Meet our Leader - Ryszard Pawłowski

A Boy from Rypin.
From his hometown Rypin, a sleepy place on the border of Pomerania and Masovia it was far away to the mountains. For young people, apart from farming, there had been no other perspectives. Rysiek, year 1950, as most boys from the banks of Rypienica wondered whether to go north to the shipyards of Tricity, or south, to Silesia. He chose the Mining School in Katowice.

After the lessons he consecrated his free time to judo training classes. His friends from the boarding school tapped their fingers on their foreheads when they heard that five times a week he trains rolls on the mat for a few hours. When he gained the title of vice-champion of the Province of Katowice, what he deserved was their envy.

Rysiek has always been incredibly ambitious - which is emphasised by his friends, family, and successive wives Rivalry. Reach the highest point - it was the sense of his action. In order to win he did not hesitate to stake everything on one card. Literally. There was a time when he used to play cards and took to gambling. He came to his senses when he lost at cards a building society book received from his parents. - I was so ashamed of myself, I didn't show up at my home for a few years - he recalls that episode. And it was then when his adventure with the mountains started. He devoted himself to it, as to everything he did, totally.


When he lost everything and because of shame he sentenced himself to solitude, he had to fill in the longer holiday breaks at work with something. Others sat at their Christmas or Easter tables while Rysiek went to the rocks in the Polish Jurassic Highland. Alone, or sometimes with a partner, he performed on more and more difficult rocky trails. The worse the storm was outside, the more pleased with himself he was, that he persevered and finished the climb. It was exactly the same when he climbed in the Tatra Mountains. He would stay in the wall while others kept themselves warm in a chalet and waited for better weather. He had no time for that, he had to combine his passion with work in the mine and evening studies at the Silesian Polytechnic. In addition, he had the ambition to be among the top of the High Mountain Club in Katowice. A place in the club trips to the Alps, Pamir, or Patagonia was reserved only for the best ones. He wanted to turn the others' attention to himself and he practiced climbing on the verge of possibility. He conquered alone the most ambitious Tatra trails on Kazalnica Mięguszowiecka, staying in the wall for a few days in the winter time. Even club colleagues, who had been used to gruelling efforts, could not understand what pushed him to such extreme achievements and with understanding for someone who is different from the norm, they nicknamed Pawłowski - "Napał", meaning exceptionally stuck on the mountains.


Kukuczka's Partner
Determination paid off and opened a path to more ambitious mountain challenges: in Patagonia, mountains of the Caucasus, the Himalayas, and Karakorum. He finally got his own way. He was the partner of the best ones. It was Ryszard Pawłowski to whom Jerzy Kukuczka, the most outstanding Polish Himalayan mountaineer - second in the World conqueror of the Crown of the Himalayas - all fourteen eight-thousanders - tied a rope when challenging the southern wall of Lhotse. In 1989 it was the most ambitious Himalayan goal. When at the altitude of 8,300 metres the rope broke and Kukuczka fell into a three kilometre precipice, Pawłowski had to battle for his life. Above eight thousand meters stretches the death zone - he had to survive in a compulsory bivouac there. Despite the lack of a rope and big difficulties he was able to come down to the base.

After that he witnessed the death of a partner a few times. - It was a difficult experience for me - he admits - but I never thought at that time to abandon the mountains. Sharing the experience from the inhuman world of the Himalayan giants, he discloses, that high up above, in extreme dangers, he has always found the strength to take up the fight. No panic. Maximum concentration. Each move is accurate and sure, like in precision machinery.

A Step Away from Death
In many occasions he found out that his body sustains more. Five years after Kukuczka's tragedy, in 1994, he was the leader of a British expedition to Lhotse. Hurricane winds chased away everyone back to the valleys. He remained alone in a small tent suspended between the sky and earth at an altitude of 7,700 meters. He waited six days and nights in a snowstorm for a moment of good weather in order to climb to the top. - Not many people would bring themselves to such a feat - he underlines, not without pride. He had lived to it. He climbed Lhotse. - I was even faster than the famous Benoi Chamoux, he climbed after my footmarks - he underlines. Five subsequent years had passed. In 1999 Ryszard Pawłowski conquered Mount Everest for the third time. During the descent, a member of his team, Tadeusz Kudelski, dies, and he alone, when during a snowstorm and at poor visibility his headlamp goes dead, decided to set up a bivouac at the altitude of 8,500 metres. Only in the base he found out that a similar decision was taken by two other, also multi-conquerors of the tallest mountains. One died from exhaustion and the other's fingers had to be amputated because of frostbites. Rysiek came down almost intact.

He was a step away from death two times on Pumori. First time a rope broke and when he was falling down he was able to miraculously cling to a rocky crevice. The second time, an avalanche carried him away and he went down through a rocky culuar among tons of snow. The speed of the avalanche moved him around like a ball, knocking him on the walls of a rocky channel. The snow dust choked him and closed his mouth. It seemed he had no chance at all. He was saying goodbye to life, falling faster and faster. The fall was amortised by a snow mound which formed at the base of the wall. It gave him his life. He reminisces that time, the nineteen nineties, as a chain of successes, related to subsequent ascents of Mount Everest and next eight-thousanders - Nanga Parbat, Lhotse, Annapurna, Gasherbrum, and K2. For the mountains, he gave up his job at the mine.

To the Summit with Clients
His friends - Himalayan mountaineers from the West - owners of agencies which take rich Western men to the Himalayan summits - waited with a job proposal. After a few years of working for someone else, he established his own company - Patagonia Mountain Agency.

With his clients, Ryszard Pawłowski regularly, every year, climbs the highest peaks - Aconcagua, Mt. McKinley, and Ama Dablam. A family record is connected with McKinley. The youngest Pole, who stood on the summit, is the fifteen year old son of the Himalaya mountaineer - Marcin. It was in the year 1999.

Time for the Family
Rysiek is proud of his son's feat. This expedition drew them closer to each other. Before that time, when the mountains counted first, he had not had a lot of time for the family. Probably because of that his marriages fell apart twice.

Recalling, the way he fought for a place among the Himalayan aces and what he lost because of that, he says: - I don't regret anything. Now I have a young wife and a daughter whom I really love. In his relationship with Magda, he cannot recognise himself. He, Napał, a Himalayan tough-guy had tears in his eyes when his daughter Marta was born. Once he would not have believed that he would be seeking to walk the little one to kindergarten, go to the park with her, to the swing, or play blocks. He has changed. - I am older - he explains. However, this is not the only reason for his transformation. He was not ashamed of admitting publicly in his book "Smak Gór" ("The Taste of Mountains"), that it is also: "a credit for my beloved girls - wife and daughter, thanks to whom life took a full, unknown so far dimension."



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