Book Review: Art Of Freedom: The Life And Climbs Of Voytek Kurtyka by Bernadette McDonald
Anyone who is a fan of mountain literature needs to read Art Of Freedom: The Life And Climbs Of Voytek Kurtyka. Written by award winning author Bernadette McDonald, Art of Freedom shines the spotlight on one of the world’s greatest alpinists.
Voytek Kurtyka was a Polish mountaineer who pushed the limits of what is humanly possibly in the vertical world of the Greater Ranges in the 70’s and 80’s. His world revolved around climbing and his “forte was technical big walls and high-altitude traverses. He was motivated by beautiful lines, difficult lines, futuristic lines. He turned his back on fixed ropes and large expeditions preferring the flexibility, the independence, and the intimacy of small teams.”
As far as climbing resumes go, you can’t compete with Voytek Kurtyka. Just listing his impressive climbs takes up a full 4 pages in the book. Kurtyka wasn’t a peak bagger. He was driven by the climbing philosophy of “new routes, small teams and, without question, alpine style.” For each climb, he was “motivated by the chance to step into the unknown.”
Climbing legends like Jerzy Kukuczka, Erhard Loretan, and Alex MacIntyre joined Kurtyka on alpine sufferfests on peaks like Lhotse, Makalu, Cho Oyu, Trango Tower, Nanga Parbat, K2, Dhaulagiri, and other big mountains. Many of Kurtyka’s routes have never been repeated. His Board Peak Traverse and Cho Oyu speed climb will impress any mountain enthusiast. But perhaps his greatest climb was his alpine style ascent of Gasherbrum IV’s Shining Wall, which has been called the “Climb of the Century.”
What makes Kurtyka truly unique is that he didn’t climb for the fame and the glory. In fact, he is a uniquely private individual, who is also a humble alpinist with a low tolerance of risk and innate mountain intuition. “Regardless of success of failure, Voytek returned from each climbing adventure with a new perspective on everyday life,” Perhaps this is why he is so respected in alpine circles.
Despite the fact that Kurtyka had a true “fondness for breaking the rules” and a knack for staying under the radar, his adventures in the vertical world didn’t go unnoticed. After “repeated requests to accept the Piolets d’Or Lifetime Achievement Award (the Oscars of the climbing world), Kurtyka finally accepted the honour in the spring of 2016.” This is among the biggest awards in the mountain world.
From his simple upbringing in Poland to his illegal adventures (smuggling ventures, climbing without permits, etc.) to his big mountain accomplishments, McDonald brings the adventures of Voytek to life like no one else could. There’s no question about it, Kurtyka is one of the greatest mountaineers to ever live.
Art of Freedom is the story of the man, the myth, and the legend that is Voytek Kurtyka. This beautifully written biography is a must-read for any who loves the towering summits, big walls, and freedom of the mountains. Plus, the 4 sections of colored images from Kurtyka’s adventures help bring the alpine world to life.
Art Of Freedom: The Life And Climbs Of Voytek Kurtyka by Bernadette McDonald was published on 31 July 2017 by Vertebrate Publishing. It will be released in the US/Canada by Canadian publisher Rocky Mountain Books on 8 September 2017.
Vertebrate Publishing sent Art Of Freedom: The Life And Climbs Of Voytek Kurtyka by Bernadette McDonald to Mountain Journey for review. We give this one two big thumbs up.
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