Jerzy Kukuczka

Józef Jerzy Kukuczka (24 March 1948 in Katowice, Poland – 24 October 1989 Lhotse, Nepal) was a Polish alpine and high-altitude climber. Born in Katowice, his family origin is Silesian Goral.[1] 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 in the world who has 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.

Jerzy Kukuczka
Jerzy Kukuczka on Mount Everest, 1980
Personal information
Born(1948-03-24)24 March 1948
Katowice, Poland
Died24 October 1989(1989-10-24) (aged 41)
Lhotse, Nepal
WebsiteVirtual Museum of Jerzy Kukuczka
Climbing career
Known for
First ascents
Gasherbrum II East, Biarhedi, Manaslu East, Yebokalgan Ri, Shishapangma West
Major ascentsFour winter ascents on the eight-thousanders


Kukuczka is widely considered among the climbing community to be one of the best high-altitude climbers in history.[2] He ascended all fourteen eight-thousanders in just seven years, 11 months and 14 days - He held the world record for 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.[3] Unlike many 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.[4] During his career, Kukuczka established ten new routes (still unbeaten record) and climbed four summits in winter. He was one of an elite group of Polish Himalayan mountaineers who specialized in winter ascents (called Ice Warriors).

In an era in Poland where even the most basic foods were scarce, Kukuczka was able successfully to mount and equip numerous ventures to the far-flung reaches of the world. Usually pressed for cash and equipment, he painted factory chimneys to earn precious złotys to finance his mountaineering dreams.[5]

1979NepalLhotseWest FaceNormal Route
1980NepalMount EverestSouth PillarNew Route
1981NepalMakaluVariation to Makalu La/North-West RidgeNew Route, Alpine Style, Solo
1982PakistanBroad PeakWest SpurNormal Route, Alpine Style
1983PakistanGasherbrum IISouth-East SpurNew Route, Alpine Style
1983PakistanGasherbrum ISouth-West FaceNew Route, Alpine Style
1984PakistanBroad PeakTraverse of North, Middle, Rocky and Main SummitsNew Route, Alpine Style
1985NepalDhaulagiriNorth-East SpurNormal Route, First Winter Ascent[6]
1985NepalCho OyuSouth-East PillarSecond Winter Ascent
1985PakistanNanga ParbatSouth-East PillarNew Route
1986NepalKanchenjungaSouth-West FaceNormal Route, First Winter Ascent
1986PakistanK2South FaceNew Route, Alpine Style
1986NepalManasluNorth-East FaceNew Route, Alpine Style
1987NepalAnnapurna INorth FaceNormal Route, First Winter Ascent
1987ChinaShishapangmaWest RidgeNew Route, Alpine Style, Ski Descent
1988NepalAnnapurna EastSouth FaceNew Route, Alpine Style

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


Kukuczka died 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 meters on a 6 mm secondhand rope he had picked up in a market in Kathmandu (according to Ryszard Pawłowski, Kukuczka's climbing partner on the tragic day, the main single rope used by the team was too jammed to be used and the climbers decided to use transport rope instead). When he lost his footing and fell, the cord was either cut or snapped from the fall, plunging Kukuczka ~2000 meters to his death. Kukuczka's body was never found, but the official version was that he was buried in an icy crevasse near the place of fall. Such a step was dictated by the need to find the body to pay compensation to the deceased's family.


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.

Street at the Gaj housing estate in Wrocław.

See also


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


  1. Kukuczka, Jerry (2015). "Challenge the Vertical".
  2. Doubrawa-Cochlin, Ingeborga. "A Tribute to Jerzy Kukuczka (1948- 1989)". The Alpine Journal: 32–34. ISSN 0065-6569.
  3. Korean Everest Sea to Summit marred by tragedy
  4. Ruggera, M.D., Gary (1993). "Book Reviews: My Vertical World. Jerzy Kukuczka". American Alpine Journal. 50: 300–301.
  5. Ruggera, M.D., Gary (1993). "Book Reviews: My Vertical World. Jerzy Kukuczka". American Alpine Journal. 50: 300–301.
  6. Xexplorers web:The meaning of winter in 8000+ climbing

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