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Wanda Rutkiewicz: Greatest Woman Mountaineer

Wanda Rutkiewicz: Greatest Woman Mountaineer Born on February 4, 1943 in Plungė, Lithuania, Wanda Rutkiewicz is considered one of the greatest women mountaineers in history. Although born in Lithuania, Rutkiewicz grew up in Wroclaw, Poland, where her family migrated after the 2nd World War. She attended Wroclaw University of Technology and finished a degree in Electrical Engineering.

Her mountaineer’s dream was to be the first woman to ever summit all fourteen eight-thousanders. She made history on October 16, 1978, when she ranked in as the third woman ever to climb the Everest, and the first European to summit the famous peak. Her second eight-thousander was in 1985 as she conquered the Nanga Parbat. The following year she triumphantly conquered the K2, as she was part of the expedition led by Lilliane and Maurice Barrard, being the first woman to ever summit the perilous mountain. From 1987 to 1991 she climbed her next five eight-thousanders, the Shisha Pangma in 1987, the Gasherbrum II in 1989, the Gasherbrum I the following year, and Cho Oyu as well as Annapurna I in 1999.

Her tragic death on or around May 12 or 13 in 1992 near the summit of Kangchenjunga was a fateful day, on her attempt to conquer her ninth eight-thousander via the southwest face route together with Carlos Carsolio. It could not be known as to whether Rutkiewicz summitted Kangchenjunga, but if she did, she would have been the first female to ever summit all three highest mountains in the world.

Aside from being regarded as the pioneer in women’s alpinism, she has also been distinguished as one of the first mountaineers to have ever been given the King Albert I Memorial Foundation Award, a distinction given to mountaineers with immense contributions in the mountain world. Rutkiewicz was among the three awardees during the first King Albert I Awards in St. Moritz on September 3, 1994.

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