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K2 THE PRICE OF CONQUEST: CONFESSIONS FROM THE FIRST ASCENT OF K2 Lino Lacedelli Paperback
By Lacedelli, Lino & Giovanni Cenacchi
Price: $16.95


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2006. After 50 years of silence, at last a full account of what really happened during the legendary 1954 K2 expedition, an epic achievement that has always been clouded in mystery. On July 31, 1954, two Italians, Achille Compagnoni and Lino Lacedelli, became the first humans to summit K2. The event was celebrated in Italy with great pride, but when the team, led by Ardito Desio, returned home a terrible accusation was leveled at them.

One of the members of the expedition, Walter Bonatti, said the two climbers who summitted had put his life in danger by abandoning him before the final stretch so that they could reach the top without him. But the official version of the climb, written by leader Desio and confirmed by all other members of the expedition, said that hadn't happened, that Bonatti's accusations were unfounded, the result of a misunderstanding.

Today, more than 50 years after the event, summiter Achille Lacedelli tells his own terrible version of the truth: in the night before the summit attempt, he and Compagnoni deliberately failed to make their rendezvous with Bonatti, forcing him to abandon the final ascent so they could have the oxygen tanks he carried with him.

This is a story of courage & ambition, of glory & guilt, of more than 50 years of hiding the truth that became Lino Lacedelli's Price of Conquest. Paperback.

 
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Lino Lacedelli was born in Cortina d'Ampezzo (Province of Belluno).

Together with Achille Compagnoni, he was the first man to reach the summit of K2 on July 31, 1954. The expedition was led by Ardito Desio.

Lino Lacedelli’s Book

Price of Conquest: Confessions from the First Ascent of K2
Italians proudly describe the first ascent of K2 as one of the golden pages in climbing history. However, not everything was epic in the expedition. While Lino Lacedelli and Achille Compagnoni were celebrated as national heroes; a furious Walter Bonatti accused Lino and Achille to have abandoned him in the death zone.

The dark side of the K2 conquest:
In 1954 Bonatti was a 24 year old member in Ardito Desio’s K2 expedition. Bonatti and local porter Madhi were ordered to bring spare oxygen bottles to Lino and Achille on summit push from final camp 8. The high camp was further away than Bonatti and Madhi had expected and night fell before they reached it. When they called outside their climbing mates' tents, Bonatti and Madhi were told by Lino and Achille to leave the O2 and descend… in full night, at 8100m. Walter and Madhi survived a night in the open at K2’s shoulder, but the Pakistani lost all his fingers to frostbite.

52 years of silence and lies: Back home, the summit team not only denied all charges, butCompagnoni counter-attacked Bonatti accusing him of trying to sabotagetheir summit push and steal the top for himself. Bonatti, who madefirst ascent of Gasherbrum IV in 1958, was ostracized from the climbingcommunity and in 1965 gave up mountaineering.

Bonatti has since published 'The Mountains of My Life', an autobiography with stories about the expedition of 1954. In his book Bonatti displays proof of his innocence, including a photograph of Lino and Achille wearing oxygen masks on the summit.

Lino speaks up 50 years after the 1954 K2 expedition a very old Lino Lacedelli - who had remained silent all this time - couldn’t face to take the truth with him to the grave. In a book, he has confessed what really happened, thus changing the course of history.

A desperate night at 8100m on K2 On the night before the first ascent of K2, Walter Bonatti and the Hunza porter Mahdi had to endure a freezing, storm-swept bivouac high on the shoulder of K2, while their companions Achille Compagnoni and Lino Lacedelli spent the night in a tent literally within hailing distance. As agreed before hand, Bonatti and Mahdi had carried the oxygen bottles for the summit team who were waiting for them in Camp 9. But the top camp was placed in a different, higher location than Bonatti had expected, and so when they couldn’t find the tent, they were forced into a desperate emergency bivouac at an altitude of 8100 meters.

Since then the controversy has raged as to exactly why the high camp was moved higher, did the oxygen really run out several hours below the summit as claimed, and if so, when exactly did Lacedelli and Compagnoni start out for the summit then? And since they could communicate with either verbally, why on earth didn’t Compagnoni and Lacedelli help them over to the safety of their tent?

From K2 to court: Ten years after the ascent, accusations that had been simmering just below the surface finally publicly erupted. Mountaineering journalist Nino Giglio published several newspaper articles based on interviews with Compagnoni and the expedition’s Pakistani liaison officer Colonel Ata-Ullah. It was claimed that Bonatti had tried to beat Lacedelli and Compagnoni to the summit and that he used oxygen during his bivouac that caused the summiter’s supply to run out early, and that Bonatti had deserted Mahdi and so was responsible for his frostbite and subsequent amputations.

These accusations prompted Bonatti to file and win a libel suit against Giglio and the newspaper (the damages were donated to an orphanage). It was easy to prove that Bonatti couldn’t have used the oxygen since he didn’t have the masks or tubing, just the bottles. But once mud is thrown, it tends to stick. Bonatti found himself on the outside, while Lacedelli, Compagnoni and expedition leader Ardito Desio maintained their version of events, at least regarding departure times and the oxygen running out early.

