By Hayden Kennedy
“Some declared it the climb of the century. But did anyone repeat GIV to confirm our illusion of it? Besides, does it make sense to declare a poem the poem of the century? Can you choose a woman of the century?” – Voytek Kurtyka writing about the Shining Wall on Gasherbrum IV
There are no winners or losers in climbing. How can there be? Isn’t the point of climbing to escape these themes of ego and competition? To surrender ourselves to the experience at hand whether that entails failure or success; to push beyond the surface of our own expectations and those others have of us into a deeper well of motivation, curiosity and mystery? In my life, some of the greatest moments have come from failure. And what does success truly mean? Reaching the summit is an obvious and logical yardstick, yet too much focus on that singular measure can blind us to more profound possibilities like surrendering ourselves to the experience at hand, regardless of whether it entails failure or success. As the prolific Mugs Stump once said, “We were stuck on a portaledge on the Eye Tooth for eight days… We don’t need the summit. Just being here, in the present, that’s enough.”
These were the thoughts going through my head when Kyle Dempster and I were lucky enough to get invited to the 21st Piolets d’Or ceremony in Chamonix. The annual event – held over four days with plenty of red wine and good French food – typically chooses a “best” alpine climb of the year and rewards that team with a golden ice axe. Kyle and I were nominated for our new route up the south face of Ogre I in Pakistan’s Karakoram Range.
[Above: Hayden descends Ogre I after making the third ascent of the mountain with Kyle Dempster. Karakorum Range, Pakistan. Photo: Kyle Dempster]