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Wojciech “Voytek” Kurtyka to Receive 2016 Piolet d’Or Lifetime Achievement Award

Accomplished Polish alpinist Wojciech “Voytek” Kurtyka will receive the 2016 Piolet d’Or Lifetime Achievement award.

Kurtyka was born in 1947 in Skrzynka, Lower Silesia, and learned English and German at a young age. He did not start climbing until he was 21, when his girlfriend was invited by another man who wanted to take her climbing.

“Alpinism is the art of freedom. It offers a creative relationship with the mountain.
Alpine style embodies this relationship between the climber and the mountain.” – Kurtyka

In the 1970s, Kurtyka discovered his passion for the alpine. He quickly made ascent of the American Direct on the Drus, the north face of the Droites, the Walker Spur on Grandes Jorasses and in 1975, he climbed a new route on the Grandes. In 1972, he climbed a new route on the north face of the 7,017-metre Akher Chagh in three days.

“It was a time in Poland when alpinism provided a springboard to freedom and an illusion of escape in the face of the Communist gloom,” wrote Piotr Packowski.

Bernadette McDonald's award winning book Freedom Climbers features Kurtyka and Tadek Piotrowski on an expedition in the 1980s.
Bernadette McDonald’s award winning book Freedom Climbers features Kurtyka and Tadek Piotrowski on an expedition in the 1980s.

He then went on a big expedition to the Himalayas and wrote after the trip, “It was a bad experience. I promised myself that I would never use traditional siege tactics again.”

He then climbed the north face of Kohe Bandaka with British climbers Alex MacIntyre and John Porter in six days. In 1978, with Porter and Krzysztof Zurek, he climbed a new grade V A2 up Changabang. Two years later, with a strong team, he attempted Dhaulagiri’s northeast ridge, but turned around before the summit.

With Kukuczka, Kurtyka climbed GII and GI in the Karakorum before spending four days traversing Broad Peak, of which he wrote, “An undertaking of enormous commitment, and the quintessential Himalayan adventure.”

Kurtyka went on to climb a new route up Gasherbrum IV in 1985 with Robert Schauer and said after, “The most beautiful, mysterious ascent of my career.” He then climbed new route on Trango Tower, Cho Oyu and Shishapangma.

In Chic Scott’s 1988 publication called Alpinism, Kurtyka wrote a story titled “Path of the Mountain.” In it, he said, “Climbing surpasses the circle of hackneyed and repetitive situations and escapes the monotonous routines of reason and logic which usually do not allow the buys man to notice the sky over his head.”