Krzysztof Wielicki The Polish master
Krzysztof Wielicki is a Polish mountaineer, born in Szklarka Przygodzicka on January 5th 1950.
His entry into Himalayan mountaineering took place in 1980 with the first winter ascent of Everest with Leszek Cichy.
An entrance with a bang, with the use o supplementary oxygen.
It is worth noting that at that historical moment it is a suicide mission to climb Everest in winter without oxygen.
Only two years earlier Reinhold Messner and Peter Habeler had managed to climb Everest without oxygen, but they had done so in the mildest season.
Both the mountaineering world and scientists define the challenge as “impossible”.
So much so that they were accused of not having reached the summit for a long time.
Maybe the impossible is possible
Wielicki and Cichy believed it instead. Just like Reinhold Messner and Peter Habeler two years earlier, they reach the Roof of the World. They carving another step in the history of Himalayan winter mountaineering.
This confirms that the Polish mountaineering school was at that time the most important in terms of winter high-altitude mountaineering.
Krzysztof Wielicki was also a friend of Jerzy Kukuczka, another formidable Pole. Will be the second alpinist to conquer all 14 eight-thousanders, and in just eight years.
Krzysztof Wielicki has an incredible career with a climb that is like a diamond that shines
The Himalayan mountaineering of Polish climbers had persistent difficulty in raising funds to finance expeditions.
For this reason, their challenges take a little second place compared to those of those who enjoyed renowned sponsors
Its 14th 8000m peaks will be Nanga Parbat, which the local inhabitants call “the man-eating mountain”.
He will climb it in just 7 days alone by the Kinshoffer route, reaching the summit on 1 September 1996.
Sixteen years at eight thousand meters
From Everest in winter to Nanga Parbat 16 years pass in which Krzysztof Wielicki is the protagonist of countless attempts and climbs on eight-thousanders.
In the midst of all this fervent activity, however, a unique undertaking stands out that will rightly consecrate him among the greatest high altitude mountaineers in history.
Towards the end of December 1988, he is not alone. With him are Leszek Cichy and Andrzej Zawada. The three Poles are part of a Belgian-Polish expedition that targets Everest. The attempt at Everest fails due to a porter accident.
Krzysztof Wielicki and his companions are on Lhotse. December 30th they are at camp 3 at 7400 meters above sea level. When it is time to leave Cichy and Zawada are unable and give up the climb.
Wielicki no, he wears a brace that supports his back due to a mountaineering accident. But he is ready, he is strong, it is his moment, is time to write a page of history.
It is December 31, 1988, he starts alone and alone, he climbs the 1100 meters of altitude difference that separate him from the summit of Lhotse at 8516 meters. He is the first man to reach the summit of an eight-thousanders solo in winter.
A legendary and epic feat. Today in 2022, no one other than him has ever reached the summit of an eight-thousanders solo in winter and without oxygen.
In the future, it is likely that some other great alpinist will succeed, but it will have taken at least 34 years.
Notoriety and impossible comparison
For the record, it is fair to say that not all of the eight thousand conquered by Krzysztof Wielicki were reached without oxygen.
However, I believe that in the historical judgment of a career like him it makes little difference as everyone is a child of his time.
Precisely in the most difficult and extreme adventure terrains, you understand this thing.
I don’t think there is the greatest of all, there is only the greatest for a discipline in relation to its historical period of reference.
In terms of notoriety, Wielicki probably also suffered a little from the figure of Jerzy Kukuczka. Jerzy received greater media coverage for his head-to-head with Messner for the conquest of the 14 eight-thousanders.
However, among professionals and elite mountaineers it enjoys great consideration and respect.
He was also the first to conquer three eight-thousanders in winter.
This says a lot about who he is and what Krzysztof Wielicki represents for global mountaineering.
Krzysztof Wielicki, a good and careful leader
In recent times he ends up in the spotlight for the Polish expedition to K2 he led in 2018. The goal is the conquest of K2 in winter, is the last eight-thousanders remaining.
During the expedition, everything happens, confirming that in such extreme adventure terrains nothing can be taken for granted.
It will be his clash with the strong personality of another great mountaineer, Denis Urubko. That will catalyze and divide the mountaineering world between those who supported one side or the other.
In faIn fact, Krzysztof Wielicki applies the rule that in the face of too high a level of danger, the health of mountaineers must be in the foreground.
But Urubko, who did not want to give up the attempt, disregarded his orders and left alone.
He will have to surrender shortly thereafter to the law that does not allow opinions, the law of nature.
However, the expedition is a success.
Strong Polish mountaineers participate in the rescue operations of Elisabeth Revol and Tomasz Mackiewicz.
An elicopter transport Adam Bielecki, Jarek Botor, Piotr Tomala, and Denis Urubko to the base of Nanga Parbat. This will be one of the most incredible rescue operations in history.
At 17:30 Bielecki and Urubko attacked the ice and rock face of the Kinshofer route at about 4800 meters above sea level. At 1:50 at night, they reach Elisabet Revol at 6000 meters above sea level.
Elisabet is in poor condition, but they will have to wait for the first light of dawn to begin the descent.
A long, difficult and dangerous descent at the end of which, Elisabet will be taken to safety in hospital for treatment.
Unfortunately for Tomasz Mackiewicz, there was nothing to do, he remains buried in the Nanga glacier where he rests in peace.
Krzysztof Wielicki The Piolet d’Or a truly deserved award
In 2019 the mountaineering world deservedly awarded him the Piolet D ‘or for his career.
An award that crowns a career that is certainly an example for all young mountaineers who intend to try their hand at the great mountains.
Krzysztof Wielicki has been able to embody the purest spirit of adventure, with courage, strength, and determination.
Without forgetting that there are times when you need to be equally courageous, strong, and determined to give up.
Only in this way and even a little bit of luck can you reach the end of your career alive and become an example to follow.
The mountaineering curriculum of Krzysztof Wielicki
And here a video in polish language but with great pictures