Olympic gold medals for alpinism were awarded in conjunction with Olympic Games in 1924, 1932 and 1936 for the greatest mountaineering achievement within the four preceding years.[1]


Members of the 1922 British Mount Everest expedition.

Medals for feats of alpinism were initially floated as part of the first Olympic Congress in 1894, where it was suggested by the committee tasked with drawing up a list of sports.[1] A prize for alpinism (as well as game hunting) was considered for the 1912 Olympic Games, but the International Olympic Committee (IOC) decided against it for several reasons, including practicability, risk to human life and the lack of an exceptional feat of alpinism between 1908 and 1911.[1]

The first alpinism medals, in 1924, were given to the members of the unsuccessful 1922 British Mount Everest expedition led by Charles Granville Bruce.[1] They were given out at the closing ceremony of the 1924 Winter Olympics in Chamonix,[2] but bore the inscription of the 1924 Summer Olympics in Paris.[1][3] 21 people: the thirteen British expedition members, seven Sherpas who died during the ascent and one Nepalese soldier (Tejbir Bura) were awarded medals.[3][4][5][6] There is some doubt as to whether all awardees, or the Sherpas' families, received them.[1]

After no medals were given out in 1928, the 1932 prize was awarded to German brothers Franz [fr] and Toni Schmid [fr] for being the first people to ascend the northern wall of the Matterhorn on August 1, 1931.[1][7] Toni died on May 16, 1932 while attempting to climb the Wiesbachhorn, but Franz and his father accepted medals on behalf of both brothers in a ceremony on September 5, 1932.[1]

In 1936, medals were given to Swiss-German climber Günter Dyhrenfurth and his wife Hettie for "a series of remarkable ascents and scientific expeditions in the Himalayas".[1] According to Olympic rules, only single performances could be considered, so the award was de facto for the pair's 1934 expedition, in which Hettie broke the women's altitude record by climbing 7313 meters.[1] Despite the 1936 Summer Olympics being held in Berlin, Hettie being Jewish, and the pair having left Germany due to Adolf Hitler's rise to power, the German members of the IOC did not file any objections.[1] Günter, who was also one-quarter Jewish,[7] traveled alone to Berlin to accept the award during the 1936 Summer Olympics closing ceremony.[1] The Dyhrenfurths were nonetheless left out of the Official Report of the Games, which caused Günter to send a letter of protest to the publisher.[1]

The IOC agreed to end the prize for alpinism in 1946, following a request from the Swiss.[1][8] In 1988, the Olympic Order was presented to Reinhold Messner and Jerzy Kukuczka, the first two people to climb all fourteen eight-thousanders.[9] Messner declined the award, citing mountaineering as a creative activity and not a competition, while Kukczka accepted it, though simultaneously distinguished it from a real Olympic medal.[9]

Medal table

The award from 1924 could be characterized either as for Great Britain or a mixed team (since the expedition was British-led, but some recipients were Indian or Nepalese).[5] These medals are regardless not considered by the IOC to be equivalent to regular Olympic medals.

1 Germany1001
 Great Britain1001
Totals (3 entries)3003


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Kluge, Volker; Lippert, Thomas (2013). "The Olympic Alpinism Prize and a promise redeemed" (PDF). International Society of Olympic Historians. Retrieved 2024-01-27.
  2. ^ "Charles Granville Bruce". British Olympic Association. Retrieved 2024-01-29.
  3. ^ a b Douglas, Ed (2012-05-19). "'My modest father never mentioned his Everest expedition Olympic gold'". the Guardian. Retrieved 2024-01-28.
  4. ^ "Olympic Prize Alpinism". The Gurkha Museum - Winchester. 2021-08-12. Retrieved 2024-01-28.
  5. ^ a b "Olympedia – Alpinism". Olympedia – Main Page. Retrieved 2024-01-28.
  6. ^ Verma, Somesh (17 Aug 2012). "The faceless hero Nepal's only Olympic Gold medalist in focus". The Kathmandu Post. Archived from the original on 16 December 2018. Retrieved 2017-12-05.
  7. ^ a b Berg, Aimee (2014-02-05). "'The most beautiful kind of heroism' that is no longer an Olympic event". Al Jazeera America. Retrieved 2024-01-28.
  8. ^ "Climbing Was Once in Olympics, But Not Like in 2020". Gripped Magazine. 2020-01-02. Retrieved 2024-01-28.
  9. ^ a b Pawlucki, Andrzej (2022-03-15). "Olympism and himalaism". Baltic Journal of Health and Physical Activity. Retrieved 2024-01-28.