Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Wanda Rutkiewicz: A Caravan of Dreams, by Gertrude Reinisch

Gertrude Reinisch writes a tribute to one of the most accomplished female mountaineers in history in Wanda Rutkiewicz: A Caravan of Dreams. Reinisch displays the many paradoxes in the life of Rutkiewicz, who was torn between city life and mountaineering, love and ambition, and her hardcore principles and the realities of many of her climbs. Rutkiewicz had gathered a pile of papers and photos to one day write her autobiography, and after her death on Kanchenjunga, Reinisch, a friend and climbing partner, used these resources and others to tell her tale. At her death, Rutkiewicz had climbed more than twice as many 8000-meter peaks (nine) as any other woman, and was well on her way to achieving all fourteen summits. Additionally, she had made the second ascent of the North Buttress of the Eiger (after Messner & Habeler), and climbed the North Face of the Matterhorn in winter and the South Face of Aconcagua. Beginning in 1985, she kept a frantic pace of climbing, with an average of three expeditionary climbs every year; in 1991 alone, she made it high on the North Face of Kanchenjunga, summited Cho Oyu by the West Face and Annapurna by the South Face, and headed to Dhaulagiri straightaway only to find that the expedition had been canceled.

Wanda Rutkiewicz was one of the phenoms of Polish climbing. She started early in their expeditionary history, with the winter ascent of Noshaq in 1972, leading the 1975 first ascent of Gasherbrum III, and an attempt on Nanga Parbat in 1976. On international teams, she became the first Pole and the third woman to scale Everest in 1978 and the first woman and Pole to climb K2 in 1986. Her Everest ascent was a post-monsoon climb via the South Col under Karl Herligkoffer and Pierre Mazeaud's joint leadership, though she was appointed Deputy Leader. Her leadership became a point of contention within the expedition, and she was accused of not carrying her weight, but she pushed herself hard, filming as high as the South Col and reaching the summit. Like Jerzy Kukuczka, (My Vertical World) after some initial fame she had better luck attracting sponsors for her climbs, but she never had more that enough for the most basic of expeditions, and her gear was often cited as atrocious. On her later climbs, she found herself making devils' deals regarding filming compensation, where she would receive the money to pay for the expedition only if she made the summit. I can only wonder if she had just such a contract for her 1992 Kanchenjunga climb that cost her her life. The book is a realistic tribute, with both praise and criticism for this great climber who pushed the limits in more than just her climbs. It has color photographs (mostly by Rutkiewicz) throughout, and short contributions from a number of her associates towards the end. I hope you enjoy it!

No comments:

Post a Comment