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September 26, 1914|
Santa Caterina di Valfurva, Italy
|Died||May 13, 2009
On the successful K2 expedition, Compagnoni's decision to place the final camp (IX) at a higher location than formerly agreed was a source of controversy. Compagnoni alleged that Walter Bonatti had used some of the oxygen supply intended for the summit, causing it to run out on summit day. Walter Bonatti disputed this, and was cleared in the Italian courts in 1964.
Bonatti and Hunza climber, Mahdi, climbed up to deliver oxygen to Compagnoni and Lacedilli for their summit attempt. It was an epic climb with the weight of the oxygen bottles at that altitude and both men were exhausted. Bonatti and Hunza arrived in failing light at a point on the "shoulder" at 26000 ft where the team had agreed to place camp IX. To their surprise the camp was not there. Alarmed, Bonatti and Mahdi called out to Compagnoni and Lacedilli who eventually answered from a site further up and left on the mountain, instructing Bonatti to leave the bottles and descend down the mountain. Bonatti could see the headlamp shining from the site over a difficult traverse in the dark, 600 ft away. Bonatti pleaded with Compagnoni and Lacedilli to join them in the camp. The headlamp abruptly switched off and despite continue pleas from Bonatti and Mahdi, Compagnoni and Lacedilli remain silent, sentencing Bonatti and Mahdi to an unplanned bivouac at 26000 ft in the open (see article in French newspaper Le Monde : ).
Bonatti assessed that Mahdi was not in a fit state to downclimb safely at night. He stayed on the "shoulder" with Mahdi battling snow drifts and the cold all night. It cost Mahdi his fingers and toes. Compagnoni explains his decision to move the tent was to avoid an overhanging serac. However his motive actually was to prevent Walter Bonatti from reaching the camp and hence join the summit team in an attempt. Bonatti was easily in the best physical condition of all the climbers and the logical choice to make the summit attempt. If he had joined the summit team, he would likely have done so without the use of supplemental oxygen. If he had succeeded, any summit by Compagnoni would have been eclipsed. Compagnoni intended to discourage Bonatti from reaching the tent.
At 6:10 pm the next evening, Compagnoni and Lino Lacedelli reached the summit of K2, using the supplemental oxygen Bonatti and Mahdi had brought them. Expedition leader Ardito Desio, in his final report, mentioned the forced bivouac only in passing. Mahdi's frostbite was an embarrassment to the expedition. The Italian government provided Mahdi with a small pension for his contribution and sacrifice on the first ascent of K2.
In 2004, Lino Lacedelli confirmed Bonatti's version of events in his book, K2. Il prezzo della conquista (see also his interview in National Geographical Magazine in an article on Bonatti ). In 2006 an English translation appeared; K2: The Price of Conquest. In 2008, the Club Alpino Italiano officially recognized Bonatti's version of these events. Walter Bonatti never reconciled with Compagnoni.
During his service at the Alpini corps of the Italian army, he participated together with Lieutenant Giuseppe Lamberti and Sergeant Ettore Schranz at the fourth edition of the legendary Trofeo Mezzalama, when their team placed second.
Further notable results were:
- 1939: 2nd, Italian men's championships of cross-country skiing, 50 km
- 1940: 1st, Italian men's championships of cross-country skiing, 36 km
- 1941: 3rd, Italian men's championships of cross-country skiing, 50 km
- 1942: 3rd, Italian men's championships of cross-country skiing, 18 km
Italian orders of merit
- Uomini sul K2, Achille Compagnoni, 1958, Veronelli Editore, Milano IT.
- Il Tricolore sul K2, Achille Compagnoni, 1958, Veronelli Editore, Milano IT.
- The Mountains of My Life, Walter Bonatti.
- K2. Storia di un caso, Walter Bonatti.
- K2. La verità. 1954-2004, Walter Bonatti, 2005, Baldini Castoldi Dalai editore. ISBN 88-8490-845-0.
- K2. Il prezzo della conquista, Lino Lacedelli and Giovanni Cenacchi, 2004, Mondadori, IT. ISBN 978-88-04-53556-0
- K2: The Price of Conquest, Lino Lacedelli and Giovanni Cenacchi, 2006, Carreg Ltd. UK. ISBN 0-9538631-3-1.
- K2. Lies and Treachery, Robert Marshall, 2009, Carreg Ltd. UK. ISBN 978-0-9538631-7-4.