Meet Ola Przybysz, the expat Pole pushing the first-ascent envelope in China.
The life and climbs of Ola Przybysz, the expat Pole pushing the firstascent envelope in China
In August 2016, a picture of an obscure unclimbed peak popped up in a Yangshuo climbers group in WeChat—the WhatsApp of China. It showed a 12,500foot limestone tower floating above the Tibetan village of Zhagana. The more ambitious climbers in the group immediately responded.
One of the climbers was Aleksandra “Ola” Przybysz, 35, a 5.14 climber and ex-pat Pole living in China since 2007 who’s a fixture in the national comp scene. Przybysz competes on plastic mainly to supplement her income from Green Step Adventures, the outdoor education and guiding company she founded in 2013 and runs from Shanghai. On the rock, her focus is on establishing new routes, making her an anomaly in this traditionally male-dominated arena. “Placing first in a World Cup or winning comps doesn’t feel that special to me,” she says. “But developing routes; getting to the top first; exploring places that are still untouched—it feels way more important.”
Blonde, blue-eyed, and with high cheekbones, Przybysz could just as soon pass for Swedish as Polish. She’s equally capable on thuggy, overhanging sport climbs—she has sent 5.14c at Yangshuo, China—as on granite splitters. To date, she has equipped and climbed dozens of routes from 5.9 to 5.13, and made the first ascent of at least as many previously bolted lines in places near Beijing and Shanghai; Yangshuo, Guangxi Province; Xi’an, Shaanxi Province; and Keketuohai National Park, Xinjiang Province.
When she saw the picture of Zhagana, she started planning, researching the peak.
In 2007, Przybysz moved with a boyfriend to Beijing to study at North China Electric Power University. She
OLA PRZYBYSZ STYLES RED DRAGON (5.13C), A CLASSIC LINE AT MOON HILL, YANGSHUO, CHINA.