Remembering Jerzy Kukuczka, the legendary Polish mountaineer

Jerzy Kukuczka

30 years today: on 24 October 1989, Polish mountaineer Jerzy Kukuczka died while attempting Lhotse. Kukuczka was the second man to climb all fourteen eight-thousanders after Reinhold Messner and an absolute legend of high altitude Himalayan mountaineering.

Poland’s Jerzy Kukuczka died thirty years ago today while attempting to breach the unclimbed south face of Lhotse in Nepal. Universally recognised as one of the greatest high-altitude climbers of all times, he is perhaps best known for having become the second man in the world to climb all 14 eight-thousanders. He achieved this on 18 September 1987, just eleven months after Reinhold Messner and, despite the obvious economic hardship Poland was enduring under Communist rule, in less than 8 years. Kukuczka’s legacy though is not to be found in the vast quantity of routes, the speed of his climbs and the famous “Himalayan Crown” accolade, but instead in the pristine quality of his ascents.

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IMAGE: Jerzy Kukuczka from the film Jurek by Paweł Wysoczański
Photo by archive film Jurek

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