80 years of Polish Himalaism - a history of successes and tragedies

80 years ago Polish mountaineers conquered Nanda Devi East, becoming the first Poles to climb in the Himalayas.

Leszek Cichy, the first mountaineer to reach the peak of Mount Everest during the Winter said, in an interview ahead of the celebrations set for May 10th, that “80 years of Polish Himalaism was a history of many successes,” but also many “dramas and tragedies.” Leszek Cichy and Krzysztof Wielicki were the first mountaineers to summit Mount Everest during the Winter.

Throughout these 80 years, 30 Poles died on 14 eight-thousand meter mountains. The most tragic expedition took place in 1989 when five Polish mountaineers died in an avalanche on the slopes of Mount Everest. This event was named the greatest tragedy in the history of Polish Himalaism.

The “project of the 80th anniversary” includes a fundraiser for a monument for the 30 Poles who had died in the Himalayas. It will be placed on a popular trail at the foot of Mount Everest.

Other events planned for the celebrations include a “Warsaw Himalayan Night,” where several movies about mountaineering are set to be presented.

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First expedition

The beginnings of Polish Himalaism go back to the 1920s, when a group of Polish mountaineers decided to conquer Mount Everest. However, this had to be agreed with the British who occupied these territories at the time, and they wanted to be the first to conquer the World’s highest peak.

Yet the Polish mountaineers did not give up, and in 1939, after receiving permission, they became the first to reach Nanda Devi East at 7434 meters above sea level. Unfortunately, only half-a-year later, two other mountaineers died in an avalanche on Tirsuli (7074m a.s.l.). Their bodies were never found.

This May, to celebrate the anniversary, several outstanding mountaineers will set off to reach Nanda Devi East.

This year also marks the 30th anniversary of the death of Jerzy Kukuczka, who was the first Pole, and second person, to conquer all eight-thousanders. It is also the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Poland and Nepal. The celebrations of this event will take place in Kathmandu, Nepal, in the autumn of 2019.