This book collects the classic writings of world-famous mountaineer Walter Bonatti (many from On The Heights and The Great Days). The cover is Bonatti's route on the south-west pillar of the Aiguille du Dru. The book has 26 pages of b/w photos, an additional 3 b/w photos, and 8 route maps.
The book starts with his climbs on Grande Jorasses, Grand Capucin and Lavaredo in winter. He was then invited on the 1954 Italian K2 expedition, where Lino Lacedelli and Achille Compagnoni became the first to summit K2. Controversy struck when the expedition leaders accused him of turning back before delivering needed oxygen to them below the summit. After staying quiet for 50 years, Lacadelli finally published his view of what happened, collaborating Bonatti's story.
Bonatti continued on to execute many great climbs, including a solo climb of a new route on the south-west pillar of the Aiguille du Dru, Cerro Torre, the first ascent of Gasherbrum IV, the North Face of the Grande Jorasses in winter, an unprecedented solo ascent of the north face of the Matterhorn in winter, and the tragic story of the death of four mountaineers from exhaustion attempting to be the first to climb the Central Pillar of Freney in June 1961.
This is one of my top 10 favourite mountaineering books of all time. The photos are good. Bonatti packs his pages with a total punch, introspective, exciting, and dangerous. You can just about feel the bitter cold.
About a quarter of the book is dedicated to K2 and the aftermath. Walter Bonatti and Mahdi carried the oxygen bottles to Camp IX on July 30, 1954. But Campagnoni had intentionally moved the camp from the planned site so Bonatti could not try for the summit. Bonatti and Mahdi survived the bivouac at 8100m, but Madhi had frostbitten toes.
In 1964 a reporter printed a 10th anniversary article finally bringing out into the open Desio and Campagnoni's views of what really happened. They accused Bonatti of treachery, trying for the summit and using the oxygen. Bonatti filed a libel suit held in Turin in 1966, and was exonerated. Bonatti then does his own analysis and uses diagrams and charts to prove that the oxygen had not run out. In The Price Of Conquest from 2004, Lacedelli disagrees with Bonatti, saying that the oxygen had in fact run out.
Marshall concludes quite convincingly: "The whole affair started because Mahdi thought he and Bonatti were making an independent attempt on the summit. ... Bonatti made a very convenient villain and an ideal sacrificial goat. He was never able to defend himself because he was never accused directly."
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 8100m while they carried the oxygen supplies to the last camp.