“Enough of this tasty talking!!”. This was my first encounter with mountaineer and photographer Marko Pretzelj. In Brixen for the International Mountain Festival in 2011, Marko Prezelj (now holder of THREE Piolets d’Or), was describing his route on the south east ridge of Nasser Brakk, “Tasty Talking” ( June 30th 2004, 5.10+, 500 meters, with Steve House and Steve Swenson – A couple of days later Miller and Prezelj added more pitches to this route by doing a start on the buttress right from the glacier, which they called “No More Tasty Talk”, 5.10+, 1000m). The remark was a criticism of over-politeness, chiefly the abuse of the word “please”, typical of Anglo-Saxon culture. How I do understand that…
Back then, I was a little intimidated by this sharp, opinionated, clever, hard-going mountaineer, and was even more so at the thought of meeting him at the Piolets d’Or in Chamonix and Courmayeur. Marko is, in fact, a fun person to be with. We briefly discussed the Piolets d’Or and its role in the mountaineering world. Marko was awarded the first Piolets d’Or back in 1992 with Andrej Štremfelj for their 3000 m (!) new route on the south ridge of Kanchenjunga South (8476 m.) in alpine style. “Having received the award at the very first edition, it then cleared my mind from the idea of winning it, freeing me from this thought.”
Marko won his second Piolets d’Or in 2007 with Boris Lorenčič, for the first ascent of Chomolhari’s (or Jomolhari) northwest pillar in October 2006. He refused this award because of the criticism he held against the award itself, in particular the dangers of having such a competition, which may lead people to believe that the award is more important that alpinism itself.
“And yet here I am”, he said in Courmayeur, “so, in a way, criticizing the award is rather awkward, but if I did so from the outside, as it were, it may look like I am doing it because I am not part of this event.” You never win, it would seem. “Exactly. If you take the award, you look like a narcissist. If you don’t accept it, you look like you are too proud to care.”
And Marko well accepted his third Piolets d’Or, for his route the North Face of Hagshu (ED, 70°-90°) in the Indian Himalayas, together with Ales Cesen and Luka Lindič, carried out in September 2014. So, what do we make of this? Is this event primarily aimed at the media, so that they have something to talk about? Nurture their need to stir interest, whatever the cost? I strongly doubt it.
Marko believes that having a lifetime achievement – this year awarded to the gentleman of mountaineering, Chris Bonington – is the way to go. “You should then select some ascents which are, in some way, connected to that figure, and reflect his career.” Interesting.
In the words of the Piolets d’Or organizer, Christian Trommsdorf, “We called the award Les Piolets d’Or – in the plural form – because we want to celebrate the different forms of alpinism and also the progress in ethical mountaineering.”
And so, Marko giving a rose to all the Piolets d’Or winners at the Courmayeur final night, added a tender touch to this event, a gentle surprise and realization that chivalry, even in the tough-going world of hard mountaineering, has all but died.
Stay tuned for an in-depth interview with Marko! To be continued…