The Italian Almanac

Walter Bonatti

Walter Bonatti

World-famous mountain climber Walter Bonatti died in Rome at age 81 from an unspecified illness. "Bonatti was one of the greatest mountain climbers in history, the last traditional-style mountain climber," said fellow Italian climber Reinhold Messner. "He was above all a beautiful person".

Born June 22, 1930 in the Lombard city of Bergamo, Bonatti won international renown in the 1950s and 1960s for scaling some of the most difficult peaks of the Alps and the Himalayas. In 1954, at just 24 years old, he and other climbers became the first to reach the summit of K2, which is generally regarded as the world's most dangerous mountain.

After becoming the first person to make a solo winter climb of the Matterhorn's north face, Bonatti retired from professional climbing to become a travel author and photographer, writing critically acclaimed reportage that ranged from the Alps to Oceania and the Amazon. In 2009 he received the Piolet d'Or for lifetime achievement, the most prestigious prize in international mountain climbing. The following year, Bonatti was made an honorary citizen of Mt Blanc, the highest peak in the Alps on the border between France and Italy, near his home of many years in the Italian town of Courmayeur. The ceremony took place on top of the 3,500-foot-peak.

Upon hearing of his passing, the Italian House held a standing ovation in honor of his life and career, and House President Gianfranco Frattini hailed him as "an incomparable champion of brave and harrowing feats".