Piolets d'Or - Special Mention 2023 - First ascent of the east face of Northern Sun Spire (1,527m)

Special Mention 2023 - First ascent of the east face of Northern Sun Spire (1,527m)

©Ramona Waldner

The Piolets d’Or wishes to promote female alpinism, with the aim of inspiring future generations of female climbers. It also realizes the difficulty in finding a universally accepted mechanism for doing so.

From time to time, it makes one or more Special Mentions. These are not Piolets d’Or, but a recognition bestowed on an ascent that is deemed notable for different reasons, yet still fitting with the core values of the Piolets d’Or Charter.


First ascent of the east face of Northern Sun Spire (1,527m), Renland, East Greenland, by Via Sedna. Top of face reached on August 7 and the route then rappelled.


A Special Mention is given to the women’s sailing and climbing team that made the first ascent of Via Sedna (780m of climbing, 16 pitches, 7b+ A1) on Northern Sun Spire. Starting on June 20 from La Rochelle in France on the 15m yacht Northabout, skipper Marta Guemes (Spain) and crew Caroline Dehais and Alix Jaekkel (both France), and Maria Sol Massera (Argentina), plus climbers Capucine Cotteaux (France), Caro North (Switzerland), and Nadia Royo (Spain), and photographer Ramona Waldner (Austria), spent six weeks negotiating bad weather and difficult pack ice before finally reaching the coast of Renland. Due to these delays, they had only 10 days in which to climb before having to set sail again.

Cotteaux, North and Royo spent two days climbing steep difficult terrain and fixing 300m of rope, the leader sometimes resorting to aid while the followers mostly free climbed. With one-and-a-half days now left before a predicted snowstorm, the three set off up the ropes, added four more difficult pitches, spent the night in portaledges, and the following morning, after a further six pitches of more reasonable 6a-6b, reached the upper south ridge. Natural gear was used throughout. Incoming weather persuaded them not to make the easy scramble to the summit (the top section of the 2019 first ascent route), and by the time they regained the base of the wall it was raining. After four more weeks of sailing, and total travel of 4,000 nautical miles, they were back in France.

Not only was this a fine adventure by a self-contained, international group of women, but also the expedition itself had minimal carbon footprint. It forms a representative example of relatively "low impact" expeditions.

2023 Organizers