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Kiwi alpinist is finalist for prestigious award

Kiwi alpinist is finalist for prestigious mountaineering award

New Zealand Alpine Club President John Cocks has today congratulated New Zealand Alpine Club (NZAC) member Graham Zimmerman for being selected as one of five finalists for the prestigious Piolets d’Or.

“This is a marvellous achievement and truly deserved. Graham’s ascent of Mt Laurens in a remote part of Alaska is at the extreme outer limits of human capability. A first ascent, conducted in this true ‘alpine’ style, is the purest form of climbing,” Mt Cocks said

“A nomination for the Piolets d’Or is a rare and highly sought-after occurrence. NZAC and the New Zealand climbing community are justifiably proud of Graham. For his ascent to be recognised internationally, at the highest level, is fantastic,” Mr Cocks said.

The Piolets d’Or (Golden Ice Axe) is an annual award recognising cutting-edge alpine climbs. In a pursuit that finds it difficult to compare the relative difficulty of climbs, it is regarded as the highest honour.

“Competition for the Piolets d’Or is incredibly high. Only the very best alpinists and their boldest ascents are considered,” Mr Cocks said.

On his nomination Graham commented: “I am truly honoured. While I do not believe in competition in climbing I see the Piolets d’Or as recognizing significant ascents that have held true to the core values of exploration, strong style and ethics and a maintenance of strong safety margins……I feel very good about it.”

“The first ascent of the North East buttress of Mt Laurens was an excellent trip that I felt resonated with my personal values of what I would like to achieve in the mountains. In an area with many unknowns we made decisions that allowed us to stay safe and climb a big technical route following a beautiful line,” he said.

Only one New Zealander, Athol Whimp, has won the Piolet D’or. In 1998 Whimp was awarded the prize for the first direct ascent of the north face of Thalay Sagar, in the Himalayas.

Graham Zimmerman received financial support from NZAC for his ascent of Mt Laurens, in the form of an NZAC Expedition Fund grant.


The purpose of the Piolets d’Or awards is to raise awareness about the year’s greatest ascents from across the world. They aim to celebrate the taste for adventure, the bravery and sense of exploration that lie behind the art of climbing in the world’s great mountain ranges.

Graham Zimmermann was born in New Zealand and has split his time between NZ and the US. He has climbed extensively in New Zealand, North America, South America and Nepal. He recently opened a difficult route on the Aguja Guillaumet (Patagonia), and explored the wild Revelations Mountains (Alaska). He climbs exclusively in ‘alpine’ style.

Mount Laurens, 3,052m(Alaska) This isolated icy giant is situated on the Lacuna Glacier, south of Foraker. Mark Allen (USA) and Graham Zimmerman (USA/New Zealand) took two days to get to the base of the peak from their drop-off point, and then succeeded in making the first ascent of the northeast buttress and north ridge. They reached the summit after two bivouacs, for only its second ascent, negotiating unprotected climbing around large gargoyle cornices. Their ascent, and subsequent descent via the east face, was completed in a total of 67hours from 20-22 May.

The New Zealand Alpine Club was formed in 1891 and aims to promote and support climbing at all levels within New Zealand. The club has over 3200 members, ten regional sections and five full-time staff based at its headquarters in Christchurch. The scope of its activities are broad including publishing, the provision of 17 alpine huts and base lodges, instruction, advocacy, travel insurance and support for overseas climbing expeditions.


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