New routes on Kusum Kanguru (Nepal), Kyashar (Nepal) and Puscanturpa Este (Peru) have been awarded Piolets d'Or in the recent Russian and Asian celebrations.
Vyacheslav Ivanov and Alexander Ruchkin have been awarded the 2013 Russian Piolet d'Or for their first ascent of the coveted southwest face of Kusum Kanguru (6,367m) in the Khumbu region.
The two main spin-offs of the Piolets d'Or, the Russian Piolet d'Or (where only one ascent is awarded), and the Asian Piolets d'Or (where, in common with the parent event, more than one can be awarded) are of interest, in that they show major ascents made by climbers outside the American-European mix that often escape reportage in the West.
The Russian Piolet d'Or is always controversial, as the result is not decided by an unbiased jury but by the nominees themselves.
They place the other nominated ascents in the order in which they consider most worthy. This, of course, leads to tactical voting.
This method is nicknamed 'Hamburg Score' in Russia, as it was described in a 1928 novel by a well-known Russian author, Viktor Shklovsky.
It is based on a story about wrestlers who would generally cheat for commercial gain by allowing themselves to lose a contest. But once a year they met in private in Hamburg, away from agents, organizers and the public, to fight a fair battle.
Only in Hamburg did the wrestlers know who was the real champion.
Before the event it seems as though the favourite was Russian Roulette, the new route established alpine style on the east face of Uli Biaho Tower by Eugeny Bashkirtsov and Denis Veretenin.
Apart from Kusum Kanguru other nominated ascents were: a fine and fast winter ascent of the north face couloir - Moshnikov Route on Aksu (5,217m); an ascent of a line on the left buttress of the north face of Sabah (5,300m; reported as a first ascent and thereby gaining nomination, but later found to be variant of a long forgotten route climbed 20 years ago); an all women ascent of the northeast face of Tengkangpoche (6,487m; again billed as a first ascent but actually a repeat of a Japanese route with a different finish), and the first ascent of the east face of Kyajo Ri (6,186m) via Stealing Beauty (ca 1,000m, 28 pitches, 6b, A2, M6 and AI3).
Notably, one climber took part in two of these ascents; the Ukrainian female and Kiev climbing shop manager, Marina Kopteva (Tengkangpoche and Kyajo Ri).
However, it is fitting that perhaps one of the best mountaineering ascents of the year was awarded the Golden Ice Axe.
Ivanov and Ruchkin's ascent of the southwest face via Falling into the Void (1,400m, TD/ED, WI5 and M5), followed by their somewhat epic traverse of the summit ridge and descent to the north, will be reported here shortly.
Ivanov climbed a major line on K7 West in 2010. Ruchkin is one of Russia's most notable mountaineers, having climbed since 1985, with ascents such as the Russian Route on Troll Wall, No Siesta on the Grandes Jorasses, Great Sail Peak (Baffin), Jannu north face, Shark's Tooth (Greenland) to name but a few.
The Piolets d'Or Asia is rather more straightforward, with a jury and generally a low number of nominated ascents.
The jury comprised two noted magazine editors Kim Seung Jin from Korea's Man and Mountain, and Hiro Hagiwara from Japan's Rock and Snow.
Five other Koreans, including the noted mountaineer Kim Chang Ho, who recently completed all 14, 8,000m peaks, completed the group.
For the 2013 event, which is confined to Asian climbers and includes ascents from autumn 2012-autumn 2013, only four climbs were nominated.
The first known ascent of Amphu I (6,740m) in the Khumbu section of Nepal, a little west of Baruntse North, by three Koreans (a 500m glacier approach followed by 1,300m at ca TD, AI5).
The first known ascent of Zalaqueni (5,429m) in the Baimang Xueshan, Yunnan, by a three-person Chinese team.
The first ascent of the southeast face of Purscanturpa Este (5,410m) in the Cordillera Huayhuash by Masanobu Noba and Yasushi Yamanoi via Qiumplirgun Swerminganta (800m, ED3, UIAA VII, M5+ and A1), possibly only the fourth ascent of the mountain.
The first ascent of the south pillar of Kyashar (6,770m) in the Khumbu region by Tatsuya Aoki, Yasuhiro Hanatani, and Hiroyoshi Manome via Nima Line (2,200m, ED+, 5.10a and M5).
By a majority vote the jury awarded two Piolets; Purscanturpa Este and Kyashar.
This is a double award for the Kyasher team, who were also presented with a Piolet d'Or at the main event in Chamonix in April 2013.
The various Piolets d'Ors have a fine tradition for the controversial that seems unlikely to disappear in the near future.
The main Piolets d'Or is scheduled to take place towards the end of March 2014 in Chamonix-Courmayeur.
Thanks to Anna Piunova, Mountain.ru, and Hiroshi Hagiwara, Rock and Snow, for help with this report.