Wanda Rutkiewicz was probably the best polish female climber on high mountains. She was the first woman to successfully summit K2. She also summit Mount Everest, Nanga Parbat, Cho Oyu, Gasherbrum I, Gasherbrum II, Shisha Pangma, Annapurna.

Biography of Wanda Rutkiewicz

Wanda Rutkiewicz (Błaszkiewicz) was born in Lithuania on 2 February, 1943. After World War II, her family leave Lithuania, and moved to Poland. Finally they settled in Wrocław. Wanda in 1965 graduated on Wroclaw University of Technology as an electrical engineer. She started work in her profession (Instytut Automatyki Systemów Energetycznych), but in the early seventies she moved to Warsaw, where she started work in Instytut Maszyn Matematycznych.

In this years she play volleyball. She also run, shot put, the high jump, discus throwing, javelin throw. She also – in later years - start in Car Racing.

She start climbing in Sokoliki (some rocks near of Jelenia Góra. In translation from polish will be „Falcon Mountains”). In 1962 do a climbing course in Tatra Mountains. In Tatras she do lot of routes. Like Wariant R, direttissima of north face Mały Kieżmarski Szczyt.

Wanda in Sokoliki. Photo: Seweryn Bidziński

2 years later she began climbing in the Alps. In 1967, do east face Aiguille du Grépon. In 1973 the North Pillar of the Eiger (Messner route). In 1978 the North Face of the Matterhorn in winter (first women-only-ascent, 1978).

In 1968 in ladies-only-team she does East Pillar of Trollryggen in Norway.

During the next 2 decades she became the unrivaled leader of feminine mountaineering contributing significantly to the development of women climbing tactics and philosophy. Especially in High Moutains.

Krzysztof Wielicki, Wanda Rutkiewicz, Jerzy Kukuczka. Photo: onet.pl

In 1970 she ascent on Lenin Peak in Pamir. 2 years later Noshaq. In 1975 she ascent Gasherbrum II (polish female altitude record).

1978 is the year, when she ascent on Mount Everest (16 october). The third female ascent and the first Western woman to reach the top of Mount Everest. That day Karol Wojtyła was chosen to become pope John Paul II. He sends message to Wanda: „Good God's will that same day we went so high”.

About 1985 she starts her „A Caravan of Dreams”. Project to ascent every eight thousand peak.

She subsequently climbed the awesome South Face of Aconcagua, the Diamir Face of Nanga Parbat in a women's team, K2 in 1986 as the first woman on top of the world's most serious eight-thousand-metre peak, Shisha Pangma, Gasherbrum II and Gasherbrum I, both in female teams, Cho Oyu and Annapurna by the extremely difficult South Face.

She do eight 8000 peak. Nine should be Kangchenjunga, but 12 may 1992 year she was lost on summit day. At nightfall on the 12th May she was last seen some 300 m short of the top, preparing a bivouac. She probably died during the night or the next day climbing towards the summit or even descending from it.

Photo. Damian Granowski

She wrote 2 books, Zdobycie Gasherbrumów (1979) and Na jednej linie (1986, co-author Ewa Matuszewska), and dozens of articles and reports. During the last decade she devoted a large part of her time and energy to film making, e.g. on Aconcagua's South Face Gdybyś przyszedł pod tę ścianę, on K2 Requiem, on Cerro Torre, on Nanga Parbat, on Gasherbrum II and on the people of the Baltoro region Ludzie na Baltoro.

Sources: drytooling.com.pl, king-albert-foundation.ch, wikipedia.org

Tatra Mountains

  • Wariant R, Mnich
  • 1973, Direttissima, north face Mały Kieżmarski Szczyt.
  • Droga Fereńskiego in winter, Mnich. Team: Wanda Rutkiewicz, Jan Franczuk
  • 1971, 2 Sep - New route on NW face Niżna Wysoka Gierlachowska. Team: Wanda Rutkiewicz, Andrzej Uznański.


  • 1964-65 – NW flank Olperer, north face Hochfernerspitze, Zillertal
  • 1966 - Mont Blanc
  • 1967 – E face Aiguille du Grépon (3482 m). First female ascent. Team: Wanda Rutkiewicz, Halina Krüger-Syrokomska.
  • 1971 - Bavarian Route, north face Triglav.
  • 1973 19-22 Aug – North pillar Eiger. First repeat. Team: Wanda Rutkiewicz, Danuta Gellner-Wach and Stefania Egierszdorff
  • 1978 - North face Matterhorn. First female team ascent. Team: Anna Czerwińska, Wanda Rutkiewicz, Krystyna Palmowska, Irena Kęsa.
  • 1979, 15-16 Jul - Bonatti Route, E face Grand Capucin. Team: Wanda Rutkiewicz, Irena Kęsówna.

High Mountains

  • 1975, 11 Aug - Gasherbrum III (7946 m). On this time the highest virgin peak. Team: Alison Chadwick-Onyszkiewicz, Janusz Onyszkiewicz, Wanda Rutkiewicz, Krzysztof Zdzitowiecki.
  • 1975, 12 Aug - Gasherbrum II. Team: Wanda Rutkiewicz, Alison Chadwick-Onyszkiewicz.
  • 1978, 16 Nov – Mount Everest. First polish ascent, first european female and third female on Everest.
  • 1985, 15 Jun – Nanga Parbat, first female team ascent. Team: Anna Czerwińska, Wanda Rutkiewicz, Krystyna Palmowska.
  • 1986, 23 Jun – K2. First female and polish ascent.
  • 1987, 18 Sep – Shisha Pangma. Team: Ryszard Warecki, Wanda Rutkiewicz, Carlos Carsolio, Elsa Ávila, Ramíro Navarrete. Near of peak, join Jerzy Kukuczka and Artur Hajzer (They ascent on new route in alpine style).
  • 1989, 12 Jul – Gasherbrum II.
  • 1990, 16 Jul – Gasherbrum I. Team: Ewa Pankiewicz, Wanda Rutkiewicz.
  • 1991, 26 Sep – Cho Oyu alone.
  • 1991, 22 Nov – S face Annapurna.


  • 1968 - E pillar Trollryggen. First female ascent. Team: Wanda Rutkiewicz, Halina Krüger-Syrokomska.
  • 1970 – Pik Lenina (7134 m)
  • 1972, 23 Aug – Noszak.
  • 1985 – S face Aconcagua, alpine style. Team: Wanda Rutkiewicz, Stéphane Schaffter.
  • 1988 - Attempt Cerro Torre Team: Wanda Rutkiewicz, Monika Niedbalska, Iwona Gronkiewicz-Marcisz, Ewa Szcześniak, Ewa Panejko-Pankiewicz.