15th career Piolet d’Or awarded to American George Lowe

George Lowe on Dhaulagiri ©Lowe Collection

The Piolets d’Or 2023 jury awarded the Walter Bonatti prize, or the 15th Piolets d’Or career award, to 79-year-old American George Lowe on Wednesday in Briançon. Well-known for his part in the 1978 American epic on the north ridge of Latok I in Pakistan, George Lowe was a committed climber and mountaineering enthusiast from 1965 to the early 1990s. Insatiable, the man was still climbing Mount Huntington in Alaska and the Grand Teton in Wyoming, aged 70 and 75 respectively.

Often cited as one of the greatest living North American alpinists, George Lowe began climbing at an early age when he joined his uncle Ralph Lowe, who was teaching his sons, Mike, Greg and Jeff, how to rock climb. Lowe had done many major new climbs in the Tetons, Canadian Rockies, Alaska, and the Himalaya, and perhaps the following four ascents – or near ascents – exemplify his climbing career.

In 1974, with ex-British climber Chris Jones, Lowe made the first ascent, alpine style, of the north face of North Twin (3 730 m) in the Canadian Rockies. Canadian Barry Blanchard, no mean alpinist himself, described this face as a sheer black wall of north-facing limestone, steeper than the Eiger, one and half times the height of El Capitan – 1400 m – and the hardest in the Rockies. It is also a full day of arduous mountain travel from the nearest road. Blanchard argues that the seven-day 1974 ascent, with “a rope, a rack, and two packs” was