Another Victor of the Unwinnable

Posted on: June 3, 2008

Ueli Steck presented with the 2008 Eiger Award in Grindelwald, Switzerland on May 30, 2008. The annual award was established this year to honor one who "brings the value and the fascination of the mountains to the general public, because of their outstanding alpinistic performance," though some ask whether such awards succeed in connecting the public with the real values of the mountains. [Photo] Courtesy of Daniel Mader

Editor's Note: For those curious about the title, read Ian Parnell's take on the Piolet d'Or in Issue 16.

On May 30 in Grindelwald, Switzerland, Swiss alpinist Ueli Steck received the 2008 Eiger Award, accompanied by 10,000 Swiss Francs. The annual award was established this year to honor one who "brings the value and the fascination of the mountains to the general public, because of their outstanding alpinistic performance."

Steck was chosen not only for setting and, a year later, breaking his own speed record on the Eiger Nordwand (see the March 6, 2007 and February 14, 2008 NewsWires for more information), but also for his successful, lifetime climbing career. Recently, as a warm up for their attempt on the south face of Annapurna, he and Simon Anthamatten made the first ascent of the sought-after northwest face of Teng Kang Poche (see the April 29, 2008 NewsWire). A month later their expedition on Annapurna was aborted when Ueli Steck aided in an attempt to rescue Spanish climber Inaki Ochoa de Olza (see the May 23, 2008 NewsWire).


The Eiger Award is the latest addition to a growing list of national and international mountain awards. Many publications and nations sponsor their own—the Cristal in France, Jedynka in Poland and the Golden Pitons in the USA, to name a few. On a global scale, the concept of honoring alpinists for their accomplishments was introduced in 1991 with the controversial Piolet d'Or, or Golden Ice Ax. This year, for the first time since its creation, that award was canceled (see the January 23, 2008 NewsWire for more information).

Despite (or perhaps because of) such controversy, the non-quantifiable nature of climbing accomplishments and the constantly evolving concept of alpinism, new prizes continue to appear. Filling the "void" of the canceled Piolet d'Or, Grivel established the St. Vincent Awards, which reward mountain professionals in various categories (see the March 4, 2008 NewsWire). The Eiger Award, like the St. Vincent Awards, breeds a new genre of differentiation in which professionals, separated from amateurs, are judged in a league of their own.

It remains to be seen how these awards benefit the mountain climbing community and whether they lead the general public into a greater state of confusion regarding the real values the mountains have to offer.

Sources:,, Daniel Mader

Here at Alpinist, our small editorial staff works hard to create in-depth stories that are thoughtfully edited, thoroughly fact-checked and beautifully designed. Please consider supporting our efforts by subscribing.


It's so much hypocrisy around this. If maybe the prizes are not a positive thing, I still don't think they are a negative one. I'm surprised because many of the "Kill the Piolet D'Or" soldiers are the same people that die for having as much media covering as possible. Be honest and just enjoy your climbing in peace. JP-

2008-06-04 14:25:05

For sure Melendez. I agree, we all climb for different reasons. I have respect for all the different kinds of climbing and climbers. But I think awards like these will help with the publics view of climbing. And possibly gain us more support through these "popular" professional climbers.

2008-06-04 12:14:35

I think that the values of climbing are very elusive to quantify simply because different climbers climb for different reasons. Giving awards however, to professionals is basically going to have a profound effect on the climbing community; some will be good, and some will be bad. I think climbers should honor other climbers regardless of the skill level of those climbers. Peace S. Melendez

2008-06-04 03:21:41
Post a Comment

Login with your username and password below.
New User? Here's what to do.

Forgot your username or password?