Wojciech “Voytek” Kurtyka, b. 1947, Poland
f there is such a thing as spiritual materialism, it is displayed in the urge to possess the mountains rather than to unravel and accept their mysteries.Wojciech Kurtyka
Mountaineering is a complex and unique way of life, interweaving elements of sport, art and mysticism. Success or failure depends on the ebb and flow of immense inspiration. Detecting a single rule governing this energy is difficult – it arises and vanishes like the urge to dance and remains as mysterious as the phenomenon of life itself.Wojciech Kurtyka
Imperium Kontratakuje (The Empire Strikes Back) VI.5+ (French 8a), Łaskawiec, the Prądnik Valley, 8a rock climb at the age of 56!
Poniekąd Donikąd V+ A2+, 250m, Jarząbkowa Turnia, the Slovakian Tatra Mountains, New route in winter, with Marcin Michałek
Biacherahi Central Tower ca 5700m, Karakoram, Pakistan, south face, new route, with Taeko and Yasushi Yamanoi (Japan) [note: AAJ 2002]
Nanga Parbat, Mazeno Ridge, attempt, with Erhard Loretan (Swiss), climbed almost half the ridge in a day and half, turned back in perfect weather
Several attempts on the north face of Kang Tengri 6571m, with different partners
Losar, 700-m icefall above Namchee Bazaar, Nepal, ascent, with Maciej Rysula [article: Voytek Kurtyka, Losar, Alpinist, Autumn 2003, No 4]
K2 8611m, west face, attempt, with Carlos Buhler, Krzysztof Wielicki, their highpoint was 6650m
Gacopyrz Now VIII+, The Kazalnica Mieguszowiecka Wall, the Polish Tatra Mountains, new route, with Andrzej Marcisz
Nanga Parbat 8125m, Mazeno Ridge, expedition, with Doug Scott, never tried the route – Scott was swept by avalanche, seriously injuring his ankle
Chiński Maharadża (Chinese Maharaja) VI.5 (French: 7c+), Dolina Bolechowicka, the Polish Jura, freesolo ascent, one of the most serious freesolo ascents in Polish crags to date, because of the tricky character of the 25-meter line, done at the age of 46
Shock the Monkey VI.5+/6 (8a/a+) RP, Pochylec, The Prądnik Valley, his hardest rock climb
Łamaniec VI.5 (French: 7c+), Raptawicka Tower, the Western Polish Tatras, first ascent, one of the hardest bolted rock climbs in the Tatras
Shisha Pangma, Central Summit 8008m, Tibet Himalaya, south face (left of the Yugoslav route), new route, alpine style and non-stop ascent, with Erhard Loretan and Jean Troillet (Swiss) [article: Wojciech Kurtyka, New Routes, Cho Oyu and Shisha Pangma, AAJ 1991]
Cho Oyu 8201m, Tibet Himalaya, southwest face, new route, alpine style and non-stop ascent, with Erhard Loretan and Jean Troillet (Swiss) [article: Wojciech Kurtyka, New Routes, Cho Oyu and Shisha Pangma, AAJ 1991]
K2 8611, west face, attempt, with Erhard Loretan, Jean Troillet [note: AAJ 1990]
When you are totally defeated you begin again to enjoy the small things around you. Just going to the mountains, not for victory or glory, but to enjoy nature or enjoy fine people. If you always succeed you enjoy the admiration of many people. Being defeated means being limited to the basis existential choices of life. If you can enjoy the quiet evening hours it is beautiful; a hero who always succeeds may not have time to enjoy such things.
Nameless Trango Tower 6251m, Karakoram, Pakistan, East Face ED+ A3, 1100m, new route, with Erhard Lorethan (Swiss) [Wojciech Kurtyka, The East Face of Trango’s Nameless Tower, AAJ 1989; Trango Extremes, Mountain 1989. May/June, No 127]
The essence of adventure is being put in an unknown position from which you don’t know what will happen. The unknown is the essence of adventure. And on Trango Tower the aspect of adventure was not so great as on Gasherbrum IV or on the Broad Peak traverse, because we fixed 500 meters of rope for the descent. The ropes were there, so it was not a position of being completely unknown. This possible escape eliminated an aspect of adventure. But another aspect of adventure is facing up to the unexpected, and this happened a lot on Trango Tower. We never knew what the next pitch would be or if the weather would hold.
