Wojtek Kurtyka “Voytek” (born july 25, 1947 in Skrzynka near Kłodzko) – Polish mountaineer, rock climber, writer, entrepreneur, electronics engineer.
One of the most outstanding Polish and international climbers. He began climbing in 1968 in the Tatra Mountains. In the second season he climbed extremely difficult routes in the rocks and in the Tatra Mts. In 1970 he led a new route on the north-east face of Maly Mlynar in Slovakia. It was the first VI + route in the Tatras, and was dubbed Kurtykówka. Between 1973 and 1975 he led several new rock and ice routes in the Alps and in the mountains of Norway. An inventor of the most popular in Poland grading system of free climbing called “Kurtyka’s scale” or “Krakowska scale”.
He has made numerous first summer and winter ascents in the Tatras, Alps and Norway, one of his biggest mountaineering achievements is a 13-day first winter ascent of the northern wall of Trollveggen in Norway (1974). Since 1972 he climbed in the Hindu Kush, Karakoram, and the Himalayas.
He is a co-creator of the alpine style in Polish and world mountaineering, which assumes a sporty ascent taken as a single, continuous attempt without setting up camps and fixed ropes, done for the first time in the Himalayas and the Hindu Kush (1972 and 1977).
Kurtyka was the initiator of several first alpine-style ascents of the great faces, including 6 eight-thousanders. Some of them are considered to be the most difficult in modern mountaineering: traverse of all three Broad Peak summits (1984), the western face of Gasherbrum IV (1985), the east face of Trango Tower (1988). He was twice the first person in the world to climb in a single push new routes on eight-thousanders: south-western faces of Cho Oyu and Shishapangma (1990).
He is the author of the book “Chiński Maharadża “/”Chinese Maharaja” published in 2013 by Góry Books.
In 2016 he was awarded – and, maybe more importantly, he finally accepted! – the “Lifetime Achievement Piolet D’Or Award”.
As his biggest personal success Kurtyka considers the lack of fatalities or any physical and mental loss, even a scratch, despite a collection of the most risky climbs.
Photo: Marek Arcimowicz