Around two months ago, the most spectacular alpine exploits of the year were celebrated with the prestigious “Piolet D'Or” in Ladek, Poland. For the nominated companies, emphasis is placed on the alpine style; Roughly speaking, the more sophisticated and puristic, the better. Respect for the environment also supposedly plays a role in the award of the prize. Noticeable of this again this year: Nothing. Tim Marklowski from Mountain Wilderness suggests adding a Piolet Vert and Piolet Durable to the coveted alpine award.

A contribution by Tim Marklowski - Mountain Wilderness Switzerland

While in Ladek you are (quite rightly) patting yourself on the back at the 24th Mountain Festival, one thing should not be ignored: Millions of people around the world are currently taking to the streets for more effective climate policy. In Bern alone, over 28 demonstrators were counted on September 60.

Back to the Oscar of alpinism. To the criteria list of the allocation of a Piolet D'or In addition to the purely alpinistic demands, the criteria "efficient and sparing use of resources" and "respect for the environment" are also part of this. What sounds good is a farce in times of climate crisis. Because: The journey to the mountain, so the ecological problem of mountain sports par excellence, is not yet evaluated. This could even arouse creativity. It is time to redefine "by fair means".

What does "fair means" mean?

"By fair means" is a quality feature used in alpinism circles and usually means "Without artificial aids, in a clean, fair way". Only recently in the Espresso, my colleague, a professional mountaineer and Swiss clean-climbing guru in the fight for a more deliberate use of bolts, raved about the latest exploits in a fair manner. In Greenland, he has opened a new route "by fair means". That means in this case, away from the last settlement, without motorized help, with kayaks and on foot. Strong, no doubt, but what does he mean by his fair means? To Greenland Finally nobody wanted to row in advance! As with almost all the famous "by fair means" campaigns, the coarse destination was reached by plane. By the time the last settlement in the area made its "fair" way to the wall, from an ecological point of view, it was already quite unfair and pumped greenhouse gases into the atmosphere in harsh tonnage.

Expedition Greenland Silvan Schüpbach
From the last settlement to the wall by fair means. (Picture zVg)

It may be argued that I have lost my mind and that two dimensions are blended together, namely athletic performance and ecological footprint. And that "by fair means" never referred to the latter. Right! A look at the list of «Significant Ascents» of the prestigious Alpinism Award «Piolet D'Or"Makes it clear that this is not the Climate Protection Cross of Merit:" Luphgar Sar West "," Suma Brakk "," Cerro Kishtwar "and so on are the achievements -" Auer "or" Huber "alpinists. It raises the suspicion that there was a way to bridge between mountain and alpinist and that its "fairness" was not included in the assessment of the performance.

"That's not what the Piolet d'Or is about!" one may complain. But why not? Mountaineers like to be environmentally conscious, #lovemothernature, and experience climate change up close. In some places, the mountains literally melt away under our crampons, whole mountain slopes come towards us, as in last year Bondo, Lucky, who forgot to set the ice screw while the pillar opens to the bottom of the valley below.

Massive rockfall and debris flow in Bondo - Bergell
Massive rock fall and debris flow in Bondo - Bergell. (Image: Screenshot Tamedia video)

Joking aside. For hobby climbers, it should be clear that long-range goals must remain the exception if you want to do mountain sports in a reasonably sustainable way. The environmental discourse has largely arrived in the Breitenberg sport, not least through the Alpine clubs and other NGOs. At least sustainability seems to be present in consciousness. How to act then is another pair of mountain boots.

The green ice pick - «Piolet Vert»

In the circle of the elite, this does not seem to be a topic yet. But at least as an additional award would be a green rather than a golden ice pick an idea. Such a «Piolet Vert» would distinguish those who realize excellence with a small ecological footprint. This, or at least the CO2 footprint, would be included in the performance. Ratings could look like this, or something similar:

Route «The Greenwasher» (1200 m, ED +, 5.11, WI6, CO2: 10 tons). Or the same with arrival by land by train - the amount of greenhouse gas decreases and increase the chances of the coveted award. The game would be the same, the rules slightly adjusted.

With the bike on ski tour

How much creativity could such a prize awaken? Old familiar would get a whole new shine. Everything goes, showed already activities such as the first ascent of the Matterhorn North Face. This was achieved by the brothers Schmid, who traveled to Munich from 1931 by bicycle. Or the Swede Göran Kropp, who cycled 1996 from Stockholm to Nepal, climbed Everest on his own and without artificial oxygen, and was back home with his luggage under his belt. Worth mentioning are Ueli Steck with all Alpen-4000ers with bike trips (but with motorized luggage transport and support team) and Stefan Glowacz: With the electric car, the sailboat and the snow kite to Greenland, climbed a bigwall and the same back ,

Or the "Piolet Durable"?

It becomes complex when we talk about “sustainable” mountaineering and thus link the component “crassness”, which the Piolet d'Or is obviously about, not only with the component ecology, but also with economic and social aspects. That would be the “Piolet Durable”, so to speak, the sustainable ice ax. As explained, starkness and ecology can still be combined quite well. The fine art is the fusion of starkness with sustainability. Because actions like Göran Kropp's do no harm in the best of cases. The environment is happy, the Sherpas less. Engaging sponsors makes a project less blatant, but it often makes more economic and social sense than going it alone. Reviews of a “Piolet Durable” award-winning tour should look something like this: Route “Sustainer Billy” (1200 m, ED +, 5.11, WI6, CO2: 5 tons, local added value: 2000 $).

Creativity enlivens the business

So what could be the ultimate candidate for the "Piolet Durable" or the "Piolet Vert"? Göran Kropp with Sherpa support? Göran Kropp with access as a viable middle ground between plane and bike? Ueli Steck without motorized luggage transport. Difficult routes in the large north-north faces connected by bicycle? The crème de la crème would certainly come up with something. And the services would also be inspiring for Normalos. The possibilities for the very personal "green" challenge are endless.

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Credits: text Tim Marklowski / Mountain Wilderness Switzerland, picture ZVg