/ NEW ARTICLE: OBITUARY: Walter Bonatti
In the end, I feel that the most fitting epitaph for Bonatti's extraordinary career was "Curiosity drove all his life". Or maybe, on a second thought: "He never sold out".
Read more at http://www.ukclimbing.com/articles/page.php?id=4098
Very nice Luca, thank you.
In reply to UKC Articles:
Beautiful. Thank you for such a fitting tribute to one of the true greats.
Superbly written, especially considering (I assume?) English isn't your first language.
Brilliant. Incidentally, is there a move to rename the Walker Spur as the "Cassin Spur"? If so, I quite like it! Bonatti has his pillar and now Cassin has his spur. Very fitting for the two greatest alpinists of all time.
What an incredible climber. RIP.
Beautifully written, Luca! Congratulations and thank you!
A brilliant evocation of the man and his life. The best mountain obituary that I've read. Many thanks Luca.
'Then, in 1961, came the Freney Pillar catastrophe – in the view of the author of these notes, Bonatti's definitive climbing feat...'
Also agree. To keep on going - and leading - under such appalling circumstances is beyond my comprehension. As with Buhl on the Eiger, it unforgettably demonstrated the character of the man.
Luca, this article is beyond superlatives. And you write better English than we do!
To echo the sentiments that other people have expressed above, that is an outstanding piece of writing and a fitting tribute to the man in question.
Luca-A beautiful and evocative obituary about an extraordinary man. Many thanks!
Hello guys (and girls), thanks for this kind feedback!
My English is somewhat substandard, but Jack and Alan did a very good job correcting all my spelling/syntax mistakes. Still a long way to go before I’ll be truly fluent (another 30 years, maybe..)
There are few mistakes left in the text (my fault, not Jack or Alan’s)
It’s Rossana Podestà, not Rosanna (In Italian, two separate first names)
“their client Gallieni” – Gallieni was not exactly “their client”, but more a “client turned friend” of sort, as often happens with guides. He had climbed with Bonatti before Freney, and Walter considered him a very competent second. Also, it wasn’t “their” because Oggioni was a member of the Academic Alpine Club and not a guide.
Guillaume dying of exhaustion – technically he died falling in a crevasse few steps ahead of Oggioni (who had the all important responsibility to “close the line” and to avoid anyone being left behind). However, Guillaume was clearly on his last leg when he fell, so exhaustion may have played a role.
Very good Luca. Beautifully written and a fitting epitaph for a truly great man.
As for English not being your first language, the English is beautiful, direct and honest. It is worth remembering that Joseph Conrad was said to think in Polish, translate into German, then translate his work again into English, yet he wrote some of the greatest English literature ever including what many believe is the finest short story/novella ever written, "Heart of Darkness".
There are a lot of circumstances that you have hinted at or mentioned only in passing, maybe because they are still loaded with raw emotions and controversy, or just due the limitations of space that are inherent in the format. I think there are a lot of us who be very interested indeed to see a fuller account of these events, even though many of them have been covered to a greater or lesser extent in other books/articles etc.
Anyone else think he's a dead ringer for Jimmy Saville in the lead photo?
Hi Simon, thanks for the kind feedback. I’m afraid that any comparison between my turgid prose and something written by Conrad could give the great and late Jòzef Teodor enough spin to make his grave radioactive. ;)
As for the rest, I must admit I’m not a great fan of “digging in the dirt” when writing about climbers. It makes for a popular sub-genre, and it’s probably funnier to write about “mountain death porn” rather than about lists of first ascents and grades and lines as “the climbing was very difficult”. But dissecting climbing controversies rarely pays truth any service – it’s interesting, but almost never “true”. In the latest Alpine Journal, Jim Curran has written a nice sequence K2 related book reviews (five!), and discussing Robert Marshall’s heinously titled “K2: Lies And Treachery” he says – quite acutely – something like “writing about the minutes of bottled oxygen science almost 60 years after the actual events is almost self defeating”. Again – fun to read, but it’s not the “truth”, and not even a serious attempt to understand the truth.
A causal glance to the literature devoted to Everest 1996 or worse K2 2008 will convince anyone with a bit of critical sense that 90% of it is, to put it charitably, self serving trash. And even outside the realm to extreme high altitude hullabaloos, things aren’t any better. Bonatti notoriously disliked Marco Ferrari’s “Freney 1961”, the only book specifically describing the Freney catastrophe. It was honest and well written, but completely missing the point, because the author seemed more interested in writing well rather than writing of a good chronicle. The 1971 tragedy on the north face of the Jorasses (the “winter martyrdom” of Renè Desmaison and Serge Gousseault) is the mountain accident I know more in deep. I must have seen and read more documents on that than any other Jorasso-phile around, but I anyone would ask me who was right and who was wrong in 1971, my honest answer could be only “I don’t have the faintest idea” – and I don’t think anyone will ever have one.
(One reason why I’m so interested in the climbing history of the Jorasses is that it’s a mountain that has seen a lot of great epics, few tragedies but just one real climbing controversy – bliss!)
This doesn’t mean I would not write about all those intricacies in Walter’s biography, but it couldn’t definitely be a casual affair, and would require a lot care and research – and time…
Re-read this agan, and there are two other corrections
Cosimo Zappelli technically was not a "doctor" but a (very competent, in my experience) male nurse.
Bonatti/Oggioni/Villa's 1949 repeats of the Walker spur was the 5th (or 6th, depending if you count Lachenal/Terray 1946 ascent (they lost their way halfway up and ended climbing the upper half of the Central Couloir)
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