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I have not read the book and I will not even read it.
I think that Walter Bonatti was a so great and unsurpassed mountaineer being able to arouse envy in poor poor men even after his death. The book is clearly defamatory, shames the memory of Walter Bonatti.
Writers like Mike Conefrey who wear clothes for mountaineers to become credible while are comfortably seated in an armchair would do much better to keep quiet...
My British friends of whom Chris Bonington and Doug Scott have taken the issue quite seriously as the offense was committed by a British. Doug challenged publicly Conefrey at an Alpine Club conference where he was invited and persuaded the current AC president, Lindsay Griffin and the new ACJ editor Ed Douglas to publish my article in the next AJC issue. Well edited by Ed will make my article easier to read as in a much better English. I proposed to some of my contacts in Italy such as Sandro Filippini to write the article themselves for the ACJ, but they stated that my article was good enough as it is and that also they prefer to ignore totally Conefrey and his despicable revisiting history.
Eric Vola is my former translator. He translated my last book on Everest and initially was going to work on my K2 book. He was helpful at first but when we started corresponding via e-mail, it was obvious that it wouldn’t work; I wanted to take a fresh look at the early history of K2 and base my book on original documents, he had made his mind up long ago and wasn’t interested in any new thinking.
I researched the book in the US and Italy. Just before it published in the UK, Eric saw a copy of the proofs. He wrote to me saying that I’d got the Italian story all wrong and that I should have run it past people who knew about the story ie him. Of course this was all nonsense. I had talked to plenty of climbers and historians in the UK and Italy, and discussed the history widely.
Then he started trolling me, writing negative reviews and articles. This one purports to be for British readers who might not understand the Italian 1954 story because so many of the books about it were published only Italy. Really? The version he reiterates here has been repeated endlessly over the last decade, with the key books by Robert Marshall published in English long ago.
As for the substance of his argument, it’s the same old stuff mixed up with plenty of factual errors. His prejudices blind him to the fact that this is not a simple black and white story of heroes and villains, where some people tell the truth and others are liars.
Anyone reading this article with all its diagrams, chronologies and dates might think it was a neat orderly expedition, where everything was planned out in advance, and anything that went wrong was the result of a deliberate act by one or other of the climbers. Once again, this again is just nonsense. The events described took place at high altitude where exhausted climbers were operating at their physical and mental limits using primitive equipment which they were not familiar with.
I’m not going to go through it bit by bit and point out all the errors and misunderstandings. Eric still doesn’t get the photographic evidence, doesn’t understand the historical context, and lets his prejudices and pique get in the way of any objective analysis of a complex story.
Yes, I am prejudiced to Walter and we are many in the climbing world. Mr Conefrey at a presentation at the AC was challenged by no less than Doug Scott about the issue and his response was so unimpressive to Doug that he after insisted that my article be published in the AJ, along with key AC members such as Mick Fowler, the last AC president. It is now available in the 2016 issue distributed by Cordee.
The problem with Mr Conefrey is that he is no climber. When I used to climb in the UK in the early sixties, if you were adding a peg on a route opened without, you could forget about climbing and start a new sport, rowing, polo or else. Ethics it was called and still is. I believe Mr Conefrey should move on to another sport and forget about climbers.
Yes I am prejudiced towards Walter just like I am towards Chris Bonington, Doug Scott, Mick Fowler, Victor Saunders, Andy Parkin, Martin Boysen to name some of the best known climbers whom I know and some whom I climbed with and to add a French, Pierre Mazeaud, most faithful friend of Bonatti and even more prejudiced towards him than I. With any of those I would go or have gone climbing without any fear of being let down. A total lack of objectivity you may believe, but I'll risk my life on it anytime. Would you?
This is an absurd position. So no author or director can make a documentary or write a book about something they haven’t experienced?
In my career, I've made historical films and written books about many different subjects. My K2 film won awards all round the world. The last book I wrote on Everest won two awards in Italy; that's partly why I was able to spend so much time there, researching this one.
The Ghosts of K2 is based on work that I’ve done over a 15 year period interviewing and researching in archives in the UK, the US, Italy. With regard to the 1954 expedition I came to a different conclusion than the prevailing ‘official version’, but what am I ultimately suggesting: simply that the two men who reached the summit of K2, told the truth about their oxygen running out on the way up. Is that really such an unpalatable truth, so impossible to consider?
