Art of Freedom: The Life and Climbs of Voytek Kurtyka
By Bernadette McDonald
Published by Rocky Mountain Books
Publishing date: August 2017
A profound and moving biography of one of the international climbing world's most respected, complicated and reclusive mountaineers.
Voytek Kurtyka remains one of the greatest alpinists of all time. Born in 1947, he was one of the leading lights of the Polish golden age of Himalayan climbing. His visionary approach to climbing resulted in many renowned ascents, such as the complete Broad Peak traverse, the 'night naked' speed climbs of Cho Oyu and Shishapangma and, above all, the alpine-style ascent of the West Face of Gasherbrum IV. Dubbed the 'climb of the century,' his route on G IV, as of 2016, has yet to be repeated. His most frequent climbing partners were alpine legends of their time: Polish Himalayan climber Jerzy Kukuczka, Swiss mountain guide Erhard Loretan and British alpinist Alex MacIntyre.
After repeated requests to accept the Piolet d’Or lifetime achievement award (the Academy Award of the climbing world), Kurtyka finally accepted the honour in the spring of 2016. A fiercely private individual, he continues to decline countless invitations for interviews, lectures and festival appearances, but has agreed to co-operate with internationally renowned and award winning Canadian author Bernadette McDonald on this long-awaited biography.
Certain to be a major event in the climbing world, Art of Freedom will appeal to all readers who dream of mountain landscapes and those who long to touch the sky.
Wonderfully strange, muscular, poetic at heart, and brimming with curiosity, Art of Freedom portrays the towering, but intensely reclusive Polish mountaineer, Voytek Kurtyka. By now I've come to expect Bernadette McDonald’s vivid writing style, her over-research (a high compliment,) and cosmopolitan insights. Once again, she raises the bar, pushing mountain literature to do what it does best: discover. She has become a virtual ambassador to the terra incognita of post-Soviet mountain culture in Eastern Europe, a territory every bit as buried in silence or myth as Tibet used to be. With Art of Freedom, I now recognize another of McDonald’s gifts, her quiet searching for what I'll call "deep ascent." At some point - during a storm, facing a crux, or otherwise outlasting the extremes - many climbers experience an altered or transforming perception. A rare few have the ability to express and live it as a convincing philosophy. In Voytek Kurtyka’s biography, Bernadette McDonald gives us yet another such spirit, a mountaineer in whom the mountains live.
— Jeff Long, award-winning author of The Descent
Bernadette McDonald is the author of ten books on mountaineering and mountain culture, including Alpine Warriors (RMB 2015), Keeper of the Mountains (RMB 2012) and Freedom Climbers (RMB 2011). She has received numerous mountain writing awards, including Italy’s ITAS Prize (2010), and is a two-time winner of India’s Kekoo Naoroji Award for mountain literature (2008 and 2009). In 2011 Bernadette’s first book with RMB, Freedom Climbers, won the Grand Prize at the Banff Mountain Book Festival (Canada), the Boardman Tasker Prize (UK) and the American Alpine Club’s H. Adams Carter Literary Award. Bernadette splits her time between Banff, Alberta, and Naramata, British Columbia