The Ascents Nominated for the 20th Piolets d'Or are...Pik Pobeda (7,439m), Kyrgyzstan
Pik Pobeda is the most northerly 7,000-metre peak in the world. A high altitude symbol for mountaineers on the Asian continent, its steep and exposed north face is 2,500 metres high. Kazakhs Gennadiy Durov and Denis Urubko added a fourth route to the central and highest part of this face, below the summit. Dollar Rod is a committing and technical route undertaken in alpine style, a modern feat. Last November it was awarded the sixth Asian Piolets d’Or.
New route: Dollar Rod on the north face of Pik Pobeda.
Alpinists: Gennady Durov and Denis Urubko (Kazakhstan)
Vertical Interval: 2,500m (ca 3,200m from base camp)
Diffculty: 6a M4-M5 WI2
Date: 10th-15th August 2011 (base camp to summit).
Saser Kangri II (7,518m), India
Americans Mark Richey, Steve Swenson and Freddie Wilkinson’s expedition to the Indian Karakoram is another example from 2011 of exploration and committed alpine style at high altitude. During a two month expedition, the three alpinists summited the second highest, previously unclimbed mountain in the world, Saser Kangri II. The team reached the summit on 24th August via the steep 1,700 metre south-west face, after four days of
ascent and three bivouacs. The route’s technical difficulties are concentrated in the higher part of the climb.
First ascent: Saser Kangri II via the south-west face - The Old Breed.
Alpinists: Mark Richey, Steve Swenson and Freddie Wilkinson (USA)
Vertical Interval: 1,700m
Difficulty: W14, M3
Date: 21st – 24th August 2011 (base camp to summit).
K7 West (6,615m), Pakistan
Young Slovenians Nejc Marcic and Luka Strazar, 26 and 23 years old respectively, reached the west summit of K7 in a three-day alpine style ascent of the previously unclimbed north-west face via a 1,600m sustained mixed route, completing the third ascent of this famous summit in the Charakusa valley. Exploration, technical difficulty, minimalist style and commitment are the characteristics of their ascent. It was their first Himalayan expedition.
New route: Dreamers of the Golden Caves on north-west face of K7 West
Alpinists: Nejc Marcic and Luka Strazar (Slovenia)
Vertical Interval: 1,600m
Difficulty: A15, M5, A2
Date: 6th-9th September 2011 (round trip from base camp)
Xuelian North-East (6,249m), China
Xuelian North-East was the last remaining unclimbed 6,000m peak in the Xuelian Feng, in the Chinese Tien Shan. Slovenians Ales Holc, Peter Juvan and Igor Kremser climbed it in pure alpine style, taking the long and aesthetic north-west ridge over four days, and then descending on the south-east side in a day and a half. The technical difficulty and length of this route, climbed in minimalist style, caught the attention of the jury.
First ascent: Xuelian North-East via the north-west ridge, Arete of Trust
Alpinists: Ales Holc, Peter Juvan and Igor Kremser (Slovenia)
Vertical Interval: 2,400m
Difficulty: A15, M5+
Date: 27th – 31st July 2011 (round trip from an advanced base camp)
Meru Central (6,310m), India
Attempted by many expeditions since 1986, this incredible route on the east pillar of Meru Central – the Shark’s Fin – was climbed in its entirety for the first time by Americans Conrad Anker, Jimmy Chin and Renan Ozturk. This particularly aesthetic route has all the difficulties of modern alpinism; rocky terrain involving difficult free climbing and committing aid climbing, and delicate mixed terrain in the upper section.
New Route: Shark’s Fin on Meru Central.
Alpinists: Conrad Anker, Jimmy Chin and Renan Ozturk (USA).
Vertical Interval: 1,400m
Difficulty: 6a, A4, W15, M6.
Date: 21st September – 2nd October 2011 (base camp to summit).
Torre Egger (2,850m), Argentina
The Patagonian spires have always lured the best technical climbers on the planet. A distant land ravaged by the southern winds, its granite peaks covered in the strangest of glacial formations. Rime and ice can cover the walls of these polished rocks, and sometimes coat them completely, depending on the wind direction. At the end of December the entire wall of Torre Egger’s south face was covered in ice. Norwegians Bjorn-Eivind Aartun and Ole Lied climbed this vertical tower taking the alpine community by surprise with their opportunism.
New route: Venas Azules on the south face of Torre Egger.
Alpinists: Bjorn-Eivind Aartun and Ole Lied (Norway)
Vertical: 950m of which 350m is new
Difficulty: M5, AI6 (95°)
Date: 25th-26th December 2011 (glacier to summit)