Walter Bonatti

Page Type
Hiking, Mountaineering, Trad Climbing, Sport Climbing, Toprope, Ice Climbing, Big Wall, Mixed, Scrambling, Skiing
24060 Hits
97.41% Score
Log in
to vote
Page By:
Walter Bonatti
Created On: Sep 24, 2007
Last Edited On: Sep 26, 2007

One of the greatest climber

"The mountains have rules. They are harsh rules, but they are there, and if you keep to them you are safe. A mountain is not like men. A mountain is sincere. The weapons to conquer it exist inside you, inside your soul."

Walter BonattiWalter Bonatti

Walter Bonatti was born on 22th of June, 1930 in Bergamo, Italy. In the young days he lived in Monza which is not a city in the mountains. He said that in his young days every day that he spent it in mountains it was a feast day. His holidays spent by his uncles in the mountains of Bergamo were full of adventures. He spent every day by strolling in the mountains. At the end of his childish years he made a final exam of high school with a lot of problems. But this was necessary because he had to get a job. The Second World War just ended and it was hard to get a job. These were hard days for surivirval. Walter had many hopeless feelings about that kind of life. So he decided to continue an education. Across days he was working, in the evenings he was spending time in school. He made a diploma. It was really hard to come back to the people after spending the whole weekend in the mountains where he felt freedom. These trips to mountains became more and more infrequent. Soon he recognized that mathematical problems are not for him so he left the job of accountant. He realized that his life is written to the mountains. In year 1954 he became a mountain guide. Three years later he moved to Courmayer below the mighty Mont Blanc group. Here the real life of Bonatti started.

Grandes Jorasses   s North...Grandes Jorasses and its north face.
The magnificent Grand CapucinThe magnificent Grand Capucin.

He made so many amazing ascents that is hard to describe all of them. So I made a short list and describe the most important successes of his climbing career.
For start to mention how his climbing career started. He made his first ascents in the towers of Grignett, then climbed in Adamello group and he was soon successful with his first big ascent. This was a 1000 meters high southwest face of Croz dell` Altissimo in Dolomites. He made a first repetition of the direct route. Then he made some good ascents in the group of Masino – Bregaglia. This was in the year 1949 when he was 19 years old. But all these ascents were almost one year of preparing for first mighty face, the north face of Grandes Jorasses. His goal was a powerful Walker spur and the repetition of Cassin`s route. After some unsuccessful tries he came below the face with Andrea Oggioni (later his big friend and climbing partner), Emilio Villa and Mario Bianchi. Some days before with Oggioni and Villa he made a third repetition of the direct route in Aiguille Noire de Peuterey. After three days they climbed the famous Cassin`s route. I think this was the fifth repetition of the route. He was only 19 years old.
The next important ascent was over the east face of Grand Capucin in the year 1951. He was successful in the third attempt after for long days of climbing. His climbing partner was Luciano Ghigo.
Tre Cime di Lavaredo (Drei Zinnen).Tre Cime di Lavaredo (Drei Zinnen).
Majestic face of K2 (8611-M), KarakoramK2, Karakorum.

If we read his famous book The mountains of my life we knew he mentioned that a period of 15 months during service for alpine forces was one of the happiest moment in his life. He spent this period of his life all around the Alps and he found a new goal: climbing the wild north face of Tre Cime di Lavaredo in Winter! He became with hard training and his companion was Carlo Mauri from Lecco. The last goal and test before Tre Cime was a wild south pillar of Tofana di Rozes. They were unsuccessful because of the bad weather but they got the final important experience. In the february 1953 they went for some days below the Tre Cime di Lavaredo. They needed three days for climbing over the wild north face of Cima Ovest di Lavaredo over the Cassin`s route. When I was reading his book I was suprised and impressed that the temperature just before the sunrise was 24°C below zero. Now you can imagine how hard is to climb so hard route as Cassin` s route in cold Winter. After three days of resting they were also successful in the north face of the highest Cima in classic route Comici – Dimai.
Next big story is from the expedition on the second highest mountain in the world K2. Bonatti was at the centre of a climbing controversy regarding the first successful attempt by Lino Lacedelli and Achille Compagnoni in the year 1954, where as a 24 years old he helped ferry oxygen cylinders to the summiteers at Camp IX on the altitude around 8000 meters. Because of the bad weather and visibility Bonatti and sherpa could not find a camp. They spent a night at around 8000 meters outside standing in the face. It was a miracle that they survived.
Extreme close up of DruBonatti`s pillar in Les Drus.
Mont Blanc - Brenva wallMont Blanc - Brenva wall.

