Jerzy Kukuczka

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Jerzy Kukuczka
Jerzy Kukuczka on Mount Everest, 1980
Personal information
Born(1948-03-24)24 March 1948
Poland Katowice, Poland
Died24 October 1989(1989-10-24) (aged 41)
Nepal Lhotse, Nepal
WebsiteVirtual Museum of Jerzy Kukuczka
Climbing career
Known for
First ascents
Gasherbrum II East, Biarchedi, Manaslu East, Yebokalgan Ri, Shishapangma West
Major ascentsFour winter ascents on the eight-thousanders
Kukuczka on graffiti in Katowice
Street art of Kukuczka in Bogucice, the district of Katowice where he grew up and lived, unveiled in 2019.[1]

Józef Jerzy Kukuczka (24 March 1948 in Katowice, Poland – 24 October 1989 Lhotse, Nepal) was a Polish alpine and high-altitude climber. He was born in Katowice, his family was ethnically Silesian Goral.[2] On 18 September 1987, he became the second man (after Reinhold Messner) to climb all fourteen eight-thousanders in the world; a feat which took him less than 8 years to accomplish. He is the only person to have climbed two eight-thousanders in one winter. Altogether, he ascended four eight-thousanders in winter, including three as first ascents. Along with Tadeusz Piotrowski, Kukuczka established a new route on K2 in alpine style (the so-called "Polish Line"), which no one has repeated.


Kukuczka is widely considered within the mountaineering community to be one of the best high-altitude climbers in history.[3] He ascended all fourteen eight-thousanders in just seven years, 11 months and 14 days; he held the world record for the shortest time span to summit the eight-thousanders for nearly 27 years until May 2014, when Kim Chang-ho beat his mark by one month and eight days.[4] Unlike many other prominent high-altitude climbers of his time, the routes Kukuczka chose on the Himalayan giants were usually original, many of them first ascents and often done in the grip of winter wind and cold.[5] During his career, Kukuczka established ten new routes on the eight-thousanders (still a record) and climbed four of these peaks in winter. He was one of an elite group of Polish Himalayan mountaineers called Ice Warriors, who specialized in winter ascents.

In an era in Poland where even the most basic foods were scarce, Kukuczka was able to successfully mount and equip numerous expeditions to far-flung mountain ranges. Usually pressed for cash and equipment, he painted factory chimneys by rope access (industrial climbing) to earn precious złotys to finance his mountaineering dreams.[5]

Year Location Mountain Route Comments
1979 Nepal Lhotse West Face Normal Route
1980 Nepal Mount Everest South Pillar New Route
1981 Nepal Makalu Variation to Makalu La/North-West Ridge New Route, Alpine style, Solo
1982 Pakistan Broad Peak West Spur Normal Route, Alpine style
1983 Pakistan Gasherbrum II South-East Spur New Route, Alpine style
1983 Pakistan Gasherbrum I South-West Face New Route, Alpine style
1984 Pakistan Broad Peak Traverse of North, Middle, Rocky and Main Summits New Route, Alpine style
1985 Nepal Dhaulagiri North-East Spur Normal Route, First Winter Ascent[6]
1985 Nepal Cho Oyu South-East Pillar Second Winter Ascent
1985 Pakistan Nanga Parbat South-East Pillar New Route
1986 Nepal Kanchenjunga South-West Face Normal Route, First Winter Ascent
1986 Pakistan K2 South Face New Route, Alpine style
1986 Nepal Manaslu North-East Face New Route, Alpine style
1987 Nepal Annapurna I North Face Normal Route, First Winter Ascent
1987 China Shishapangma West Ridge New Route, Alpine style, Ski Descent
1988 Nepal Annapurna East South Face New Route, Alpine style

He climbed all summits, except for Mount Everest, without the use of supplemental oxygen.


Kukuczka died while attempting to climb the unclimbed South Face of Lhotse in Nepal on 24 October 1989. He was leading a pitch at an altitude of about 8,200 metres (26,900 ft) on a 6 mm secondhand rope he had picked up in a market in Kathmandu. According to Ryszard Pawłowski, Kukuczka's climbing partner, the main single rope used by the team was too jammed to be used and the climbers decided to use transport rope instead. When Kukuczka lost his footing and fell, the cord was either cut or it snapped, plunging him around 2,000 metres to his death. His body was never found.


In the hamlet of Wilcze in Istebna in the highlander's summer house Jerzy Kukuczka, there is the Memorial Chamber of Jerzy Kukuczka, created in 1996 by Cecylia Kukuczka (Jerzy's wife).

The mountain "Yak Hotel" in Nepal in Dingboche (4400 m a.s.l.) is named after Jerzy Kukuczka.

The Jerzy Kukuczka Academy of Physical Education is a public university in Katowice that conducts teaching and research in physical education and rehabilitation.[7]

There is also a street in the Gaj district in Wrocław named after him.

See also[edit]


  • Kukuczka, Jerzy (1992). My Vertical World: Climbing the 8000-Metre Peaks. Mountaineers Books. p. 189. ISBN 0-89886-344-9.
  • Wąsikowski, Piotr (1996). Dwa razy Everest. PiT.
  • Kukuczka, Jerzy (1990). Na szczytach swiata. Krajowa Agencja Wydawnicza. p. 193. ISBN 83-03-03166-X.


  1. ^ "Mural z wybitnym himalaistą Jerzym Kukuczką odsłonięto w Katowicach". (in Polish). Retrieved 10 May 2023.
  2. ^ Kukuczka, Jerry (2015). "Challenge the Vertical".
  3. ^ Doubrawa-Cochlin, Ingeborga. "A Tribute to Jerzy Kukuczka (1948–1989)" (PDF). The Alpine Journal: 32–34. ISSN 0065-6569. Retrieved 9 September 2020.
  4. ^ "Korean Everest Sea to Summit marred by tragedy". British Mountaineering Council. 27 May 2013. Retrieved 9 September 2020.
  5. ^ a b Ruggera, M.D., Gary (1993). "Book Reviews: My Vertical World. Jerzy Kukuczka". American Alpine Journal. 50: 300–301. Retrieved 9 September 2020.
  6. ^ "Xexplorers web:The meaning of winter in 8000+ climbing". Archived from the original on 7 August 2016. Retrieved 20 June 2013.
  7. ^ "The Jerzy Kukuczka Academy of Physical Education in Katowice". The European Quality Assurance Register for Higher Education (EQAR). Retrieved 6 June 2022.

External links[edit]