Famed Polish climber dies in accident

KATMANDU, Nepal -- Jerzy Kukuczka, one of the world's leading mountain climbers, was killed in a climbing accident in the Himalayas, the government of Nepal reported. He was 41.

Kukuczka, a Polish citizen, died in a climbing accident Tuesday on 27,923-foot Lhotse, the fourth highest mountain in the world, the Ministry of Tourism, which regulates climbing in Nepal, said Wednesday.


Lhotse was the scene of Kukuczka's first Himalayan success 10 years ago.

He was only the second climber to conquer all 14 of the world's 8,000-meter peaks, all set in the Himalayas. The first man to scale the 14 was Italy's Reinhold Messner.

Kukuczka and another Polish climber, Ryszard Pawlowski, 39, launched a summit bid on the south face of Lhotse from their bivouac point at 27,231 feet at 8.30 a.m. Tuesday, the ministry said.

The accident occurred near the bivouac point when the pair slipped and their rope broke, it said. Kukuczka plunged to his death but Pawlowski was not injured and returned safely to a lower camp.

The two were part of a 16-member international expedition led by Kukuczka and comprised mainly of Poles. Surviving members of the expedition will search for Kukuczka's body, the ministry said.


Kukuczka began his Himalayan climbing career in 1979, when he first scaled Lhotse by an easier route. The next year he climbed 29,029-foot Everest, the world's highest mountain, by way of a new south pillar route.

He completed his sweep of all of the world's 8,000-meter peaks in the winter of 1986-87, but not before Messner finished his grand slam by scaling Manaslu and Lhotse in the autumn of 1986.

Journalists had described the progress of Messner and Kukuczka's climbs as a 'race to complete the grand slam in climbing,' but both said they did not like the description or even the implication they were competing.

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