One of the his most amazing climbs was the ascent over the mighty southwest pillar of Petit Dru in 1955. He made many attempts to climb it but the mountain was always stronger. The big problem was the wild couloir between Petit Dru and Flammes de Pierre. Bonatti said this was for him the wildest couloir. You have to climb through the couloir to the start of the southwest pillar. The last and successful ascent was made solo. He came below the pillar from the end of couloir abseiling down. In five days he made a masterpiece. Climbing alone so hard route! After a huge rockfall in June 2005 the part of Bonatti pillar has gone.
Bonatti was living in Courmayer so he was homelike in Mont Blanc group. He made many climbs in the faces and pillars of Mont Blanc and its neighbours. I have mentioned some of the most important climbs. He opened a new route over the Pillar D`Angle in east face of Mont Blanc called Brenva`s face. He made many repetitions of the important routes in Mont Blanc`s face as Brenva spur, Route Major (solo), Piore (a pear), all the main ridges as Brouillard Ridge, Innominata Ridge and Peuterey Ridge. With his big friend Oggioni he made many repetition of the most important routes for this time. I have to mention also the route over the Red pillar of Brouillard. If you have not read his book The mountains of my life I really suggest you to read it. You must see how lovely he described the area around Mont Blanc. You can really imagine how he loves this area.

He was also successful in some expeditions in Andes. Very important is also a first climb on mighty Gasherbrum IV, 7980m in Himalaya.
Gasherbrum-IVGasherbrum IV, 7980m
From the summit of the...The mighty north face of Matterhorn - Monte Cervino.

The most tragical and sad story in his climbing was an attempt of the first route in very hard Central Pillar of Frêney in the face of Mont Blanc. He lost his greatest friend, Andrea Oggioni. In this climb they were caught (also four French climbers) in the pillar for 7 days (they were four nights in the same place in the pillar). Only Bonatti and two French climbers surivived.
After this really tragic and hard events Bonatti decided to stop climbing. But he could not refused visiting mountains so he decided only to travel around and visiting easy mountains.

But the last big adventure for Bonatti was in the year 1965. One hundred years after the first ascent on Matterhorn he climbed first direct route over the powerful north face of Matterhorn alone and in Winter. This was really an amazing achievement.

The mighty adventure was also a first tour skiing trip over the whole Alps in year 1956. This route that they (with three friends) made was 1795 kilometres long, with 73193 meters of ascent in 66 days. They also climbed on some popular mountains (like Ortler, Weisskugel / Palla Bianca, Mont Blanc and some others) This was really an amazing trip.

Bonatti was awarded the French Legion d'Honneur for saving the lives of two fellow-climbers in a disaster in the Alps. Bonatti is the author of many books about climbing and mountaineering. After his end of climbing he has made many lectures about mountains and climbing. They are very interesting and well accepted by people.



Post a Comment
Viewing: 1-20 of 25

Andino - Sep 25, 2007 2:18 am - Voted 10/10

It is important to mention...

that on the K2 ascent, the didn't find the last camp at 8000m, because the head climbers move away that camp. They didn't want Bonatti to climb the summit with them the next day. There was a huge controversy for decades. A few months ago, one of the two climbers that managed to reach K2 admitted they had moved the tents.


Bor - Sep 25, 2007 2:54 am - Hasn't voted

Re: It is important to mention...

Thanks for the info!


Augie Medina

Augie Medina - Sep 25, 2007 3:49 pm - Voted 10/10

Nice Article

Mountains of my Life is certainly one of the best books in mountaineering literature and Bonatti is a pioneering legend.


Andino - Sep 26, 2007 1:55 am - Voted 10/10

Re: Nice Article

I totally agree with you, Augie !


Bor - Sep 26, 2007 2:04 am - Hasn't voted

Re: Nice Article



Bor - Sep 26, 2007 2:08 am - Hasn't voted

Re: On your article...

