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Slovenian climbing legend gets lifetime Piolet d'Or

Ljubljana, 12 June - Slovenian mountaineering legend Andrej Štremfelj has been awarded the 2018 Piolet d'Or (Golden Ice Axe) for lifetime achievements, becoming the first Slovenian to receive what is considered the top accolade in climbing.

Ljubljana
Alpine climber Andrej Štremfelj.
Photo: Bor Slana/STA

Štremfelj is "a living legend amongst Himalayan climbers, and also an immensely experienced, professional mountain guide," the jury said as it announced the award on Monday.

Best known for his climbing achievements in the 1970s and 1980s, Štremfelj has a number of firsts to his name.

Along with Nejc Zaplotnik, he completed the first ascent of Gasherbrum I (8,068 metres) via a new route, the south-west ridge.

In 1979 he made the first ascent of the west ridge direct on Mount Everest.

He returned to Everest in 1990, making an ascent of the Normal Route with his wife Marija; they became the first married couple to stand together on the summit.

But perhaps his greatest achievement came in 1991, when he succeeded in climbing the south ridge of Kangchenjunga (8,476 metres), for which he received the first ever Piolet d'Or.

While Štremfelj is no longer at the cutting edge of climbing, he nevertheless continues to climb and is now a mountain guide.

The Piolet d'Or are given by the French magazine Montagnes and The Groupe de Haute Montagne and are considered the top world's awards for climbing.

Previous recipients of the the lifetime achievement award, conferred since 2008, include legends such as Reinhold Messner, Walter Bonatti and Kurt Diemberger. Last year it was conferred on American climber Jeff Lowe.

Štremfelj will receive the award at the Ladek Mountain Festival in Poland in September.

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© STA, 2018