Lino discloses the truth 50 years after Now, after 50 years of maintaining the party line, Lino Lacedelli has written a book with Giovanni Cenacchi - “Price of Conquest: Confessions from the First Ascent of K2” - where he finally tells the truth of what really happened that night. But first here’s a continued review of what the story has been up to now according to both sides:

1954: The morning after Surviving the stormy night out, first Mahdi and then Bonatti descended back to Camp 8, which Bonatti reached shortly after Mahdi at 7 AM (this was verified by another team member, Pino Gallotti, in Camp 8). Bonatti has stated that while descending, he repeatedly scanned the slopes above him for some sign of Compagnoni and Lacedelli, but saw no trace of them, even though the summit pair claims to have left their tent at the first glimmer of light in the eastern sky (dawn was at 4:54 AM according to the official meteorological tables for K2).

Regardless of what the departure time actually was, the next morning after a bitterly cold night in the tent, the summit pair emerged outside and then:

“Suddenly to our amazement, we caught sight of a figure receding into the distance. Who was it – Bonatti or Mahdi? From such a long way off it was impossible to tell. We called out to the man at the top of our voices. He stopped and turned around, but he did not answer, and after a moment he resumed his halting progress down the precipitous slope. We were simply flabbergasted”.

After some initial hesitation regarding the weather, Compagnoni and Lacedelli descended to the bivouac site and picked up the oxygen Bonatti and Mahdi had carried up the previous day. According to Compagnoni and Lacedelli, after connecting their masks to the oxygen bottles, they were ready to leave by about 6:15 AM, even though Bonatti could still see the bivouac site as he descended and claims to have seen nothing.

The tough path to glory Compagnoni and Lacedelli’s epic ascent of the crux of the route – the serac threatened Bottleneck and the horribly exposed and icy Traverse to the summit slopes – is a classic of mountaineering literature. Adding to a day of bottomless snow, icy rock pitches, and terrifying exposure, they claimed the oxygen ran out several hours below the summit. But instead of taking off the heavy oxygen cylinders, they kept climbing to the top, which was reached at about 6 PM (this time is not in dispute since they were observed from below climbing the last few feet to the summit).

Lacedelli and Compagnoni were national heroes, and Italian pride justifiably swelled to fill the gap left by the destruction of the Second World War. But what of Bonatti and Mahdi’s role in all of this? Certainly they deserve accolades for their support of the summit pair, who would have had a tough time making the top without the crucial oxygen supplies they carried up in support.

Bonatti, the forgotten one  Bonatti, in particular, had descended all the way from Camp 8 to Camp 7 to pick up oxygen, where joined by Mahdi and Erich Abrams, continued carrying all the way back up almost as far as Camp 9! But hardly any mention was made of them in the expedition book or original version of the expedition film.

It was Bonatti’s turn to be flabbergasted.

If you read the official expedition book written by the leader Ardito Desio, early explorer and pioneer geologist of the Karakoram, Bonatti and Mahdi’s forced bivouac barely takes up a whole page, and can be summarized by these passages:

“The two men, realizing that they could only descend at the risk oftheir lives, dug a hole in the snow and prepared to spend the night in it – a night in which at such an altitude was bound to be terrible beyond words”.  It was. The proud Mahdi - who had helped carry the crippled Hermann Buhl down Nanga Parbat the year before - lost most of his fingers and toes to frostbite as a result.

Cries in the wind That’s it, no further mention of Bonatti and Mahdi’s increasingly more frantic pleas for help - or the appearance of a light from the direction of the assault camp - only the brief conversation between Lacedelli and Bonatti which ended after it was determined that the oxygen had been delivered.

The summit pair claimed that the wind carried his words away (Bonatti claimed there was no wind and conversation was easy as if they were just around the corner), and apparently misunderstood Bonatti’s shouted remark that he could “manage by himself”, not realizing that he was referring to his ability to descend safely in the dark as opposed to Mahdi. They shouted at them “Go back! Go back! Leave the masks!  Don’t come any farther!”, and it “did not even occur to us” that at such a late hour without a tent and sleeping bags, they wouldn’t turn around and head back to the safety of Camp 8.

Actually Bonatti refers the shout of Mahdi when he realized they had been abandoned and should pass the night out on a bivouc at 8100m:  'No good, Compagnoni Sahib! No good, Lacedelli Sahib!'.

5 decades of official version For nearly fifty years this was the official story given by Desio, Compagnoni and Lacedelli. Until recently that is, when Lino Lacedellico authored his book with Giovanni Cenacchi - Price of Conquest: Confessions from the First Ascent of K2- where the old guide finally spills the beans and gives a different version of what happened that night. A version that more closely matches what Bonatti has been saying all along.

CAI 2008 report

In 2008 the CLUB ALPINO ITALIANO recognised officially that Bonatti's version of the ascent was correct. Compagnoni and Lacedelli reached the summit with oxygen after putting the life of Bonatti and the hunza Madhi in serious risk by denying them help at 8100 Meters while they carried the oxygen supplies to the last camp. Desio did not mention anything about these tragic events in his official report.

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