Tuesday, 2 March 2010

5 nominees in contention for the 18th Piolets d’Or

The jury of the 18th Piolets d’Or has named the five nominee ascents out of 52 accents undertaken on mountains all over the world during 2009. There is no big surprise among the nominated climbs and unlike last year there is no report of climbers who has declined to be nominated. It will be interesting to see how the jury will handle the new format of the Piolet d’Or where three awards are given out, one for the most technical accent, one for the most committing and for exploring unknown territory. Also notably in this years selection is the heavy representation of climbers from the former eastern block. Maybe this is a sign that the era of siege style accents is becoming part of the history.


Cho Oyu, 8201 m - Nepal

Kazakhs Denis Urubko and Boris Dedechko opened a new route on the South East Face in May (Nepalese side). With this ascent, Urubko becomes the fifteenth man to have successfully climbed all fourteen 8000ers, and the ninth person to do it without oxygen. At 36 years of age, the Kazakh has taken nine years to accomplish this feat. He did not choose the easy option when opening a new route, alpine-style, on three 8000ers including this one, an ascent which won him a Piolet d’Or Asia.

Name of the route: Kazakh Dedechko-Urubko

Length: 2600m

Difficulty announced: M6, 6b, A2/A3

Date of the ascent: from 11th to 15th May 2009

Chang Himal, 6750 m - Nepal

At the beginning of November, Brits Nick Bullock and Andy Houseman successfully completed a first on the central pillar of the North Face of Chang Himal, not far from Kanchenjunga. The two men took five days to climb this technical route of 1800 metres of mixed difficulty evaluated at M6. The route had previously been attempted without success in 2007 by Slovenian climbers.

Name of the route: Bullock-Houseman

Length: 1800m

Difficulty announced: M6

Date of the ascent: from 29th October to 2nd November 2009

Gongga North-West Peak 6134m - China

The first ascent of this summit, situated in Sichuan province, was successfully completed in May by Russians Mikhail Mikhailov and Alexander Ruchkin. They climbed the 1100 metre rock pillar over five days. It presented mixed difficulty on the lower section and a fabulous free-climb on the upper section. These two alpinists, members of the expedition to the North Face of Jannu in January 2004, specified that they used no bolts to open this route. They were awarded the Russian Piolet d’Or for this ascent.

Name of the route: Carte Blanche

Length: 1100m

Difficulty announced: 6c free climbing, mixed climbing with an ice passage of 75°

Date of the ascent: April 2009

Xuelian Feng (West), 6422 m China

Over five days, Americans Jed Brown and Kyle Dempster along with Scotsman Bruce Normand completed a first accent of the North Face of the previously unclimbed west summit of Xuelian Feng (Chinese Tien Shan). This was a ground up alpine style accent involving hard mixed, ice and rock climbing on a beautiful spur in an are where not much climbing has been done.

Name of the route: The Great White Jade Heist

Length: 2650m

Difficulty announced: ice 5, rock 5.7, mixed M6.

Date of the ascent: from 26th to 30th August 2009

Pic Pobeda, 7439m Kirghizstan

At the end of August, Russian climbers Vitaly Gorelik and Gleb Sokolov opened a difficult new route on the North Face of Peak Pobeda, the highest summit in the Tien Shan massif. The two men climbed a difficult 2400 metre buttress alpine-style in seven and a half days, in bad weather conditions, until they reached a minor peak along the long summit. They then took one and a half days to descend. They encountered numerous passages of black ice and delicate zones of mixed terrain which slowed their progress. Sokolov, 56 and Gorelik aged 42 are both experienced Russian alpinists. They were both members of the victorious K2 expedition in 2007.