Alpine Club President Mick Fowler and his regular climbing partner Paul Ramsden were, last weekend, awarded Piolets d’Or for their ascent of the Prow of Shiva in India.
The two climbers are among four Britons to receive the award this year, regarded by many to be the ‘Oscars’ of the mountaineering world. Unusually, the jury decided to award Piolets d’Or to all six of the shortlisted projects this year in what has been a great year for pushing the frontiers of Alpinism.
Organisers said: “In light of the very high level of the six ascents, the 2013 jury chaired by Stephen Venables has decided to award each of the six nominated ascents a Piolet d’Or, indicating a possible way forward towards more emphasis on diversity.”
Mick and Paul both received the award once before, in 2003, for opening up the North Face of Siguniang (6250m) in China. Mick had this to say about receiving this year’s honour:
“Yeyy! Paul and I are gold covered again. The Piolet d’Or event in Chamonix and Courmayeur ended last week with all six nominees being awarded Piolets d’Or. British teams were particularly well represented with Sandy Allan and Rick Allen receiving one for their Mazeno ridge ascent and Paul Ramsden and me getting one for our efforts on Shiva. It was generally accepted that 2012 was a brilliant year for alpinism and this presumably contributed to the jury feeling it would be wrong to try and differentiate between the six nominated climbs.
Being as we all tend to seek out remote Himalayan objectives the nominated climbers would probably never get together if it wasn’t for events like this. Co-ordinating arrangements to get mountaineers from Russia, America, France, Austria, Japan and the UK to be in Chamonix and Courmayeur at the same time must have been a nightmare but the end result was an excellent gathering of likeminded mountain enthusiasts. Much as many of us have reservations over awards being dished out for mountaineering it seems to me that the pros very much outweigh the cons.
High profile affairs like this tend to have an impact on the style of climbing and one thing that particularly pleases me is how the pendulum of opinion has swung sharply in favour of small teams climbing alpine style and leaving no trace of their passing. In this respect it was great to see the jury deciding to make a special mention of efforts to remove Maestri’s ladder of bolts and restore Cerro Torre to something approaching its natural state.
On another front, it was great for me to be able to juggle my limited time off work so that family holiday action could coincide with Piolet d’Or week. Skiing down the Vallee Blanche with my children, a bunch of great Piolet d’Or people and enjoying my first ever meal in an alpine hut made for a pretty good day. Apologies though to the folks at this year’s Berghaus athlete camp. Even with the most careful time juggling being in two places at the same time seems to be impossible.
So, gold covering over and now it’s back to focusing on the bureaucratic challenges of mountaineering. East Tibet is the goal and I am hoping it will be a case of fifth time lucky on the applications. My fingers are firmly crossed.”
The jury of the Piolets d’Or – French for Golden Ice-Axes – said of Mick and Paul’s ascent: “Elegance summarises 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. 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.”