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Art of Freedom

The life and climbs of Voytek Kurtyka

Paperback (320pp)
  • Paperback £14.95
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Boardman Tasker Award for Mountain Literature flash

WINNER: Boardman Tasker Award for Mountain Literature 2017

Winner: The Jon Whyte Award for Mountain Literature (non-fiction), Banff Mountain Book Festival 2017

'A profound and subtle profile of one of the international climbing world’s most complex mountaineers. We felt the writing was meticulously crafted and that the book makes extreme mountaineering accessible to the lay reader.' – Helen Mort, chair of judges, Boardman Tasker Award 

Banff Mountain Book Festival Winner Crest

Voytek Kurtyka is one of the greatest alpinists of all time. Born in 1947, he was one of the leading lights of the Polish golden age of mountaineering that redefined Himalayan climbing in the 1970s and 1980s.

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 first ascent 

of the West Face of Gasherbrum IV. Dubbed the ‘climb of the century’, his route on GIV with the Austrian Robert Schauer is – as of 2017 – unrepeated. His most frequent climbing partners were alpine legends of their time: Polish Himalayan giant Jerzy Kukuczka, Swiss mountain guide Erhard Loretan and British alpinist Alex MacIntyre.

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. A fiercely private individual, he has declined countless invitations for interviews, lectures and festival appearances, but he has agreed to collaborate with internationally renowned and award-winning author Bernadette McDonald on this long-awaited biography.

Art of Freedom is a profound and moving profile of one of the international climbing world’s most respected, complex and reclusive mountaineers.

Also available as an ebook:

Kindle UK

Kindle USA


Bernadette McDonald is the author of ten mountaineering books, including the multi-award-winning Freedom Climbers (2011). Among its international awards, Freedom Climbers won the Grand Prize at the Banff Mountain Book Festival, the Boardman Tasker Prize for Mountain Literature and the American Alpine Club’s H. Adams Carter Literary Award. Her other mountaineering titles include Tomaž Humar (2008), Brotherhood of the Rope: The Biography of Charles Houston (2007), Keeper of the Mountains: The Elizabeth Hawley Story (2012) and Alpine Warriors (2015). McDonald’s books have been translated into eight languages, and her international awards include Italy’s ITAS Prize (2010) and India’s Kekoo Naoroji Award for Mountain Literature (2008, 2009 and 2011). She has also received the Alberta Order of Excellence (2010), the Summit of Excellence Award (2007) and the King Albert Award for international leadership in mountain culture and environment (2006). She was the founding vice-president of Mountain Culture at the Banff Centre and served as director of the Banff mountain festivals from 1988 to 2006.

  • Title: Art of Freedom
  • Subtitle: The life and climbs of Voytek Kurtyka
  • Author: Bernadette McDonald
  • Imprint: Vertebrate Publishing
  • ISBN: 9781911342526 (Paperback)
  • Rights: UK & Ireland
  • Publication date: 5 April 2018
  • Edition: Second
  • Size: 234mm x 156mm
  • Extent: 256 pages (with 4x 16pp colour plates)
  • Cover: Paperback
  • Weight: 550g
  • Retail price: £14.95 (Paperback)

Also available as an ebook:

  • Imprint: Vertebrate Digital
  • ISBN: 9781911342588
  • Publication Date: 31 July 2017
  • Price: £9.99

'Art of Freedom explores the fascinating complexity of Voytek Kurtyka, an alpinist who was driven by aesthetics and by style to achieve some of the most notable ascents.' – Sir Chris Bonington

'This biography of the enigmatic Voytek Kurtyka is intimate and poised, revealing much that we did not know about Kurtyka, but never dispelling the mystery that surrounds him.' – John Porter, award-winning author of One Day as a Tiger

'Climbing legends don’t come more legendary than Voytek Kurtyka, nor their biographers more diligent, stylish and informed than Bernadette McDonald. This book is her best yet.' – Jim Perrin, award-winning author of Shipton and Tilman

'Bernadette McDonald has crafted a masterpiece in this biography of the dazzling and enigmatic genius of alpinism that is Voytek Kurtyka.' – David Roberts, award-winning mountaineering author

'Voytek Kurtyka is a legend … Here, for the first time, we have full access to his travails and his musings. An absolute gem of a book.' – Steve House, alpinist, author of Beyond the Mountain

'It’s no exaggeration for me to say that Bernadette McDonald’s Art of Freedom is among the most eagerly anticipated mountaineering books of the decade – a work by one of the most respected writers in the genre about one of climbing’s greatest legends.' – Katie Ives, Editor-in-Chief, Alpinist magazine

'Regardless of your background, from the armchair to the alpine suffer artist, there is something that will resonate with being human, living by your ideals and enjoying life in its purest form.' – Conrad Anker, alpinist

'Wonderfully strange, muscular, poetic at heart and brimming with curiosity, Art of Freedom portrays the towering but intensely reclusive Polish mountaineer Voytek Kurtyka.' – Jeff Long, award-winning author of The Descent

'With the accuracy of a musician and the sensitivity of a writer, Bernadette McDonald unveils the myth of the great Voytek.'  –Silvo Karo, alpinist

'Voytek taught us that the style by which one climbs a mountain is what it’s all about, and the summit is merely a stop along the way.' – Greg Child, alpinist

‘I read it and I think it’s going to have more longevity in readership than even her previous award winning books.’
– Andrew Szalay, The Suburban Mountaineer

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