Anna Kamińska
Wanda, A Tale of Life and Death: The Story of Wanda Rutkiewicz

The story of the first woman to ascend K2

In 1989, when Wanda decides to climb all the eight-thousanders, as she claimed in her submission to the IMM, Kangchen- junga was the first point in the “Caravan of Dreams” program she crafted in 1990 for conquer- ing the Crowns of the Himalayas.

“I call my plan the ‘Caravan of Dreams’ because I am trying to make something that seems pure fantasy come true,” she says. “I’ll be hiking from valley to valley, through the various peaks, just as the caravans once did.”

She realizes this is her last chance to conquer all the peaks. “I haven’t got time, are you fucking aware how old I am?!”, she explains to Andrzej Paczkowski.

In 1989, she is forty-six years old. She plans to conquer the Crown of the Himalayas in 1991, taking the eight eight-thousanders she had not yet climbed in the course of a single year.

In a letter she sent to her sponsors in late 1990, she writes: “My project encompasses eight major stages. Each requires enormous amounts of skill, courage, and enough endurance for the whole business; that is the greatest challenge.” She also stressed: “To this day, no woman has been up to this challenge; I’ll be the first. (…)”

The “Caravan” is a ground-breaking program never before accomplished in the history of Himalaism. Wanda seeks to conquer all the remaining peaks of the Crown of the Himalayas in such a short time, she says, to avoid the difficulty of acclimatization. For eve- ry time she set off on one or two expeditions in the course of a year, she fell ill on the march back to base; upon returning from the mountains she became weak- er, her body unable to readjust. (…)

In 1990, Reinhold Messner had conquered the Crown of the Himalayas, followed by the late Jerzy Kukuczka. (…) “I will not be the third, coming after Messner and Kukuczka. I will be the first to try something new,” she tells reporter Barbara Rusowicz. “The whole point is to attempt to use constant acclimatization. That is some- thing no one has ever done, man or woman.”

In Poland, many Himalaists just shake their heads in disbelief upon hearing of the “Caravan to Dreams.”

“At the height of her career, Wanda painted herself into a corner,” says Aleksander Lwow. “She came up with a program to conquer eight eight-thousanders in a single year. Doing five in one year was not feasible, Wanda was almost fifty years old. My colleagues and I knew from the very beginning that she had no chance of pulling it off.”

“The program and the idea were good, but Wan- da wanted to do it too quickly,” Krzysztof Wielicki now comments. “One year was getting carried away. It would have been possible if she had gone about it differently. (…) All of us in the community knew that it could end badly.” (…)

In a letter fishing for sponsors in 1990, Wanda fore- saw how her community would react to her project. “Without a doubt, some people will suppose I’m only after danger and thrills,” she warned. “But this is a mistake, and only I know the risks involved. If I were not convinced that I could do it, I would not be making the attempt. (…) I would not be putting myself in a situ- ation that would be tough to survive, but the mount- ains are an inextricable part of my life.”

Excerpt translated by Soren Gauger

Anna Kamińska
Wanda, A Tale of Life and Death: The Story of Wanda Rutkiewicz

The story of the first woman to ascend K2

Publisher: Wydawnictwo Literackie, Kraków 2017
Translation rights: Wydawnictwo Literackie,

Wanda tells the story of the grande dame of Polish Himalayan climbing – Wanda Rutkiewicz (1943-1992), the first woman to reach the summit of K2, and the third to climb Mount Everest. Yet this is more a book about a person than a climber, about an intriguing woman who attracted crowds of admirers and stoked fierce emotions, ahead of her time, both as a Himalaist and as a woman.

Her life and achievements have often been described. Nonetheless, Anna Kamińska’s book assembles and illuminates a great deal, such as why Wanda abandoned her promising career as an athlete. Some entirely new themes emerge, such as the tragic deaths of her father and brother. When we read about her childhood, we learn the source of her inflated ambition. The everyday reality in socialist Poland is illustrated in the fragments where Wanda takes several-month- long vacations from work to join expeditions.

One important chapter covers the conquering of Everest (the first Polish attempt); it makes for a stand- alone story, full of brilliant anecdotes describing Wanda Rutkiewicz’s greatest accomplishment. Kamińska describes earlier expeditions more succinctly, though there, too, she uncovers new facts. The author gained access to every living soul who had tales to tell about Wanda, and she managed to breach the mistrust of the mountaineering community.

The book contains this statement about Wanda: “She was focused on her goals, but equivocal in her close relationships.” Anna Kamińska’s book takes the reader into the heart of this equivocality. It is worth noting, however, that at no time does the author strip the protagonist of her intimacy.

This book is valuable for those who know little about climbing as well as for those who are quite knowledgeable. This is part of what has made the book a bestseller in Poland.