K2 8611m, west face, attempt, with Jean Troillet [note: AAJ 1988]
Trango Nameless Tower 6251m, Karakoram, Pakistan, east face, attempt, with Kenji Yoshida, Naboru Yamada, Yasushiro Saito (Japan) [note: AAJ 1987]
Gasherbrum IV 7925m, West Face, new route, 10-day alpine style ascent, descent via unclimbed North Ridge, with Robert Schauer (Austria) [article: Wojciech Kurtyka, The Shining Wall of Gasherbrum IV, AAJ 1986; The Shining Wall, Alpinist, Spring 2004, No 2] Chosen as the greatest Himalayan climb of the 20th century by Climbing Magazine (Millennium Special Issue: No. 192).
The ascent stays in high esteem within the climbing community. Some declared it the climb of the century. But did anybody repeat GIV to confirm our illusion of it? Besides, does it make sense to declare a poem the poem of the century? Can you choose a woman of the century?
That was the hardest mountain experience for me. We spent four days without food, three days without drinking – a very long time. Everything that could go wrong on a big wall went wrong there.. We found ground with bad protection, we ran out of food and fuel, and in the last section near the summit we met terrible snow conditions, steep snow, sometimes up to your waist – we could travel just 200m a day. And the breakdown in weather happened just before the summit. We spent two nights just sitting, being unable to crawl out and stand up, without food and water.
Filar Abazego VI.3+ (French 7a+), Dolina Bolechowicka, freesolo ascent, important ascent in the history of freesoloing in Poland
Broad Peak, Nortwest Ridge – Traverse of the North 7600m, Central 8013m and Main 8047m Summits, new route, alpine style, with Jerzy “Jurek” Kukuczka [article: Voytek Kurtyka, Broad Peak North Ridge, Climbing 1986, February, No 94; note: AAJ 1984]
The route’s extension along the sky-high ridge demands from the team very serious commitment and arduous work. The reward is the stunning beauty, hardly letting the climbers notice the danger and to sense the loneliness or the terror of detachment. The surrounding scenery changes day after day from first dominance of K2 to the slow and impressive approach of the complex Gasherbrum group.
Gasherbrum II 8035m, Karakoram, Pakistan, southeast ridge, new route + Gasherbrum I 8156m, Karakorum, Pakistan, southeast face, new route, with Jerzy Kukuczka. Polish Alex MacIntyre Memorial Expedition: two new routes on 8,000ers on one season by two men alpine style [Voytek Kurtyka, The Gasherbrums Are Lonely, Mountain 1984, No. 97, May/June]
Broad Peak 8076m, normal route, alpine style, with Jerzy Kukuczka
Jurek was the greatest psychological rhinoceros I’ve ever met among alpinists, unequalled in his ability to suffer and his lack of responsiveness to danger. At the same time, he possessed that quality most characteristic to anyone born under Aries – a blind inner compulsion to press ahead. Characters like that, when they meet an obstacle, strike against it until they either crush it or break their own necks.
Makalu 8481m, Nepal Himalaya, west face, alpine style attempt, the highest point reached: 7900m, with Jerzy Kukuczka, Alex MacIntyre. After retreating Kukuczka reached the summit after solo climb via the variant to the normal route.
Makalu 8481m, Nepal Himalaya, west face, alpine style attempt (reached 6800m), with Alex MacIntyre, Kunda Dixit, Cornelius Higgins, Padam Gurung.
Dhaulagiri 8167m, east face, attempt in alpine style (highest point 7500m on the southeast ridge, sometime considered as a new route without reaching the summit), with Rene Ghilini (French), Alex MacIntyre (British), Ludwik Wilczyński (Polish) [article: Alex MacIntyre: Dhaulagiri’s East Face, AAJ 1981; Broken English, Mountain 1981, Nauary/February, No 77]
Kant Filara VII+, The Kazalnica Mieguszowiecka Wall, the Polish Tatra Mouintains, first free ascent, with Władysław Janowski, important ascent in the history of free climbing in the Tatras
Dhaulagiri 8167m, east face, attempt, with Walenty Fiut
Changabang, Nanda Devi Group, Garhwal Himalaya, India, South Buttress, new route alpine style, with Alex MacIntyre (British), John Porter (American) [article: John Porter, Bandaka and Changabang, AAJ 1979; Changabang South Buttress, Climbing No 55; South Side Story, Mountain 1979, January/February, No 65]
Kohe Bandaka 6868m, Central Hindu Kush, Afganistan, northeast face, new route alpine style, with Alex MacIntyre, John Porter [article: John Porter, Bandaka and Changabang, AAJ 1979]
We were very worried by the rockfall. When we got to the point where it would be very difficult to go down, we had discussion and decided to continue. As soon as we crossed that point we had no more fears, we felt very calm.
