everest – we let our sick companion descend alone. Every situation is different and it is not for me to judge. Kennedy and Dempster climb at a much harder standard than I have ever achieved and they are much, much faster. They were able to complete their route safely and look after their companion.

I am not sure what you mean about the Russians ‘losing their way’. Perhaps you are referring to the descent, where they took a different route from the one intended. My own feeling is that they made an astounding ascent and descent, showing fantastic tenacity – as remarkable – in its different way – as the seventeen day traverse of Nanga Parbat. As for your suggestion that they were rash to climb in such bad weather, that is for them to decide, not you. They operated as a highly efficient team, moving carefully and slowly, despite terrible condition during the first week. None of them suffered illness, injury or frostbite, and they succeeded in making a difficult, unplanned descent on sight. I think we should applaud their panache.

I hope this answers your questions. I also trust that you will publish this letter as a riposte to the wild accusations you made earlier this month. I am sorry that I have had to write this letter in English, but my French is not good enough to respond adequately to such harsh criticisms. 

Best wishes



Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Peak Easter 2013

Here is a quick video of Easter Monday 2013 with Tara Hayes spent Bouldering in a very cold Peak District.

How do I get better and progress…

Recently I have had a fair few emails and discussions with various people about how to structure a training programme to get better and progress their grade.

As climbers it is assumed that for you to progress and get better you need to either climb more or train loads.

Both can be hard to do with time constraints, life, family, climbing partners, work and lots of other pressures that get in the way.

Another (in my opinion) mis-conception that people seem to have is you can’t mix climbing and training with regular partners, so for example, if your partner is not into training then you doing a training session will interfere with their social climb or that they have to be training with you….

The latter of the two is the ideal scenario as you will find that two people training together will generally push the other one and in turn you both progress, however in reality this is not always the case.

So, back to the original question, how do I get better and progress…

All in all it is not the time that’s the issue, most people will climb once or twice a week and will generally stay at the wall for a few hours, getting on easy stuff and lapping out F5+ is not going to help you climb F7a if you are at a F6c plateau, which is what the most common trait is.

All you need is a bit of structure to your regular session, a partner or someone to hold your ropes and a few hours.

I would suggest giving the following a try, replace one session a week with the following for 6 weeks and see how you progress… I’d be keen to know. This is not aimed at elite climbers , if you only climb once a week do this every other week and do it for 12 weeks;

You have a choice depending on facilities and who you are with and what you are working on…

Routes Sessions

o   Warm up cardio and stretch for about 25 minutes
o   Warm up you climbing muscles on the ropes, climb 3/4 routes that are well within your capabilities that have a range and different types of moves over different angles.
o   Redpoint routes from the ground every time, do the last 5 routes that you have worked and got, they should be right at the top end of your limit, if you fall off, pull the ropes and go again, spend about 45 minutes on this.
o   Pick 4 routes that you have already done that are roughly two grades below your maximum and try to do two in a row, your going to do the same route twice, one after the other, you can lower to the ground after completion or if you fall, pull the rope and go again, this should take about 30 minutes.
o   Pick five hard boulder problems that you can do or almost do. Attempt or do each problem three times in a two minute period. Rest two minutes before moving onto the next problem, this should take about 20 minutes.
o   Cool down and stretch for about 20 minutes

Boulder Sessions

o   Warm up cardio and stretch for about 25 minutes
o   Warm up bouldering on easy problems for about 20 minutes, this should be done on a variety of angles with a wide range of moves.
o   Create boulder circuit with 4 problems that are very hard and not quite right at your limit. Try to climb the boulder problems in a row & run/move quickly between (not all walls would be happy with you running between problems) them once you have completed one set rest for 3 minutes and repeat, do this 5 times.
o   Work boulder problems from the ground, spend about 30 minutes working some boulder problems that you have not done or that are right at your limit.
o   Technique & new movement drill (deadpoints, dynos, flagging, rockovers, etc ...) spend about 30 minutes on technique and movement, make the problems up, they should include footwork and hand placement drills aswell as movement.
o   Cool down and stretch for about 30 minutes.

So mix one session in with your normal regular sessions and let me know how you progress, you might find your maximum limit starts to rise, this is a good thing, don’t stay in your comfort zone, keep pushing the upper limit.