Climbing Awards for Mere Mortals

“Your nonsense award title here”

The Piolet D’Or, or the “Golden Ice Axe”, is an award given annually to what a panel of judges consider the most heroic act of alpinism for the year. Widely regarded as “The Oscars of Alpinism”, the award recognises elite athletes at the cutting edge of the sport… but imagine, if you will, a world in which climbing awards are bestowed on mere mortals. Which award might the Average Joe have a shot at? With that concept in mind, I’ve taken the liberty of inventing a series of prestigious awards for everyday adventurers.

The Piolet D’Merde
Created and awarded by the Leave No Trace Organisation, the “Shitty Ice Axe” is given to the team who returns with the most frozen faecal matter after a glacial mountaineering expedition. The honour may occasionally be extended to poo tubes on big walls, but these receptacles generally can’t compete with stuff sacks full of frozen shit flown off Alaskan glaciers. Competition has been particularly fierce since the advent of the Clean Mountain Can (CMC) on Denali, which allows large commercial teams to produce and carry prodigious amounts of waste. In the event of a tiebreaker, maximum altitude breaks the deadlock.

The S2S Award
When Australian mountaineer Tim Macartney-Snape embarked on the Sea to Summit expedition in 1989, he was doing shit right. Really, what’s the point in climbing Everest beginning at Base Camp, more than halfway up the mountain at 5364m? If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing all the way.

In this tradition, the S2S Award acknowledges excellence in the field of approaching. With modern climbing trends, approaching is a dying art – rock climbers prefer roadside cragging over adventure climbs and mountaineers fly into Kahiltna International Airport rather than slog for weeks over gruelling terrain. The S2S Award is not for them. It is only for those with true grit, sturdy legs, and, perhaps, a touch of mental instability. Taswegian climbers often claim this award after a casual outing to a local sport crag.

The Sphere
If bouldering is the antithesis of mountaineering, then the ultimate realisation of the sport is not to climb at all. Known simply as “The Sphere”, this award is given annually to new problems with the least amount of vertical gain. Highballs need not apply – traverses are well-positioned to claim the accolade, and roof problems which trend downward are particularly competetive. Its creators say that the sport of bouldering finds a perfect physical analogy in the elegant crystal award, given that the sphere is one of few geometric shapes which are entirely pointless.

Thrutch Lizard
In the former USSR, elite Soviet mountaineers were bestowed with the prestigious title of “Snow Leopard” if they summited five notable peaks – Pik Kommunizma (7495m), Pik Pobeda (7439m), Pik Lenin (7134m), Pik Korjenevskoy (7105m) and Khan Tengri (7010m).

In the former Bjelke-Petersen police state known as Queensland, Australia, a similar award exists. The title of “Thrutch Lizard” is given to hex-clanking weirdos who subject themselves to a series of torturous offwidths at Frog Buttress. Few complete this list with their souls or knees intact. The list goes as follows:

  • Venom (21) – “Expect full body meltdown”
  • Lape (12) – “Horrible tight chimney”
  • Juggernaut (20) – “Whispering its name has struck panic and fear into the heart of many aspiring leaders”
  • Witches Cauldron Pitch 2 (12) – “A brutal grunt, not a lot of gear”
  • Pollux (20) – “Probably the toughest 20 at Frog if you don’t have a foot-long beard and 20-year-old EB boots”
  • Blood, Sweat and Tears (17) – “Has been the scene of several serious falls”
  • Eating Gorillas (16) – “Practice your acceptance speech for the Thrutch Master Hall of Fame”
  • Chunder Crack (17) – “Well named”
  • Corner of Eden (20) – “The first route ever climbed at Frog… a strange choice really.”
  • Christian (16) – “You should really shoot yourself if you’re considering leading this route”

The Missing Link Trophy
This prestigious prize is awarded for the creation of “phantom” routes – that is to say, linkups crammed into the existing shitfight of bolts at various steep sport crags. The very best of these “new” routes don’t even require the addition of more hardware – just connect the dots and go! Given that no true line exists, aesthetic appeal is not assessed. Rather, judges award the prize based on name quality alone. Most of these new titles form a linkup of their own, threading together various words from existing route names. Many experts predict that the next trophy will go to whomever can link “Black Dave’s Evil Fruit Boobs” in Coolum Cave.

The Intergalactic Yosemite Valley Uber-Spray Championship
In what is now considered a quantum leap in our scientific understanding of the universe, a recent study has revealed that Yosemite Valley truly is the centre of the universe. In order to commemorate this momentous occasion, the inaugural Intergalactic Yosemite Valley Uber-Spray Championship (IYVUC) was formed. The IYVUC allows folks across the globe, and indeed the universe, to get involved in what was previously considered an exclusively Californian sport – spraying hard about how fucking good California is. It has proved a runaway success.

The Championship is tallied annually and awarded on the first official day of the Yosemite climbing season, also known as Californian New Year. In order to participate, climbers must wax lyrical about the Valley at any given opportunity throughout the year. This must occur entirely by social media, otherwise how would we know it was actually happening? Points are awarded for various sprays and tallied on a leader board. Some of the point values are described below:

1 Point will be awarded for:
Posting the classic “Tunnel View” photo
Using the term “Yosemite Granite” in a post
2 Points will be awarded for:
Sharing a Yosemite related news article
Like/sharing this season’s record ascent
Posting topo overlay of intended route
Sad react to Valley rockfall/injury
3 points will be awarded for:
Changing FB status to “Watching Valley Uprising”
Getting a photo whilst on big wall route
Getting a photo on Midnight Lightning
5 points will be awarded for:
Posting a humblebrag about meeting a celebrity climber
1 point will be deducted for:
Mentioning climbing in Tuolumne
4 points will be deducted for:
Mentioning climbing in Joshua Tree or Bishop
10 points will be deducted for:
Mentioning climbing in any area outside California

The Speed Batmanning Pentathlon
Climbing has always been a team sport, but the Speed Batmanning Pentathlon takes it to the next level. Entrants will put their teamwork to the test in a series of quasi-climbing-ish skill events. The Stick Clip Party Trick Tournament and the furious Jumar Races are always crowd favourites, but the wheat truly gets sorted from the chaff in the final, eponymous showdown – The Speed Batmanning event. This final challenge combines all the various elements from the previous events in a frantic, nail-biting showdown. Who will be crowned victors when they reach the roof of the cave first? Only time will tell, but you can probably safely assume it will be a pair from the Blue Mountains.

Ryan Siacci, Esq.
November 2017

  1. Hi, Ryan! With tears in my eyes and breathing problem- this is an amazing article! I had a great time reading it. These awards are on point, as your writing.What award would have the most contestants?

    1. Gday Nigel,
      Thanks, I’m glad you got a laugh out of it. Sometimes people take climbing a bit too seriously and need to be reminded that it is, after all, an inherently pointless pastime… but no less fun for that fact! So I think the most hotly contested award would be “The Butthurt Cup” where people compete over how offended they are that I slagged their particular niche. But I hope that my readers can see the humour in it, and I’m glad you enjoyed it yourself! Thanks for your messages, most people engage through Facebook so it’s nice to have a friendly chat on the message threads here on the blog sometimes. I’m sure I’ll be talking to you again soon!

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