Kurtyka-Marcisz, IV A2 ice 80-90o, The Kazalnica Mieguszowiecka Wall, the Polish Tatra Mountains, new route in winter, 26 hours
K2 8611m, member of a Polish K2 east ridge expedition, leader: Janusz Kurczab, the highest point reached by Kurtyka: 7900m, the highest point reaches by other members of the team: 8400m (Eugeniusz Chrobak, Wojciech Wróż)
Filar Abazego VI.3+ (French 7a+) TR (top rope), Dolina Bolechowicka, first free ascent, at the moment the hardest rock free climb in Poland
Lhotse 8511m, Nepal Himalaya, member of the first ever winter expedition to 8000-er led by Andrzej Zawada, Zawada and Andrzej Heinrich reached point of 8250m
Polish Route TD, V+ 60o, 800m, Pointe Helene, Grandes Jorasses, first ascent, with Jerzy Kukuczka, Marek Łukaszewski
French Direct, Trollrygen, Romsdal Valley, Norway, north face, first winter ascent, with Marek Kęsicki, Ryszard Kowalewski, Tadeusz Piotrowski (articles: Marek Brniak, Troll Wall in Winter, Summit 1976, October; Climber&Rambler 1976, March)
Polish Route TD VI A1, Petit Dru, Chamonix, north face, first ascent, with Jerzy Kukuczka, Marek Łukaszewski
Super¶ciek (The Super Sewer) V A2 ice 90o, The Kazalnica Mieguszowiecka Wall, the Polish Tatra Mountains, new route in winter, with Piotr Jasiński, Krzysztof Pankiewicz, Zbigniew Wach
Paj±ki (Spiders) VI A3, The Kazalnica Mieguszowiecka Wall, the Polish Tatra Mountains, first winter ascent, with Kazimierz Głazek, Marek Kęsicki, Andrzej Wilusz
Acher Chioch 7025m, Hindu Kush, Afghanistan, northwest face, new route, with Jacek Rusiecki, Marek Kowalczyk, Piotr Jasiński (Polish)
Koh-e-Tez 7015m, Hindu Kush, Afganistan , north face, with Ryszard Kozioł, Alicja Bednarz (Polish)
Acher Chioch 7025m, Hindu Kush, Afghanistan, north face and west ridge, first ascent alpine style, with Jacek Rusiecki, Adam Lewandowski (Polish)
¦ciek (The Sewer) VI A3, The Kazalnica Mieguszowiecka Wall, the Polish Tatra Mountains, first winter ascent, with Michał Gabryel, Marek Kęsicki, Janusz Kurczab, Andrzej Mierzejewski, Janusz Skorek
Direttissima VI A2-A3, The Kazalnica Mieguszowiecka Wall, The Polish Tatra Mountains, first winter ascent, with Tadeusz Gibiński, Michał Gabryel, Andrzej Wilusz
Kutykówka VI+, Maly Mlynar, the Slovakian Tatra Mountains, east face, first ascent, considered the first route harder than grade VI made by Polish climbers in the Tatras
Writings of Kurtyka (in English):
The Gasherbrums Are Lonely, Mountain 1984, No. 97, May/June
The Abseil and the Ascent, The Art of Abseiling into the Hell, The Himalayan Journal, Vol. 42, 1985-1985
The Shining Wall od Gasherbrum IV, American Alpine Journal (AAJ) 1986, Vol. 28
The Path of the Mountain, Alpinism 1986, Vol. 1
Broad Peak North Ridge, Climbing 1986, February, No 94
The Art of Suffering, Mountain 1988, May/June,No 121
The East Face of Trango’s Nameless Tower, AAJ 1989
Trango Extremes, Mountain 1989. May/June, No 127
New Routes, Cho Oyu and Shisha Pangma, AAJ 1991
The Polish Syndrome, Mountain Review 1993, November/December
The Shining Wall, Alpinist, Spring 2004, No 2
Losar, Alpinist, Autumn 2003, No 4
O’Connel Nicholas, Beyond Risk, Conversations with climbers, The Moutaineers 1993
Articles on Voytek:
Greg Child, Between the Hammer and the Anvil. The Art of Suffering, Climbing 1989, No115