Mountain and skiing

My mountains … initially were not Himalayas, the Andes or the Caucasus Mountains. My beginnings were the Beskid, Sudetes, Bieszczady and the Tatra Mountains. As a young boy, a scout – I marched across our Polish mountains during walking holidays, scouting trips or Sunday excursions. I used to catch the morning bus from Kraków to arrive three hours later somewhere at the start of a trail. Skiing, in turn, has enabled me to admire the beauty of snow-covered slopes, the smell of pine, and the taste of freedom you feel when speeding down the mountain with snow up to your belt. In those days there were no such things as Gore-Tex, freeze dried food, or showing off in your outdoor gear. Instead, you had crammed mountain hostels, the odour of damp overcoats, fingers burnt on gas stoves, skiing on Alu skis which often fell apart and sleeping bags covered with flowers the size of a parachute.

And then came the illness and everything in my life accelerated, sharpened and became more beautiful. I got my first professional “Markers”, my dream skis - “Head” (the only available – 200 cm). Our Academic Sports Association had another silver medal to celebrate that season. I kept on reading in the papers: Rutkiewicz, Kukuczka, Cichy… Goodness me! So high, so lucky! Skis quickly cutting downhill through the snow were outside of the realm of possibility of a normal Kraków citizen. The minister of sport in a red tie was handing them another bouquet of carnations and they were doing what they did best ... and how they did it! Then again this strange touch of illness, something was cut out, something again was given to me. For the first time, the French Alps. I was lost in rapture ... And then on my journey I encountered Anna Dymna, and working for her Foundation has given me more than I could ever dream of – a new profession and ... friends with disabilities. In autumn 2007, for the first time I heard about blind people who had climbed Kilimanjaro with the help of volunteers. It had the force of an avalanche. We managed to get some funding and equipment, choose people who had gone through a lot in their lives ... sometimes only with their own wheelchairs to assist them. At that time, I met a mountain rescuer from Żywiec – Bogdan Bednarz, who was working for the Polish Mountain Volunteer Rescue Service (GOPR). Thanks to him I wore my first climbing harness and I understood the meaning of the word: team. I became convinced that people with missing limbs, people without sight, people using crutches or prosthetic legs can, with suitable preparation and care, conquer summits. Only the highest peaks for them. And me? Without one lung ... I became the eyes of Łukasz who is blind. In the morning of 5 October 2008, I read him the sign posted at the summit: “Congratulations! You are now at Uhuru Peak, Tanzania, 5895 m AMSL.” I took one look at the world through the clouds and nothing was ever the same after that ...