The Italian Almanac

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Achille Compagnoni

Achille Compagnoni

One of the two Italians who conquered the world`s second-highest mountain in 1954 has died at the age of 94. Achille Compagnoni reached the peak of K2 with Lino Lacedelli on July 31, 1954, just over a year after Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay conquered Everest. The feat came a few years after British and US expeditions had been defeated by K2, generally regarded as the world`s most dangerous mountain. It would not be conquered again for another 23 years.

A tremendous boost to Italian pride, the achievement engineered by historic mountaineer and explorer, the late `Caesar of the Himalayas` Ardito Desio, sparked wild street celebrations. Compagnoni, a former Alpine soldier recognised as one of Italy`s toughest climbers, was 40 when he made the final climb from the expedition`s last camp along with Lacedelli, then 30 and now 104.He suffered frostbite on the way down.

Among his other achievements, Compagnoni was Italian Nordic skiing champion and climbed the Matterhorn several times using different routes before leaving the climbing world and setting up a hotel in Cervinia which he ran until his death. He, Lacedelli and Desio, who died in 2004 at the age of 104, received Italy`s one of Italy`s highest civic honours, the Gold Medal for Civic Valour, in 1954. Lacedelli received the crowning honour, becoming a Knight of the Grand Cross, in 2005.

Compagnoni told the tale of the ascent in two books, Men on K2 (1954) and K2: Italian Conquest, History and Memory (2004).