04_Press Release_Poland                                                 10/2019

In Focus: Poland’s Great Alpinists

 In Poland, climbing the world’s highest mountains in winter is something of a national sport. Ten of the 13 eightthousanders climbed so far have been conquered by Polish alpinists, and their native country celebrates them like superstars. In Tegernsee, they take centre stage on Saturday at the Schalthaus venue.

 In the 1980ies, it was predominantly Jerzy Kukuczka and Wanda Rutkiewicz who caused a global sensation with their alpine achievements. Adam Bielecki is one of the audacious Poles who continue this tradition. He contributed to climbing history not only with his summit successes, but especially because of an unmatched rescue effort. Bielecki happened to be at the K2 base camp in 2018, preparing for the first winter ascent of the most demanding of all eightthousanders, when he heard that a tragedy was unfolding at Nanga Parbat: French mountaineer Elisabeth Revol and Tomek Maciewicz from Poland were in distress on the mountain. “It became obvious that we were their only chance,” Bielecki explains later. He immediately set out, together with Denis Urubko from Kazakhstan, to save his friends at Nanga Parbat. They were able to descend Elisabeth Revol alive to base camp; help came too late for Tomek. Dariusz Zaluski, 2012 jury member in Tegernsee, accompanied the expedition as camera man. The gripping documentary of this K2 expedition also provides a fascinating example of group psychology during such an endeavour. On view on Saturday, 3.10 pm, at Schalthaus.

Directly afterwards, a book presentation shifts the focus on one of Poland’s greatest mountaineers: Voytek Kurtyka. Born in 1947, he is known as the uncontested master of the High Tatra, the Hindu Kush and of the great walls of the Alps and Scandinavia. Like nobody else, Kurtyka also defined Poland’s “Golden Age” of Himalayan alpinism. Bernadette McDonald, who for many years directed the Banff Mountain Film Festival, wrote Voytek Kurtykas’s biography: “Die Kunst der Freiheit – Voytek Kurtyka, Leben und Berge” (The Art of Freedom – Voytek Kurtyka, Life and Mountains) weaves together elements from sports, art and mysticism in unique fashion. Bernadette McDonald was able to get up-close to this mysterious and eccentric alpine genius and has created a new, moving masterpiece of alpine literature. During the book presentation at 4.30 pm at Schalthaus, the book’s translator into German, Robert Steiner, describes how he himself got to know this unique, freedom-loving alpinist.

At the end of the Poland focus, at 5 pm, Stanislaw Berbeka, the son of Maciej Berbeka, grants insights into a busy family life defined by the father’s grand mountaineering dreams with his documentary “Dreamland”. In 2013 Maciej Berbeka, aged 57, desires to once again fulfil a great dream with a first ascension of Broad Peak in winter. The first part of the adventure succeeds, four alpinists make the summit. However, the fated expedition’s oldest and youngest members will never return.