Ascending the world’s tallest mountain during the coldest time of the year is no less than a joke for many. You really need a great amount of willpower and passion for the mountains actually to do so; needless to say, the expertise. Krzysztof Wielicki and Leszek Cichy made sure to complete this mission by climbing Mount Everest for the very first time during winter. Both the climbers have had a glorious life and career in mountaineering. Krzysztof Jerzy Wielicki is one of the most well-considered and finest Polish alpinists of all time. At the same time, Leszek Cichy is also a popular name in the Polish mountaineering community.
If you want to know more about these mountaineers, make sure to read till the end of this article!
Krzysztof Wielicki & Leszek Cichy’s First Winter Ascent Of Mount Everest
It was in 1980 that Polish mountaineers Krzysztof Wielicki and Leszek Cichy climbed Mount Everest during winter for the very first time. Climbing Mount Everest, in itself, has the most unimaginable difficulties, let alone having to climb the mountain in extreme weather conditions at the highest possible altitude. But despite the strong wind, coldest air, and high chances of meeting with an accident or dying on the mountain, the two mountaineers chose not to give up. This was the first attempt as well as the success of a winter expedition to Everest.
The expedition team was led by Andrzej Zawada. The climbing team included 20 climbers. Climbing the Himalayas in itself poses a great amount of threat to the mountaineers, and doing so in the winter was considered impossible. Post their climb, Cichy said,
“They didn’t know what the end of the road was like, and we didn’t know if we could handle the winter conditions. Not as Poles, not as Wielicki and Cichy, but simply as people. It was Hillary who said he couldn’t imagine living above 7000m in winter. But faith pushed us up.”
Reaching the top of the mountain was really the biggest achievement of their lives at the moment. Cichy recalled calling Andrzej and asking him whether he knew or not where the duo were. The moment is said to be the happiest for the two as they were on the top of the world, that too during the coldest time of the year. As a memoir from the mountain, they took some stones and a piece of paper left by their predecessor, American Ray Genet, who was killed in the mountain.
On their return, they came through the body of Hannelore Schmatz, who was a German woman who died with Amercian Ray Genet the same autumn. Sadly, Genet’s body was never found. The men have completed more than 40 years of their first success and celebrated together in 2020. Moreover, the duo completed climbing the six other mountains among the Seven Summits in the world after having completed their ascent to Mount Everest.
When they met for the celebration of their 40 years of the climb, Cichy said, “It initiated our Polish exploration of the Himalayas and a great era in the highest mountains. We were the first in the world to break through those barriers. It certainly influenced us, too, but we treated it as something great for Poland. I don’t look at it as an individual achievement but as a collective success. This is of great value. We finished what all the participants of the expedition worked for. (…) We showed that it’s possible to explore the Himalayas at this time of the year. History proved that this is how the golden era of Polish winter Himalayas began.”
His climbing partner added,
“We were the first, and very soon, we summited six consecutive eight-thousandth peaks at this time of year. ”
Krzysztof Wielicki Life and Career
Krzysztof Jerzy Wielicki is a mountaineer, also the member of The Explorers Club. He was born on 5 January 1950 in Szklarka Przygodzicka, Greater Poland. He finished his education at the Wrocław University of Science and Technology (WUST) in electronics. He started his climbing journey in May of 1970 with Sokoliki. He was able to succeed in ascending mountains like the Caucasus Mountains, Hindu Kush, and Pamir Mountains before finally accomplishing the ascent of Mount Everest in February of 1980 alongside Leszek Cichy. The Polish alpinist has climbed all the Seven summits as of now. He also climbed Broad Peak in a solo expedition.
Similarly, he made a solo expedition of Nanga Parbat and Gasherbrum II. He also ascended a peak north pillar along with two Italian climbers. The mountaineer further organized the 2002-2003 Polish winter expedition on K2. Wielicki is also the one to establish a new route for Dhaulagiri and Shishapangma. While many of his attempts to climb different mountains in the world have been successful, he has been unsuccessful in climbing K2 in 2018. His autobiography Solo was released in January 2020. Likewise, he has won several titles like the Lowell Thomas Award conferred by The Explorers Club, the Commander’s Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta, the Wrocław University of Science and Technology Medal, and the International Astronomical Union.
Wielicki is best known for his refusal to give up on what he wants the most, which is to establish himself as a legend in the world of mountaineering, which he already has. He is still very active in his work as a mountaineer, though with age, mountaineering activities have declined to a great extent.
Leszek Cichy Life and Career
Leszek Roman Cichy was born on 14 November 1951 in Pruszków, Poland. He is a geologist, mountaineer, financier, and entrepreneur. After having climbed some of the most prominent mountains in the world, Cichy took a break from his mountaineering career and went on with the corporate world. However, he celebrated the 40-year anniversary of climbing the tallest mountain in the world, Mount Everest, with Krzysztof Wielicki in 2020. He is also the first Polish alpinist to ever climb the Seven Summits in the world.
Cichy’s career in mountaineering was not as long-lived as that of Wielicki. However, the legacy of both the mountaineers remains to this day.
Frequently Asked Questions about Krzysztof Wielicki & Leszek Cichy (FAQs)
Has Everest been summited in winter?
Only a handful of people have summited the Everest in winter.
How many times has Everest been climbed in the winter?
Fifteen climbers have climbed Everest in the winter.
Who reached the summit of Everest for the first time during winter?
Krzysztof Wielicki & Leszek Cichy reached the summit of Everest for the first time during winter.
How old were Krzysztof Wielicki & Leszek Cichy during their winter ascent to Mount Everest?
Krzysztof Wielicki & Leszek Cichy were 30 and 29 years old, respectively, during their winter ascent to Mount Everest.
What are Krzysztof Wielicki’s other winter ascents?
Krzysztof Wielicki’s other winter ascents include that of Kangchenjunga and Lhotse.