Andrzej Mirek, translated by Soren Gauger

Selected samples

Julita Deluga
Wojtek Wawszczyk, Tomasz Leśniak
Anna Kańtoch
Andrzej Bobkowski
Wisława Szymborska
Zdzisław Kranodębski
Andrzej Nowak
Wiesław Myśliwski
Jarosław Jakubowski
Anna Piwkowska
Roman Honet
Miłosz Biedrzycki
Wojciech Chmielewski
Aleksandra Majdzińska
Tomasz Różycki
Maciej Hen
Jakub Nowak
Elżbieta Cherezińska
歐菈·沃丹斯卡-波欽斯卡(Ola Woldańska-Płocińska)
作者:沃伊切赫·維德瓦克(Wojciech Widłak), 插圖:亞歷珊德拉·克珊諾夫斯卡(Aleksandra Krzanowska)
文字:莫妮卡·烏特尼-斯特魯加瓦(Monika Utnik-Strugała), 概念和插圖:皮歐特·索哈(Piotr Socha)
作者:亞格涅絲卡·斯特爾馬什克(Agnieszka Stelmaszyk)
尤安娜·日斯卡(Joanna Rzyska)、阿嘉妲·杜德克(Agata Dudek)、瑪格熱妲·諾瓦克(Małgorzata Nowak) Druganoga出版社,華沙2021
艾麗莎·皮歐特夫斯卡(Eliza Piotrowska)
米科瓦伊·帕辛斯基(Mikołaj Pasiński)、瑪格熱妲·赫爾巴(Gosia Herba)
歐菈·沃丹斯卡-波欽斯卡(Ola Woldańska-Płocińska)
瑪麗安娜·奧克雷亞克(Marianna Oklejak)
拉法爾·科希克(Rafał Kosik)
亞歷珊德拉·沃丹斯卡-波欽斯卡(Aleksandra Woldańska-Płocińska)
巴托米耶·伊格納邱克(Bartłomiej Ignaciuk), 阿嘉塔·洛特-伊格納邱克(Agata Loth-Ignaciuk)
文字和插圖:皮歐特·卡爾斯基(Piotr Karski)
文字和插圖:皮歐特·卡爾斯基(Piotr Karski)
羅珊娜·延澤耶夫斯卡-弗魯貝爾 (Roksana Jędrzejewska-Wróbel)
作者:普舎米斯瓦夫·維赫特洛維奇(Przemysław Wechterowicz) 插圖:艾米莉·吉烏巴克(Emilia Dziubak)
尤斯提娜·貝納雷(Justyna Bednarek) 插圖:丹尼爾·德拉圖爾(Daniel De Latour)
尤安娜·巴托西克(Joanna Bartosik)
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Jarosław Marek Rymkiewicz
Olga Tokarczuk
Władysław Stanisław Reymont
An Ancient Tale
Stanisław Rembek
Elżbieta Cherezińska
Henryk Sienkiewicz
Maria Dąbrowska
Stefan Żeromski
Bronisław Wildstein
Zbigniew Herbert / Wisława Szymborska
Karol Wojtyła
Wiesław Myśliwski
Czesław Miłosz
Anna Świrszczyńska / Melchior Wańkowicz
Tadeusz Borowski / Gustaw Herling-Grudziński
Wiesław Helak
Góra Tabor
Adriana Szymańska
Paweł Rzewuski
Mariusz Staniszewski
Radek Rak
Urszula Honek
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Antonina Grzegorzewska
Józef Mackiewicz
Tobiasz Piątkowski, Marek Oleksicki
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Bronisław Wildstein
Józef Mackiewicz
Józef Mackiewicz
Witold Szabłowski
Andrzej Muszyński
Wiesław Helak
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Dariusz Sośnicki
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אנדז'יי ספקובסקי
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Aleksandra Lipczak
Jacek Dukaj
Wit Szostak
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Zyta Rudzka
Maciej Płaza
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Paweł Huelle
Przemysław "Trust" Truściński
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Michał Protasiuk
Stanisław Rembek
Krzysztof Karasek
Elżbieta Isakiewicz
Artur Daniel Liskowacki
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Zbigniew Stawrowski
Szczepan Twardoch
Wojciech Chmielarz
Robert Małecki
Zygmunt Miłoszewski
Anna Piwkowska
Dominika Słowik
Wojciech Chmielewski
Barbara Banaś
Rafał Mikołajczyk
Jerzy Szymik
Waldemar Bawołek
Julia Fiedorczuk
Jakub Szamałek
Witold Szabłowski
Jacek Dukaj
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Joanna Siedlecka
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Adrian Sinkowski
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Barbara Klicka
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