Climbing Legend Walter Bonatti Has Passed Away

The mountaineering community lost one of its living legends last night when Italian climber Walter Bonatti passed away at the age of 81. He is best remembered for pioneering new routes in the Alps, Patagonia and the Himalaya.

Among Bonatti’s more famous accomplishments were the solo winter ascent of the Matterhorn’s North Face and first ascents on the Southwest Pillar of Aiguille du Dru and the Grand Capucin. Other notable climbs include Gasherbrum IV, Rondoy North, and multiple summits of the Grandes Jorasses.

Bonatti played a pivotal role in the first ascent of K2 as well, although it took decades for him to get the recognition he deserved. Working in support of Lino Lacedelli and Achille Compagnoni, Bonatti helped establish and stock the high camps on the mountain in preparation for the eventual summit bid.

On that successful attemp, Lacedelli and Compagnoni ran out of oxygen and accused Bonatti of using it while he was at Camp IX, an accusation that Bonatti vehemently denied, as he didn’t even have a regulator or oxygen mask with him at that point of the climb. That expedition took place in 1954 and it took until 2008 for Bonatti to be officially cleared of the accusations and get the credit he deserved.

An active, daring, and visionary climber, Bonatti wrote numerous books on mountaineering and inspired a generation of climbers that followed him. He quietly passed away in Rome leaving his widow Rossana Podesta behind.

Godspeed Walter.

Kraig Becker