This might be old news. . . it's an old post too that I just didn't get around to finishing and publishing.
Participation trophies were handed out at this year's Piolets d'Or, thereby making the award, well, much less valuable.
Now, I have been a fan of the Piolets d'Or award for years. I felt like it was a good way to recognize people who have accomplished incredible things in the mountains. It has encouraged climbers to push their own limits and the limits of the sport. It has encouraged climbers to expand their vision of what is possible. It has now become a participation trophy.
I'm sure my opinion means little to most people, especially to those that are involved in choosing the Piolet d'Or winners, but that's the nice thing about blogs; if you don't want to hear it, don't read it.
In the article on Alpinist, it is stated that the Piolet d'Or has adopted a non-competitive, "everybody wins" approach to climbing, discouraging competition in the sport. Marko Prezelj chose not to accept his Piolet d'Or a few years ago because he said something about not liking the rivalry that develops between climbing teams because they are all vying for the coveted award. He said that it encourages drama and winners and losers are judged.
Well, I think it's great that Prezelj has his opinion and that he acted upon his convictions, but I strongly disagree.
If people feel like they've lost because somebody else won, that's a personal pride issue, not an award issue. If somebody feels like an award is causing an unhealthy rivalry among climbing teams, that's a personal problem. It's not the award causing those feelings, that is the climber's pride and ego getting in the way. Pride says, "if you succeed, then I am a failure." I have never once felt that way while climbing with others or hearing about others' successes in the mountains.
One of the greatest things about the climbing community that I belong to (and I thought it was this way everywhere) is that everybody wants everybody to succeed. We all celebrate each others' successes. There's never the feeling of failure when somebody else succeeds.
There is also competition among our community. Recently we had a bouldering competition as part of the Ogden Climbing Festival. Though each climber was hoping to win, all of the climbers were cheering each other on, wanting each other to climb their best.
Having an award like the Piolet d'Or is not about pointing out those that don't win; it's about celebrating those that have succeeded in pushing the sport the most. There's no shame in climbing an incredible route, being nominated for a Piolet d'Or, and then not winning the ultimate prize.
But, when you start handing awards out to everybody, it devalues the award. Even if everybody is worthy of winning the award, the award is not worth as much to the sport or those that are in the running. The "everybody wins"/participation trophy approach is the quickest way to make the award irrelevant and encourage mediocrity or at least stop encouraging excellence.
Reward the excellence of the best climbs by nominating them for the Piolet d'Or, but then recognize the very best of these top climbs with the actual award. It encourages future climbers to push their personal limits and the limits of the sport.
I hope that the participation trophy approach is a one-time thing and doesn't become the standard. If so, I imagine somebody else with some other award will eventually step up to recognize the best climb, it will become the most sought after award, and people will start to forget about the Piolet d'Or.