Thanks for this! Useful and interesting information!



gramps - Sep 26, 2007 1:31 am - Hasn't voted

K2 fiasco

If I remember right, the K2 controversy wasn't really about the tents. The the two that summited claimed they ran out of oxygen on summit day, and Bonatti brought up the tanks, and had an open bivy at 8000m. There was a smear campaign against Bonatti, claiming he somehow used the oxygen himself, even though he didn't have a mask to go with the tanks. It has recently come to light that Lacedelli and Compagnoni lied about running out of oxygen (they did not), and purposefully did not help Bonatti find the high camp, instead letting him spend the night out, and then got the oxygen tanks from him the next morning, in order to insure that he would not try for the summit himself. Pretty incredible really, that climbers would purposefully risk a team member's life and limbs like that, and then smear the person they had wronged, just to give themselves an edge in the summit race and press.


Bor - Sep 26, 2007 2:11 am - Hasn't voted

Re: K2 fiasco

Yes, this is really sad. Like sergio said this was very hard and terrible for him spending night there and following feelings for his life.



ganesh70 - Sep 26, 2007 2:15 am - Voted 10/10


I know well that story. Bonatti was the rising star of the italian alpinism and Lacedelli and Compagnoni wouldn't want to share the fame and the success of a great exploit like that with him. They moved the tents and Bonatti and the sherpa had to bivouac in the death zone. A bad story of envy and jealousy, that could have ended in a tragedy. Also Ardito Desio, the famous explorer that organized the expedition, said that Bonatti was a liar, probably just to avoid any controversy.


Bor - Sep 26, 2007 2:17 am - Hasn't voted

Re: k2

Thanks Fabrizio also for your subscription.



Bor - Sep 27, 2007 2:10 am - Hasn't voted

Re: k2

Yes Bonatti said in his book that this expedition was below big pressure of public and they have to be successful.


allari - Jun 30, 2008 7:08 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: k2

They say time is a gentleman. I think by now everyone acknowledges the all important role that Bonatti had in the successful climbing of K2. Without his important contribution, Compagnoni and Lacedelli would have most likely not been able to summit the mountain.
Thankfully, and although very late, the final word about this story has been told.
Congratulations, Walter, great among the greatest.

Gabriele Roth

Gabriele Roth - Sep 26, 2007 1:04 pm - Hasn't voted

you mentioned

among the climbers of the Walker N spur my old friend Mario Bianchi :)

Gabriele Roth

Gabriele Roth - Sep 27, 2007 1:56 am - Hasn't voted

Re: you mentioned

yes, he is 79yo now, last time we met was about 1 year ago, we live in the same town.

We were a happy rope team, sometimes other members of CAAI came with us, granting more amusement.
In the '80 he was still able to lead short (max 300m) routes on 6° grade


Bor - Sep 27, 2007 2:12 am - Hasn't voted

Re: you mentioned

Nice to hear that you know Bianchi. I read in many books also about him.

Gabriele Roth

Gabriele Roth - Sep 27, 2007 2:50 am - Hasn't voted

Re: you mentioned

NO books about him!
Mario is really bashful, like his best friends (Silvio Sandri e Vaschino) and many other members of CAAI (Bufera, Vasco, Giorgio, Califfo ecc) he never made "advertising".
I myself don't know the list of the routes he climbed, we never spoke about "done" but only about "to be done".
Anecdote : when some wannabe was trying to join our chats he used to ask :
(Milan dialect) "t'è fà la Valcher ? ... No ? Alura tàs !"
(translation) "did you climb the Walker spur ? ... No ? Keep quiet
It was really amusing seeing their look after this answer :)

Gabriele Roth

Gabriele Roth - Sep 27, 2007 3:06 am - Hasn't voted

Re: you mentioned

we are/were all amateurs :)
on saturday afternoon in Medale (Baiedo, Antimedale), some weekends in Masino or Brenta then, summer holidays !!! ... we use to climb to amuse ! (I was the sucker)


Bor - Sep 27, 2007 3:07 am - Hasn't voted

Re: you mentioned

It will be interesting to hear that also in English :)


Bor - Sep 27, 2007 4:10 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: you mentioned

He no problem, but these are interesting stories I think.


Gabriele Roth

Gabriele Roth - Sep 27, 2007 4:28 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: you mentioned

true stories that can't be found on books :)
I think that books about climbers are not a good media to speak about them ...

Viewing: 1-20 of 25