Banff Centre Mountain Film and Book Festival has announced that 73-year-old Jacques Olek will be the 2018 recipient of the Summit of Excellence Award in the following press release.

Regarded as a pioneer in the Quebec mountaineering community, Jacques Olek devoted his life to mountain culture by leading difficult winter expeditions around the world and teaching the love of climbing to others.

“Jacques is a pioneer who spent a lifetime promoting mountain culture,” said Louis Rousseau, Summit of Excellence selection committee member.

“He’s a humanist who travels not to conquer mountains, but to let his heart be conquered by the people he meets. He inspired so many to dream big, to go beyond, to play outside with passion and have the feeling of being free.”

A proud Canadian of Polish descent, Olek has been a leader to Canadian mountaineers for decades. A champion of winter climbing, he was part of a Polish-Canadian expedition that made the first winter summit of Cho Oyu (8201 metres) in 1985. In 1987-88, Olek joined a team of Polish, British, and Canadian climbers to attempt the first push for the summit of K2 in winter. The team reached 7,300 metres before harsh conditions forced them to turn around. To this day, no one has made a winter ascent to the summit of K2.

Olek ran an outdoor store in Montreal – Blacks International – allowing him to inspire thousands of Canadians to take on new challenges, learn new skills and be passionate about getting outside. He spent a lifetime building and supporting the outdoor community in Quebec, organizing the first Quebec expedition to Baffin Island in 1976 and to Mount Logan in 1978.

Arriving in Canada after fleeing the Soviet-controlled Poland on foot across the Alps to Austria, Olek has a long list of climbs around the world: in Pakistan, Mongolia, China, Tibet including some of the world’s most challenging peaks (Nanga Parbat, Shishapangma, Makalu, to name a few).

“In 1981, I met visionary Polish mountain climber Andrzej Zawada,” said Summit of Excellence award winner Jacques Olek, “the leader of a Polish national expedition who made the first winter ascent of Everest in 1980, paving the way for the winter climbing tradition on the 8000ers.

This meeting was crucial because it allowed Canadian mountaineers to contribute to the Himalayan winter climbing history.”

Presented at the Banff Centre Mountain Film and Book Festival since 1987, the annual Summit of Excellence Award has recognized an individual who has made a significant contribution to mountain life in the Canadian Rockies. In 2016, the award was expanded to recognize individuals from across Canada.

The list of past recipients read like a “Who’s Who” of the Canadian mountain culture scene, and includes a diverse collection of mountaineers, authors, artists, photographers, mountain guides, musicians, teachers, and rescue specialists.

The 2018 award will be presented onstage on opening weekend of the Banff Centre Mountain Film and Book Festival – Saturday evening, Oct. 27.

The award is presented in memory of Calgary climber Bill March, an internationally respected mountaineer, author, and educator, who led Canada’s first successful Everest climb in 1982.

For more information on the 2018 Banff Centre Mountain Film and Book Festival visit here.

Jacques Olek Photo Andrzej Zawada

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