Piolet d'Or

It’s nice for people to acknowledge the years of effort and dedication associated with Aleš, Luka and my ascent of Latok I last year, but I don’t agree with the concept of awards in alpine climbing. To award a trophy is to signify that something is the best, implying others are not as worthy. Alpine climbing is a subjective activity; it’s artistic, serious, and there are no winners or losers. 

An example is the UK Young Alpinists Meet, an event taking place right now that I’ve organised. Should I award the ‘best climb?’ What is the ‘best?’ There are those that recognised their limitations and asked for help, or chose to turn back on routes; they made sensible mountaineering decisions. But what about those that pushed themselves to get to the summit, but maybe took more risks?

Some view the PdO as the ‘Oscars of Climbing,’ but it has a poor history. It provoked competitiveness, played on climber’s egos, and awarded very controversial ‘alpine style’ attempts (sometimes not even alpine style). It now seems to be more of a celebration of climbing and meeting of friends, which I like... but why still the awards?

I respect these climbers who have previously been ‘involved’ with the PdO: Marko Prezelj, Rolo Garibotti and Ian Parnell. Part of me wishes to follow in their style and actions… and part of me just wants to go climbing. You should read their comments about the PdO.

To quote Marko Prezelj, but to use my own trips from last year: ‘I climbed in Canada, Scotland, Slovenia, Alaska, UK, Pakistan, India and America. I cannot decide which trip was the most... the "most what" in fact?’

I also do not appreciate how the PdO makes me feel. It plays on my human ego. I already have a devil on my shoulder at the end of a run-out who whispers, ‘uh oh, you’re gonna take a big one!’ I don’t want another offering me a golden trophy. And I’m being partly hypocritical - I am a sponsored climber (I wouldn’t say ‘professional athlete,’ but perhaps that’s because I’m British). I play the game, and I post about it online. But I have drawn my line of comfort in the sand, and I rarely cross it.

I respect the views of others - I guess some may value this award. And I would like to offer my condolences to the families of David Lama and Hansjorg Auer. They were inspiring people and climbers. But I also want to remember Marc-Andre Leclerc, Jess Rosskelley, Tom Ballard, and many others.

If you really want to say ‘nice one,’ then I would humbly accept your comment. But a more appropriate word would be ‘jebise,’ which is Slovenian humour, and a greeting between good friends. It’s said with a smile. It means, ‘hey, fuck you!’

The Pakistan trip was Luka and Aleš’s idea, and we shared an unexplainable, unquantifiable adventure in the mountains. Our trip to Pakistan will forever be burned into my memory. I am grateful to call them good friends.

I will not be at the PdO this year, which is fine by me - I’ll be in Pakistan with good friends, hopefully climbing in the mountains. Since Aleš and Luka are apathetic about the award, they will attend the PdO, and will accept their (second) trophy. I will follow their example and also accept. But my heart and my head say: this is not for me. I am very tempted to say ‘fuck you!’ to the award. But whatever, I’m going climbing.