John Roskelley of Spokane, one of the world’s premier mountaineers in the 1960s, ’70s and ‘80s, will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Piolet d’Or in Chamonix, France, in late March 2014.
The honor is given by a jury of climbers and a French magazine to those “whose spirit inspired subsequent generations.”
Roskelley, 65, is the first American and sixth recipient of the Golden Ice Axe.
He built his climbing reputation with first ascents in the Canadian Rockies before heading farther afield to achieve first ascents and notable ascents of 7,000- and 8,000-meter peaks in Nepal, India and Pakistan.
He’s also an author and former Spokane County commissioner. He was named to the Northwest Sports Hall of Fame in 2007. He got his start as a climber as a teenager in the Spokane Mountaineers club.
Roskelley, who was not available for comment, is best known for climbs such as Dhaulagiri, Nanda Devi, Trango Tower, Gaurishankar, K2, Uli Biaho, Cholatse and Tawache, all without supplemental oxygen.
His character is depicted in the movie “Storm and Sorrow in the High Pamirs,” recalling a tragic 1974 international climb in which he narrowly escaped death in an avalanche that killed companions.
Also in 1974, on an impulse, he joined Spokane climber Chris Kopczynski to become the first Americans to climb the Eiger.
In 2003 and the twilight of his major climbing accomplishments, Roskelley scaled Mount Everest with his son, Jess, 20, who was the youngest American to summit the world’s highest peak at the time.
In 1980, Roskelley joined Spokane climbers Kopczynski, Jim States and Kim Momb on a four-man alpine ascent of Makalu, the world’s third highest peak. Roskelley was the only member of the group to summit, becoming the first American to reach the goal.
The technical difficulties of the route “were of a level never before attained in Himalayan climbing,” Roskelley wrote in the “American Alpine Journal.”
Roskelley told “Rock and Ice” magazine that the lifetime achievement award is “a surprise to me, given the hundreds of exceptional climbers throughout the world. I will be accepting it on behalf of all of my teammates through the years who made this possible. After all, I couldn’t have reached the summits of so many classics without them.”
The mountaineering awards have been given by the French magazine “Montagnes” and The Groupe de Haute Montagne since 1991.
In 2009, the first Lifetime Achievement Award was given to famed Italian climber Walter Bonatti. The award went to Reinhold Messner in 2010, Doug Scott in 2011, Robert Paragot in 2012 and Kurt Diemberger in 2013.