Husband of 6-Time Olympic Medal Winner Killed in Avalanche in Jungfrau Region, Switzerland

Julia Schneemann | | Industry NewsIndustry News
Kacper Tekieli
The heartbreaking last picture of Kacper Tekieli at the top of Jungfrau, which he had sent to his wife and son, writing “I love you kitties”, and she had shared on social media after his death. | Picture: Kacper Tekieli Instagram Page

The husband of six-time Olympic medal winner and 8-time World Championship medal winner Justyna Kowalczyk-Tekieli perished in an avalanche near Stechelberg in the Bernese Alps of Switzerland. Kacper Tekieli was an experienced mountaineer who had climbed the most important Polish and Slovak peaks and had also climbed internationally in Alaska, Norway and European Alps, where he had conquered the ‘Alpine Trilogy’ Eiger, Matterhorn and Mont Blanc.

Kacper had been on a skitour in Switzerland, having shared images from all over the country, ranging from the Upper Engadin, where he was ski touring on Biz Bernina and the Furka Pass, in the far east of Switzerland, to Valais in the far west of Switzerland, where he had climbed several 4,000+m (13,123ft) peaks, like the Bishorn, Weissmies, Lagginhorn, Allalihorn, Stahlhorn and Rimpfischhorn.

Kacper Tekieli
A picture Kacper shared from the Bishorn at 4,153m elevation. | Picture: Kacper Tekieli Instagram Page

On Tuesday, May 16, 2023, Mr Tekieli had hiked 9km (5.6 miles) and 1,000m (3,280ft) in vertical in the morning from Fiesch in the valley to the ski area Fiescheralp at 2,200m (7,218ft) elevation in the canton of Bern. From there had continued to the glacier at 2,810m (9,219ft) altitude, which was another 12.9km (8 miles). He shared this data to his Strava account before attempting the climb to the famous Jungfrau peak, meaning ‘Virgin’ in English, the next morning. He spent the night at the Konkordia Hut at 2,850m (9,350ft) and from there he climbed to the top of Jungfrau at 4,158m (13,641) and reached the peak at 10:12 in the morning of Wednesday, May 17, 2023.

Local mountain guide Alex Gammeter shares this picture of his ascent last week in the Jungfrau region. | Picture: Alex Gammeter Instagram Account

His wife, Justyna, shared the last picture and his last, beautiful words he had sent her from the top of the Jungfrau on both her own as well as Kacper’s Instagram account.

“I love you kitties” he had written to her and their son Hugo. “We love you more darling. Well done.”

Local mountain guide Alex Gammeter shared this picture of him skiing down last week in the Jungfrau region. | Picture: Alex Gammeter Instagram Account

The Swiss Avalanche Institute ‘SLF’ had issued an avalanche warning for the Jungfrau region on May 17, 2023, which was in place for the 17th and 18th, warning of ‘considerable’ avalanche risk, a Swiss Level 3. Recent snowfalls combined with winds had created dangerous snow drifts and it was advised to exercise extra care in steep terrain.

AValanche Danger
Avalanche danger in the south side of the Swiss Alps remains elevated at Level 3 ‘considerable’. Please exercise utmost care when skitouring in those regions. | Picture: SLF Website

The canton police Bern received a missing person’s report on Wednesday, May 17, 2023, at around 4:30 p.m. According to the police report, Kacper Tekieli had been traveling alone, and a search was initiated straight away in the area of Rottalsattel, but was unsuccessful. The search continued on Thursday, May 18, 2023, and Kacper’s body was found below the Rottal-Couloirs. The search was conducted by mountain specialists of the cantonal police Bern, Air Glaciers, Air Zermatt as well as two specialists from the Swiss Alpine Rescue Association.

Picture of the area where Kacper was found as shared by the canton police Bern. | Picture: Kantonspolizei Bern

Kacper leaves behind a toddler son, Hugo, and his wife, Justyna Kowalczyk-Tekieli. They had both accompanied him on the trip to Switzerland and climbed some smaller mountains together. Justyna Kowalczyk-Tekieli is the most successful Polish cross-country skier and a double Olympic champion and double World Champion. She had won Gold at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics and at the 2018 Sochi Olympics. She has won the World Cup a total of 50 times and won nine World Cup titles. Throughout her carrer, the 40-year-old has won numerous other legendary cross-country races, like the Birkenbeinerrennet, Norway, which she won in 2017 and 2018, and Norway’s Vasa Loppet Marathon, which she won in 2015.

Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and his many friends during this incredibly hard time. It is a tragic loss of such a qualified and experienced mountaineer.

Justyna Kowalczyk
Kacper, Justyna and Hugo in March this year at a cross country race. | Picture: Jutyna Kowalczyk Tekieli Instagram Page

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