Jerzy Kukuczka

Jerzy Kukuczka bigraphy, stories - Mountaineering

Jerzy Kukuczka : biography

24 March 1948 – 24 October 1989

Kukuczka on graffiti in Katowice

Jerzy Kukuczka (24 March 1948 – 24 October 1989), born in Katowice, Poland, was a Polish alpine and high-altitude climber. On 18 September 1987, he became the second man, after Reinhold Messner, to climb all fourteen eight-thousanders in the world. He was also the first man to climb three of the fourteen in winter: Dhaulagiri with Andrzej Czok in 1985, Kangchenjunga with Krzysztof Wielicki in 1986 and Annapurna I with Artur Hajzer in 1987.


Kukuczka is widely considered among the climbing community to be one of the best high-altitude climbers in history. He ascended all fourteen mountains in just under eight years, a shorter time than any climber before (Reinhold Messner included, whom it took 16 years) or since. In the process, Kukuczka established ten new routes and climbed four summits in winter. He was one of an elite group of Polish Himalayan mountaineers who specialized in winter ascents. He established 9 new routes on the eight-thousanders, 4 of which were winter routes (compared to 6 new routes of Messner’s, none of them during winter).

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 and Main Summits New Route, Alpine Style.
1985 Nepal Dhaulagiri North-East Spur Normal Route, First Winter Ascent ..
1985 Nepal Cho Oyu South-East Pillar New Route, First Winter Ascent, Second Summit Team.
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.
1986 Nepal Manaslu North-East Face New Route, Alpine Style.
1987 Nepal Annapurna I North Face Normal Route, First Winter Ascent.
1987 China Shisha Pangma West Ridge New Route, Alpine Style, Ski Descent.
1988 Nepal Annapurna East Summit South Face New Route, Alpine Style.

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

Kukuczka died attempting to climb the unclimbed South Face of Lhotse in Nepal on 24 October 1989. 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), the cord either was cut or snapped from a fall, plunging Kukuczka to his death. Jerzy Kukuczka’s memorial with Lhotse in the background