K2, the Pakistani mountain of the Italians

This article is also available in: Italiano

K2, the most dangerous mountain in the world, deeply links its history to Italy, the first country to complete its climb in 1954, albeit with great difficulty. Since then the peak will be nicknamed “the mountain of the Italians”.

K2, the most dangerous of all

Located on the border between Pakistan and China, with its 8609 meters, K2 is the second highest mountain in the world, second only to Everest in size; unlike the latter, however, it is considered by all mountaineers as the most dangerous of all over 8’000 meters.


This is due to various considerations both, mainly related to the shapes of this peak. Unlike the Himalayan, in fact, the slopes are much steeper and more complex and this also applies to the whole mountain, even at high altitudes. Its particular latitude, then, makes the monsoons less regular and predictable which, combined with its remote location (the base camp is a good 80 km walk from the first village (60 of which are covered on the Baltoro glacier)), make it more a dream that an actually scalable peak. It is no coincidence that, unlike Everest, it was climbed, up to 2007, by only 278 people, moreover with 66 deaths; it has never been climbed in winter.

The mountain of the Italians

Among the few to have achieved the feat, however, there are also many Italians, more decisive than any other people in the discovery of K2. In 1909, in fact, the expedition of Luigi Amedeo di Savoia, Duke of the Abruzzi, inaugurated the so-called Sperone degli Abruzzi, a route that not only still exists today, but over the years has become the point from which most mountaineers set out to try accomplish this feat. In addition to this, however, the most important milestone is certainly the one reached in 1954, the year in which K2 was tamed for the first time in its history and it was Italians who did it.

The members of the Italian expedition of 1954

That year, in fact, the undertaking that will allow the Bel Paese to become one of the most representative places in the world for mountaineering was organized by Ardito Desio, the first ever to reach this summit. The expedition was attended in particular by Walter Bonatti, Lino Lacedelli and Achille Compagnoni, whose name will since then always be linked to the Pakistani mountain. In reality, only the last 2 will be able to admire the top, even if Bonatti’s contribution was decisive, so much so that, although he was not initially recognized the right merit, over the years his figure will be strongly re-evaluated, making it essential for the success of the whole. .

The night of July 30th

The famous mountaineer, in fact, on 30 July 1954 will go with Amir Mahdi, their Hunza assistant, to the 8th camp to retrieve the oxygen cylinders, essential for the last meters. Lacedelli and Compagnoni, however, to facilitate the climb of the following day, moved the field a hundred meters higher, causing enormous problems for the first 2. Without light and at about 8100 meters high, in fact, Bonatti and Mahdi remain blocked. for the night in the death zone, with temperatures of -50 ° and a sudden snowstorm to season it all.

Woman of the Hunza people

If the Italian manages to pass the heavy night de facto unharmed, Amir will be amputated some fingers and toes for the cold, forcing him to go to the hospital, where he will be blocked for about 8 months. The fact caused quite a few controversies between Pakistan and Italy, so much so that even our ambassador will have to intervene to avoid problems between the two countries. The first claimed that Mahdi had not been entrusted with equipment of a suitable level, thus creating the conditions for painful amputations. Even after 65 years, K2 remains the most inaccessible and dangerous mountain in the world, attracting adventurers and fools every year determined to inscribe their name in history.

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