Eric uses the words ‘liar’ or ‘lies’ almost 30 times in an article full of factual errors and fundamental misunderstandings. He vilifies others on the basis of what? Not research, not knowledge, not for any real desire to find the truth, just prejudice.
Generally I do not mind non climbers writing about climbers, some are good writers and will write good stories even on a subject they know little to start with, but that they really thoroughly researched and particularly when they like the characters they write about. But this time to see such a great climber as Walter Bonatti being disparaged, I do. Conefrey made a documentary film a year before the publication which was shown on Italian TV in which he only questionned the usage of oxygen by Compagnoni and Lacedelli as Bonatti had advocated. In return he had strong reactions of leading characters such as Luigi Zanzi who had been the president of the CAI commitee which rehabilited Walter in 2007 and of Reinhold Messner which I quote hereafter:
"La gazetta dello sport 26 july 2014
L’avventuroso di Reinhold Messner
…. Now the documentary filmmaker Mick Conefrey of the BBC reopens [the controversy which had ended in 2007]. Looking at the great images shot on the summit by Compagnoni and Lacedelli, he saw bottles of two colors. But Erich Abram, who had tested them all, always said that the German ones (blue according to Conefrey) were more reliable because they leaked less than the Italian ones (red according to the documentary filmmaker) and he chose only the best. Regardless of colors. Oxygen did not end before the summit: it is a fact that they had all the cylinders (three each) on the summit, despite the fact that it meant 20 kilos on their back. Just look at the pictures and not just at the movie."
Conefrey never tried to meet Reinhold, nor Luigi, nor Erich Abram, the sole survivor of the K2 Italian expedition, nor did he took notice of what told him a very close friend of Walter whom I had introduced him to when he started working on his book. What kind of research is that?
Conefrey in his book does not just suggest that Compagnoni and Lacedelli said the truth about their oxygen running out. He goes much further and makes of Walter a sick man, a paranoiac. But on just that point above, he forgets that finally in 2004 Lacedelli admitted that they did not run out of oxygen 2 hours before the summit but "maybe" just 30 minutes. And he has the guts to state that they did not lie when one of the two admitted that they had lied for 50 years? A matter of some 300 feet difference at the altitude of 8 500 m is of no signification for Conefrey and therefore it is not a lie!
I didn't make a film a year before my book was published and it wasn't shown on Italian TV and that's not what Messner's piece was about. Fact.
And Lacedelli and Compagnoni didn't carry three cylinders of oxygen to the summit of K2. They had two, the middle cylinder of each set is missing. It's in the archives in Turin, in documents and photographs.
Eric talks of ethics but continually writes stuff that is untrue and unchecked. He has no idea who I did or didn't talk to in writing my book, and continually misreads and represents my book, writing things that I never wrote, and distorting what I did.
Did RSI and Luigi Zanzi and Reinhold dreamed about this documentary film shown in Italy in 2014?
See Luigi Zanzi
Reinhold Messner http://archiviostorico.gazzetta.it//2014/luglio/26/impresa_compagnoni_lacedelli_polemica_riaperta_ga_0_20140726_e3f6182a-1489-11e4-8148-d10a7f36e1d8.shtml
and Leonardo Bizzaro journalist at La Repubica:
http://www.repubblica.it/cultura/2014/07/25/news/k2_la_verit_60_anni_dopo_compagnoni_e_lacedelli_erano_a_corto_di_ossigeno-92343738/ in which he writes: "...[Conefrey] after filming a documentary on the story of the K2 - last year  it was also translated into Italian by Corbaccio..."
Yes Reinhold made a mistake about the number of cylinders, but that does not change his argument and it was a perfect justification to meet him to clarify and discuss the point with the man who had been so instrumental in having the CAI reassess the whole Bonatti K2 case.
And Abram was easily contactable then as this 2014 interview shows:
Though Eric keeps on changing it, this article is the same old nonsense. When he published a version of it in the Alpine Journal, they were forced to print a prominent apology to me in the next edition because there were so many errors and inaccuracies (I counted 37) and a new article in which I explained what Vola had got wrong (see the Alpine Journal 2017). The AJ had the decency to admit they were wrong, Eric doesn't. Grudgingly he continually changes, but it's still full of nonsense. He cites all these people at the end who are supposed to have 'contributed' to this article, but when I spoke to them they disowned it.