Piolets d'Or - 2017 Honoured ascents

2017 Honoured ascents

Nyanchen Tanglha (7,046m - Tibet)

7,046m southeast summit by British climbers Nick Bullock and Paul Ramsden. The pair climbed this icy face with four bivouacs - steep rock with thin veneers of ice in the lower section leading to an impressive arête higher up. The climbing proved excellent, reminiscent of the Colton-MacIntryre on the Grandes Jorasses, but at 6,700m it began to
snow, and the final section was somewhat hard work and avalanche prone.

Convinced that the best descent would be to follow the untouched east ridge, very steeply at its end, to a col, and then go down north to their base camp, the two set off, only to find dense cloud made travel a real navigational challenge. After another bivouac, a series of rappels, and, fortunately, a short clearing in the cloud allowing them to identify their precise position, the two reached the col, where they realized it was much safer to descend south and walk out an unknown valley.

The climb was highly exploratory and technical (ED+), and the summit the first 7,000er for both climbers.

Thalay Sagar (6,904m - India)

The second Piolet d'Or for 2017 goes to a different type of exploration; a high peak with a north face that already had many established lines. Yet, there remained a prominent virgin buttress, both elegant and direct. For the Russians, Dmitry Golovchenko, Dmitry Grigoriev, and Sergey Nilov, a tried and tested team on the big mountains for half a dozen or more years, the North Buttress of 6,904m Thalay Sagar in the Indian Gangotri gave a really sustained ascent.

The climber's self-imposed ethics meant that they took no portaledge, instead relying on finding suitable places to camp. After the initial 500-600m ice slope they hit the first vertical rock buttress, where due to the wind and weather even the steepest parts were plastered with snow and ice. It took two days to climb 200m. There were good crack systems but they were chocked with ice: sometimes they could be protected by screws, other times they could be cleaned for cams. Above lay 300-400m of taxing mixed climbing at 70-80°. The crux of many routes on Thalay Sagar can be right at the top; the black shale band that protects the summit slopes. The Russians tried to climb around this 110° loose and shattered wall but were unsuccessful and were eventually forced to surmount it direct. They reached the
summit nine days after setting out on the face and from there descended the original route on the west ridge, assisted by fixed ropes placed by a recent successful Indian military expedition.

The route was named Moveable Feast and gave 1,400m of climbing at ED2, 5c A3 WI5 M7.

Gangapurna (7,455m - Nepal)


Although this might be seen as a direct variation to the quite remarkable and possibly little known 1981 Canadian ascent of the south face of Gangapurna (7,455m) in the Annapurna
Himal, the Korean Way (1,500m ED+) warrants a special mention. Particularly notable was the speed of ascent given the highly complex approach, the difficult technical climbing above 7,000m, and the fact that it is the first new route at that altitude climbed by Koreans in alpine style.

The accomplished trio of Cho Seok-mun, Kim Chang-ho, and Park Joung-yong acclimatized by almost making the first known ascent of Gangapurna West (7,140m), a recently permitted summit with no reported attempt. After three bivouacs on the south face, and not far from the summit ridge, Park, not properly acclimatized, decided to wait. The remaining two climbed to the ridge but turned back 100m from the top, because they felt a successful summit was meaningless without a colleague's safe return.

Later, all three bivouacked at 6,000m below the start of the main difficulties on the south face of Gangapurna. After a subsequent night at 6,800m and a second at 7,100m, between which lay the crux - nine pitches of steep mixed and ice, all three reached the summit. Descent
was made over two days, rappelling the route.

 

Torres Traverse (Argentina)

The second special mention again goes to a entirely different form of exploration, this time the exploration of athleticism. Whilst there was no geographic exploration and the event was arguably a culmination of rehearsal, the sheer technical accomplishment of Americans Colin Haley and Alex Honnold, completing the Torres Traverse in a time that for more or less every other climber is incomprehensible - a single day, has greatly impressed much of the mountaineering community.

The traverse - Travesia del Torre (1,600m of ascent, 90° 6b+ C1), which had only been completed once before (in four days by Haley and Rolando Garibotti) involves leaving the col east of Aguja Standhardt and travelling south over Standhardt (2,700m), Punta Herron (2,750m) and Torre Egger (2,850m), to reach the summit of
Cerro Torre (3,102m).

In January 2015 Haley and Honnold made an attempt to complete the one-day traverse, but were forced to retreat after 22 hours only two pitches below the top of Cerro Torre, in typical Patagonian gales. Leaving the Standhardt Col sometime after 3 a.m. on January 31, 2016, they simul-climbed, short fixed and simul-rappelled for most of the journey, reaching the top of Torre Egger only nine hours and 28 minutes after leaving the col. Cracks on the north face of Cerro Torre were gushing with water and the climbers were soaked by the time they completed the very steep and slushy finish to the Ragni Route, arriving on top Cerro Torre at midnight, 20 hours and 40 minutes from the Standhardt Col. Haley and Honnold then rappelled the southeast ridge through the night in "a blur of anchors, dehydration and shivering", and continued to El Chalten, by which time they had been 45 hours without sleep.

Organizers and main partners 2018