K2 First – Lino Lacedelli dead at 83

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We lost another great climber in November, Lino Lacedelli at age 83.

He and Achille Compagnoni were the first two men to summit K2 on July 31,1954 – a year after the first Everest summit. He died in his hometown of Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy.

Their summit brought great pride to Italy. However, as is usually the case in significant mountaineering events, this first was also immersed in controversy.

Lacedelli and Compagnoni made their way up K2 establishing a high camp at 8,100 meters. Two additional climbers providing support by carrying additional oxygen bottles were supposed to rendezvous with them at the high camp.

However, when the support climbers, Walter Bonatti and Pakistani porter Amir Mahdi arrived, they could not find the camp. Mahdi and Bonatti were forced to bivy and suffered severe frostbite.

Believing that the lead team was trying to keep the summit for themselves, Bonatti accused them of moving the camp. Compagnoni then countered that Bonatti had siphoned off some of the oxygen to sabotage their summit.

Both parties sued back in Italy, with  Compagnoni’s accusation thrown out of court and Bonatti winning a libel suit. The arguments continued for decades in books, interviews and in the court of public opinion.

Finally in 2004, Lacedelli wanting to speak publicly after decades of silence wrote that he and Compagnoni had in fact moved the rendezvous place so as to use the extra oxygen for their own summit. The book, K2: The Price of Conquest, was translated into English in 2006.

In 2007, the Club Alpino Italiano, agreed with Bonatti’s version who made many impressive climbing feats throughout his life. Lacedelli ran a climbing store, K2 Sports, for decades in Italy. Compagnoni died this past May at age 94.

–Alan Arnette

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