In his mountaineering career, Silvo Karo has climbed over 2000 routes and made more than 300 first ascents. The Slovenian alpinist was honored with the 14th Piolets d'Or Lifetime Achievement Award for his life's work. The awards ceremony will take place from November 17th to 20th in Briançon, France.

The Slovenian alpinist Silvo Karo receives the prestigious Piolets d'Or Lifetime Achievement Award. The award was first presented in 2009 Walter Bonati Since then, it has been awarded to and honoring alpinists whose careers have inspired subsequent generations. After mountaineering legend Walter Bonatti, the mountaineering prize was awarded to Reinhold Messner, Doug Scott, Robert Paragot, Kurt Diemberger, John Roskelley, Chris Bonington, Wojciech Kurtyka, Jeff Lowe, Andrej Štremfelj, Krzysztof Wielicki, Catherine Destivelle and Yasushi Yamanoi.

The "Three Musketeers" at Fitz Roy: Franček Knez, Silvo Karo and Janez Jeglič (from left to right). Image: Silvo Karo Collection
«The Three Musketeers» at Fitz Roy: Franček Knez,
Silvo Karo and Janez Jeglič (from left to right). Image: Silvo Karo Collection

Julian Alps - perfect training ground

In the 1980s, Slovenian alpinists began to take the world by storm. They later became known for their usually bold and fast ascents, most of which they completed in impeccable style over technical terrain, relying on their superior skill and reserves to travel light and avoid trouble.

They all benefited from a fantastic training ground - the Julian Alps. Due to the small size of the country (which was a largely autonomous state even before the breakup of Yugoslavia), the mountains are almost on the doorstep. They present a complex arena of limestone pinnacles with huge walls that are not necessarily of the best quality. Rough conditions prevailed in winter, which offered plenty of scope for confronting rock, ice and mixed terrain.

Silvo Karo 1978 in the Julian Alps. Image: ©Silvo Karo Collection
Silvo Karo 1978 in the Julian Alps. Image: ©Silvo Karo Collection

Prelude to the «Three Musketeers»

Silvo Karo grew up on a farm above the village of Brdo, north-east of Ljubljana and started climbing at the age of 17. He quickly joined Janez Jeglič and the older, more experienced Francek Knez together, and the trio climbed many new routes at home and abroad together. They were affectionately known as "the three musketeers". In the summer of 1983, while training for a first visit to Patagonia, the three climbed 19 new routes in two days, mostly without rappelling.

Perhaps the highlights of Silvo's career are the first ascents of the south face of Cerro Torre and the west face of Bhagirathi III, the latter of which was then widely recognized as the most difficult technical ascent in the Indian Himalayas. Both were climbed during the 10-year partnership with Janez Jeglič, although Karo considers the Psycho Vertical (Jeglič-Karo-Knez) on Torre Egger to be the best new route he has climbed in Patagonia.

All skills for the mountains combined in one man

Rolando Garibotti writes: «When I met Silvo he was in his prime - 70 kg full of motivation and determination, little talk and lots of action. In the years that followed, we shared a rope on many occasions, in Yosemite, Patagonia, and elsewhere. Climbing with him felt like cheating. A single man had all the skills needed in the mountains, from a ropegun to pull the toughest pitch, to an army of heavy-duty porters, to an entire rescue team in case something happened. He had the energy of a move, and there was something downright reassuring about the way he doubled: the rock would beg forgiveness. Regardless of the conditions, his resolve was unwavering when it came to a goal close to his heart."

“He was an honest, sober man, for whom I always had great respect. Some of his ascents are legendary and have inspired climbers around the world. He left an indelible mark on the sport."

Rolando Garibotti

A selection of the most important ascents outside of Slovenia

Silvo Karo has climbed over 2000 routes and has more than 300 first ascents to his credit. A selection of his most important ascents outside of Slovenia are:

  • 1983:  Fitz Roy, east face, new route, Devil's Dihedral (6a A2 90°). Aguja Val Bois, east face, new route. DE (5 100°)
  • 1985:  Yalung Kang, north face, new route, reached 8,100m. Grandes Jorasses, north face, third ascent of Rolling Stones (6b A3 80°)
  • 1986: Cerro Torre, east face, new route, Hell's Direct (7a A4 M6 95°)
  • Broad Peak, normal route Torre Egger, southeast face, new route, Psycho Vertical (6c A3 90°). El Mocho, north face, new route, Gray Yellow Arrow (7a A0)
  • 1987:  Lhotse Shar, southeast ridge, reached 7,300m 1987-88. Cerro Torre, south face, new route (6b A4 75°)
  • 1990:  Bhagirathi III, west face, new route (6b A4 85°). Everest, west ridge to 7,500m
  • 1993:  El Capitan, Wyoming Sheep Ranch (5.10 A5)
  • 1996:  Nalumasortoq, new route, Mussel Power (7a A3). El Capitan, Salathé Wall at 10h 25m. Half Dome, Direct Northwest Face, 11h 20mins (speed record at that time)
  • 1997:  El Capitan, West Face (5.11c) in eight hours car to car
  • 1999:  Fitz Roy, west face, Ensueno, second overall and first free ascent (6b+ obl 45°). Fitz Roy, Slovak Route, alpine style with new variation from Glaciar Torre (6c 40°)
  • 2000:  La Esfinge, new route, Cruz del Sur (7b)
  • 2002:  Grand Pilier d'Angle, Divine Providence to Mont Blanc summit
  • 2003:  Cerro Murallon, first ascent of main summit
  • 2005:  Cerro Torre, southeast ridge, new route, Slovenian Sit Start (in a single push of 28 hours; 7a A2 70°). Aguja Poincenot, Sperone degli Italiani, second ascent (and first of this route to the summit, 6c A3).
  • 2006:  Trango Tower, Eternal Flame, first one-day ascend (7a A2 M5)
  • 2009:  Tofana de Rozes, south face, Goodbye 1999 (7b on sight, repeat). Aiguille Noire de Peuterey, Punta Brendal southeast face, Nero su Bianco (7b on sight, repeat). Meru Central, attempt on the then unclimbed Shark's Fin in alpine style.

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Credits: Text: Lindsay Griffin, Cover Photo: Marko Prezelj

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