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

Climbing - - CONTENTS - BY MICHAEL LEVY

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.

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