Wanda Rutkiewicz is regarded as one of the greatest woman mountaineers ever. On October 16, 1978, she became the third woman, the first Pole and the first European woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest. In 1986 she became the first woman to successfully climb K2 as part of a small expedition led by Lilliane and Maurice Barrard. Her triumph was marred when both the Barrards died on the descent, becoming two of thirteen climbers to die on K2 that summer.
Wanda Rutkiewicz intended to become the first woman to climb all fourteen of the eight-thousanders. She successfully summitted the following:
She was last seen alive by Mexican climber Carlos Carsolio sheltering at high altitude on the north-west face of Kangchenjunga, during her attempted ascent of what would have been her ninth eight-thousander.
A body presumed to be hers was found on the south-west face of the mountain in 1995 by Fausto de Stefani, Marco Galezzi and Silvio Mondinelli, suggesting that she had climbed up the north-west ridge to a point very close to the summit before falling down the south-west side. No one will ever know whether she summitted Kangchenjunga. If she did so, she would have been the first woman to reach the top of the world's three highest mountains.