Italian climbing legend, Walter Bonatti, dies

Featured, Membership

Walter Bonatti, one of the greatest mountaineers of the 20th century – and UIAA honorary member, passed away on September 13 in Rome.

Walter Bonatti was born on 22nd June, 1930 in Bergamo, Italy. His first big ascent was the north face of the Grandes Jorasses , Pointe Walker in the Mount Blanc range. When he was only 19 he started training to become a mountain guide.

In 1951 he did the first ascent of the East face of the Grand Capucin and in 1953 he made the first winter ascent of the North face of the Cima Ovest di Lavaredo in the Dolomites.

Bonatti was 24 years old when he was chosen to join the Italian K2 expedition in 1954, the youngest man on the team. Bonatti was not one of the two climbers who reached the summit, but he helped them by transporting oxygen to an altitude of 8100 meters. He and his Hunsa colleague Amir Mahdi had to spend the night out in the open at this altitude, which no-one thought would be possible to survive. Bonatti has always claimed that the summit climbers refused to help them and left them to die. Although the rest of the expedition members denied this for decades, Bonatti’s story and his role in the first ascent have now been confirmed.

Bonatti went on to become famous for his pioneering and technically difficult climbs, solo and winter climbs and first ascents. He only took on mountains that offered almost impossible challenges. Read more