Monday 19 February 2007

Golden Piton Award

Every year the American magazine 'Climbing' make an award for what they feel is the best performance of the year in each climbing discipline. This year's 'Golden Piton' awards were just announced and they awarded me with the title for best traditional rock ascent in 2006 for Rhapsody.

It's great that Climbing appreciated the effort I put in on my new route. It's always nice when someone acknowledges your hard work. You can see the list of other winners this year here.

There's been a fair bit of debate in the past few years about setting up more award schemes of this type as a way to encourage good performance and effort in climbing, and also allow the acheivements of climbers to be compared more easiliy outside the climbing world. Lots of people within climbing have understandable issues with this. The two main ones are that climbing is not about competition for many climbers and they fear that a climate of competition and such awards might end up promoting the darker side of sport - cheating and disrespect for others and the mountain environment. However, the benefits are potentially very good too, and may affect all climbers. When budget holders in government dish out the many millions of pounds to UK sport they are looking for prizes. The money goes to where the prizes are already coming from, as they have the biggest likelyhood of producing a return. Cynical I know, but there it is. Climbing and mountaineering in the UK is perpetually cash strapped because we have no concrete 'medals' of some kind to point at, despite still being the best in the world at trad climbing. HOW IRONIC IS THAT!!! Especially when you see filthy rich footballers trashing their form with binge drinking and getting banned for fighting, or sprinters getting banned for cheating after we have all supported them with our taxes for years. Since the olympics 2012 appeared on the horizon, climbing dropped completely off the radar for this type of support in the UK.

In other sports, sometimes the performances of a few great athletes have lifted it's spirit and profile (and funding) enough to generate support (from government and media sponsorship) that trickles right through to all levels and corners. Winning a Golden Piton award in nice, but doesn't change my life one bit (the experience of climbing Rhapsody certainly did though!). However, if young British climbers in the future get more Golden Pitons, or whatever other awards are out there, that could eventually translate to things like climbing taught in the school PE curicculum, Funds to develop, protect and maintain crags, more and better climbing walls, more expedition grants, coaching schools to help young climbers get better, bigger and better climbing events, and the chance for any climber who is determined enough to become the best in the world, limited only by effort, not oppurtunity.

That would be cool.

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