Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Lhotse South Wall and Jerzy Kukuczka

Many remember the late Jerzy Kukuczka from Poland as the second man after Rheinhold Messner to summit all the 8000 metre peaks. But, the mountaineering fraternity considers Jerzy as possibly "one of the mountaineering greats of all time". Unlike the flamboyant Messner, Jerzy was a poor miner living behind the "Iron Curtain" in Poland. All his life Jerzy had to make do with sub standard equipment, a constant battle for funds and the conditions in communist Poland at that time.
In the late seventies, Lhotse was the first of his 8000 metre peaks and his memory from the summit looking down on the great South Wall remained with him for the rest of his life.
Jerzy completed his climbs of all the 8000 metre peaks within eight years - no mean feat! His notable 8000 metre ascents included a winter ascent of Kanchenjunga and a new route on Manaslu.
But the unclimbed south face of Lhotse continued to haunt him and finally in  October 1989 he attempted the wall.  Sadly, at around 8300 metres a second-hand rope he had picked up in a market in Kathmandu snapped during the climb plunging him to his death.  
His life story is available in this fascinating book My Vertical World http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0898863449/everestnews
The memorial at Bibre in the Imja valley  in the shadow of the Lhotse wall tells the story of Kukuczka and the other south face heroes.

The south wall of Lhotse as seen from Pangboche after a evening snow storm. The houses of Shomare can be seen in the foreground

3 comments:

  1. Gorgeous page. I love how you cut out the stamped sentiments. Great.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Polish climbers have always been at the forefront of hard Himalayan climbing under the most extreme conditions and without the benefit of what the more affluent western alpinists enjoyed. Jerzy Kukuczka was one of its most driven and brilliant exponents.

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    Replies
    1. I could not agree with you more Alok!

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