Who is Wanda Rutkiewicz? The celebrated climber honoured in today's Google Doodle

Tom Herbert

Four decades ago, Wanda Rutkiewicz became the third woman in history and the first Polish person to climb Mount Everest.

Rutkiewicz's historic achievement in climbing the world's highest peak on October 16, 1978 is being honoured 41 years later in today's Google Doodle drawing.

The celebrated mountaineer, who became the first woman to scale K2 nearly a decade later, would go on to establish herself as one of the greatest female climbers of all time.

Here is all you need to know about Wanda Rutkiewicz.

Wanda Rutkiewicz is being celebrated in the Google Doodle (Google)

Who is Wanda Rutkiewicz?

Wanda Rutkiewicz was born on February 4, 1943 to a Polish family in the former Polish city of Plungiany, which is now part of Lithuania.

After studying electrical engineering at Wroclaw University of Technology, she developed an interest in taking part in sports of all types around where she lived in southwest Poland.

But her passion for climbing really began by chance on a summer's day in 1961, when the motorbike she was riding ran out of fuel. Flagging down passersby for help, she met a man called Bogdan Jankowski who had been climbing for around two years, and the two soon climbed the Falcon Mountains together.

Her first major expedition was to the Pamir Mountans, before she reached the summit of Gasherbrum III in 1975 and then the world's highest peak in 1978.

In the early 1980s Rutkiewicz hiked to K2's base camp on crutches in an attempt to climb to the peak, before a successful mission four years later made her the first woman to scale the world's second-highest mountain, doing so without using oxygen.

The trip was marred however after two of a her fellow climbers, Lilliane and Maurice Barrard, died during the 1986 attempt. However, Rutkiewicz continued to climb and pursue her dreams.

Despite her successes, and the fact she was an established mountaineering author and documentary producer, Rutkiewicz found many male climbers to be condescending and she became a staunch advocate for women's climbing, organising many all-female expeditions.

In 1990, the 49-year-old Rutkiewicz made it her goal to climb eight 8,000-metre-plus peaks in just over a year, a program she dubbed the 'Caravan of Dreams'. She was last seen alive in 1992 while attempting to climb Kangchenjunga, one of the 'eight-thousanders' and third highest peak in the world. Her body has never been found.

Throughout her career Rutkiewicz completed seven of the world's 14 8,000-metre-plus climbs, making her one of the most celebrated climbers in mountaineering history. She is presumed to have died during an attempt to scale the eighth.

She said of climbing: "I adored the physical movement, the fresh air, the camaraderie, and the excitement."

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