Summit of Excellence for Quebec Climber Jacques Olek
Quebec 73-year-old Jacques Olek is the 2018 recipient of the Banff Centre Summit of Excellence Award. Regarded as a pioneer in the Quebec mountaineering community, he devoted his life to mountain culture by leading difficult winter expeditions around the world and teaching the love of climbing to others. “Jacques is a pioneer who spent a lifetime promoting mountain culture,” said Louis Rousseau, Summit of Excellence selection committee member. “He’s a humanist who travels not to conquer mountains, but to let his heart be conquered by the people he meets. He inspired so many to dream big, to go beyond, to play outside with passion and have the feeling of being free.”
A proud Canadian of Polish descent, Olek is a champion of winter climbing. He was part of a Polish-canadian expedition that made the first winter summit of Cho Oyu (8,201 metres) in 1985. In 1987 and 88, Olek joined a team of Polish, British, and Canadian climbers to attempt the first push for the summit of K2 in winter. The team reached 7,300 metres before conditions forced them to turn around. To this day, no one has made a winter ascent to the summit of K2. Olek ran an outdoor store in Montreal – Blacks International – allowing him to inspire thousands of Canadians to take on new challenges. He spent a lifetime building and supporting the outdoor community in Quebec, organizing the first Quebec expedition to Baffin Island in 1976 and to Mount Logan in 1978. He was on expeditions to Nanga Parbat, Shishapangma and Makalu.
“In 1981, I met visionary Polish mountain climber Andrzej Zawada,” said Olek, “the leader of a Polish national expedition that made the first winter ascent of Everest in 1980, paving the way for the winter climbing tradition on the 8000ers. This meeting was crucial because it allowed Canadian mountaineers to contribute to the Himalayan winter climbing history.”