Rutkiewicz, who was born in 1943, is being remembered on the 41st anniversary of her historic achievement.
Why is she being celebrated?
Rutkiewicz achieved a number of firsts in her life, becoming the first Polish woman to climb Everest - as well as the third woman ever to do so - and the first woman to scale K2, the world’s second-highest mountain.
Her achievement at K2 is especially impressive as the mountain is widely-thought to be the deadliest peak in existence, and because she climbed it without using supplemental oxygen.
Two of her fellow climbers perished on the descent from the mountain top, but Rutkiewicz went on to scale eight of the 14 mountains in the world that are higher than 8,000 metres.
Who was she?
Rutkiewicz was born in Plunge, Lithuania, and moved with her family to Poland after World War II.
She discovered climbing by chance in 1961 when her motorcycle ran out of fuel and she was helped by a man on a climb of the Falcon Mountains.
Despite her talent, Rutkiewicz found some male climbers were condescending towards her and she became an advocate for women’s climbing and all-female expeditions.
Speaking about her love of climbing, she said:
I adored the physical movement, the fresh air, the camaraderie, and the excitement.
How did she die?
In short, mysteriously. Rutkiewicz was last seen alive by a Mexican climber called Carlos Carsolio in 1992 while climbing Kangchenjunga - the world’s third highest mountain - and her body has never been found.
It is not known if she managed to complete the summit of Kangchenjunga, which would have made her the first woman to reach the top of the world’s three highest mountains.