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Jerzy Kukuczka: The Crown of the Himalayas

The Crown of the Himalayas

Pole Jerzy Kukuczka is counted among the most outstanding mountain climbers in the world. He was the second man in history to have captured the Crown of the Himalayas - fourteen highest peaks in the world rising above 8,000 meters, including Mount Everest, K-2, Kangchenjunga, Lhotse, Makalu, Cho Oyu, Dhaulagiri, Manaslu, Nanga Parbat, Annapurna, Gasherbrum I, Broad Peak, Gasherbrum II, Shisha Pangma.

Two climbers competed for the Crown of the Himalayas, taking place in the dead zone above 7,500 - 8,000 meters: Reinhold Messner and Jerzy Kukuczka. But when the former captured his fifth peak in 1979, the latter was only beginning his Himalayan adventure.

Jerzy Kukuczka ascended 11 of the 'Crown of the Himalayas' peaks establishing new routes, four of them during first winter ascents. He left for his first expedition to Hindukush in 1976 (Kohe Tez - 7,015 meters). A year later, he encountered his first defeat in the Himalayas - he did not reach the top of the Bare Mountain (Nanga Parbat). In 1980, he captured Mt. Everest, a year later completed a lone ascent of Makalu and, in 1982, the Broad Peak. When in 1983 he reached Gasherbrum I and II, Reinhold Messner declared his intention to capture the Crown of the Himalayas (by then he had conquered 9 peaks above 8,000 meters). Jerzy Kukuczka joined the race. In 1985, the Polish climber captured three peaks: Dhaulagiri, Cho Oyu and Nanga Parbat, and in the next year, Kangczenjunga, K-2 and Manaslu. It was below the peak of Manaslu that Kukuczka received the news that Meissner had reached Makalu and Lhotse, thus finishing the duel for the Crown of the Himalayas. Jerzy Kukuczka sent a congratulatory wire to the Italian climber, and ascended the two last peaks left in the Crown, Annapurna and Shisha Pangma, during the following year. He died while climbing the south face of Lhotse and was buried by his friends in a glacier crevice. He was a very religious man, whose prayers always related to mountain climbing, using words such as: "From death in the valleys, Lord deliver us".

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