The 20th Piolets d'Or, a celebration of noteworthy mountaineering ascents during 2011, will take place in Chamonix and Courmayeur from 21st -24th March.
Currently, a small steering panel has selected more than 80 ascents from last year that for a variety of reasons are deemed to have made a significant contribution to mountaineering.
This is shortly to be reduced to a collection of 20-25 that perhaps best upholds the spirit of the Piolets d'Or, as outlined in its charter.
This shorter list will be presented to the 2012 six-member jury, who will nominate up to half a dozen ascents for this year's awards.
The jury is presided over by well-known American mountaineer and magazine editor Michael Kennedy. Amongst his many notable first ascents are the Infinite Spur on Foraker, Wall of Shadows on Hunter's North Buttress and the North East Face of Ama Dablam during the Nepalese winter. Long time editor of Climbing Magazine, Kennedy is now chief editor of Alpinist.
Joining him on the panel are: the noted Russian alpinist, now living in Canada, Valery Babanov, whose resume includes the first ascent (solo) of Meru Central and the North West Pillar of Jannu; German Ines Papert, well known for her success in world ice climbing competitions and recent hard ascents in the Greater Ranges; Alberto Inurrategi, a legendary Spanish Basque, who has climbed impressive new routes around the globe, as well as all 14 8,000m peaks without oxygen; Liu Yong (a.k.a. Daliu), a Chinese mountaineering guide from Chengdu who recently made the first ascent of Yangmolong and is one of the new breed of Chinese climbers making technical ascents in alpine style; and Alessandro Filippini from Italy, who works for the major magazines, Tuttosport and Gazzetta dello Sport.
Since 2009 the Piolets d'Or has presented a career or lifetime achievement award. The first, Walter Bonatti, was followed in 2010 by Reinhold Messner and in 2011 Doug Scott.
This year the award is being presented to one of the great icons of French alpinism, Robert Paragot.
Born in 1927, Paragot's greatest achievements are probably: the first ascent of the south face of Aconcagua, one of the first really major, technically difficult, high-altitude walls to be climbed; the first ascent of Jannu; first ascent of the north face of Huascaran; and leading the expedition to Makalu that broke new boundary's in technically difficult climbing at the highest altitudes with its first ascent of the elegant west ridge.
Many of Paragot's ascents took place with the late Lucien Berardini, and this famous partnership paralleled that of Joe Brown and Don Whillians at the time.
The Piolets d'Or has evolved considerably in the 20 years since its creation, though the spirit of today's nominees generally remains the same. In 1992 the first climbers to receive an award were Marko Prezelj and Andrej Stremfelj for their alpine-style ascent of a long, hard and bold new route up the south ridge of Kangchenjunga South.
The "long list" of 2011 ascents is still being updated, but is available to view.