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Wanda Rutkiewicz climbing on Góry Sokole (Falcon Mountains) in 1968
|Died||May 13, 1992 (aged 49)|
|Known for||First woman to successfully climb K2|
Wanda Rutkiewicz Polish pronunciation: [/ˈvanda rutˈkievitʂ/] (February 4, 1943 – May 12–13, 1992) was a Polish computer engineer and mountain climber. She was the first woman to successfully summit K2.
Wanda Rutkiewicz was born in a Polish family in Plungė, Lithuania. After World War II, her family chose to leave for Poland, settling in Wrocław in southwestern Poland's Recovered Territories, where she graduated from Wroclaw University of Technology as an electrical engineer.
Wanda Rutkiewicz rode Junak, the heaviest Polish motorcycle, which indirectly contributed to her interest in climbing. One summer day in 1961, it ran out of fuel. She started waving to people passing her vehicle. The man riding the motorcycle which stopped to help was travelling with a colleague Bogdan Jankowski, who had been climbing for two years. This meeting resulted in their climbing of the Falcon Mountains.
After returning she began to lead her own expeditions, including a number of all female ones, and became known for a blunt leadership style.
On 16 October 1978, she became the third woman, the first Pole, and the first European woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest. In 1986 she became the first woman to successfully climb K2, which she did without supplemental oxygen, as part of a small expedition led by Lilliane and Maurice Barrard. Her triumph was marred when both the Barrards died on the descent, becoming two of thirteen climbers to die on K2 that summer.
Rutkiewicz's goal was to become the first woman to summit all fourteen of the eight-thousanders. During her climbing life she successfully summitted the following mountains:
- 1975 - Gasherbrum III 
- 1978 - Mount Everest
- 1985 - Nanga Parbat
- 1986 - K2
- 1987 - Shishapangma
- 1989 - Gasherbrum II
- 1990 - Gasherbrum I
- 1991 - Cho Oyu
- 1991 - Annapurna I
- 1992 - Kangchenjunga (uncertain)
While climbing Kangchenjunga, 49-year-old Rutkiewicz was last seen alive by Mexican climber Carlos Carsolio. She was sheltering at high altitude on the north-west face, during her attempted ascent of what would have been her ninth eight-thousander. Rutkiewicz was physically weakened and decided against descending. Carsolio said he didn't have the mental strength to convince her to descend because he was weakened as well.
It was thought that the body was found on the south-west face of the mountain in 1995 by Fausto de Stefani, Marco Galezzi and Silvio Mondinelli, suggesting that she had climbed up the north-west ridge to a point very close to the summit before falling down the south-west side. However, more detailed analysis of the findings by the Italian climbers, such as colour of clothing and presence of Bulgarian-made tablets with the body, indicate that most likely it was the body of Bulgarian climber Yordanka Dimitrova, who was killed by an avalanche on the south-west face of Kangchenjunga in October 1994. It is not known if Rutkiewicz summitted Kangchenjunga. If she did so, she would have been the first woman to reach the top of the world's three highest mountains. Rutkiewicz's body has still not been found.
- Martina Gugglberger (24 April 2016). "Wanda Rutkiewicz – crossing boundaries in women's mountaineering". Sport in Society. 20 (8): 1059–1076. doi:10.1080/17430437.2016.1175139.
- Michael Keller (23 August 2017). "Death Before Failure: Wanda Rutkiewicz & The Golden Age of Polish Mountaineering". Culture.pl. Retrieved 15 June 2018.
- Jordan, Jennifer (2006). Savage Summit: The Life and Death of the First Women on K2. HarperCollins. p. 40. ISBN 978-0-06-058716-1.
- Jordan, Jennifer (2006). Savage Summit: The Life and Death of the First Women on K2. HarperCollins. pp. 84–94. ISBN 978-0-06-058716-1.
- "Alison Chadwick, the second wife of Onyszkiewicz, who died in the mountains. They met in the Tatra Mountains, together they captured the Himalayas". naTemat.pl. Retrieved 11 June 2018.
- Jordan, Jennifer (2006). Savage Summit: The Life and Death of the First Women on K2. HarperCollins. pp. 171–174. ISBN 978-0-06-058716-1.
- Reinisch, Getrude, Wanda Rutkiewicz: A Caravan of Dreams (2000) ISBN 0-9538631-0-7
- Freedom Climbers ISBN 978-1-926855-60-8 Freedom Climbers by Bernadette McDonald