The one is gone: Walter Bonatti passes away at 81

The one is gone: Walter Bonatti passes away at 81

Posted: Sep 14, 2011 11:56 am EDT

(Angela Benavides) The world's climbing community has lost its ultimate reference for excellence: Walter Bonatti died yesterday night at the age of 81.

The legendary climber represented, though his climbs and his life, the highest values in Alpinism. The north faces, the solo climbs, the first ascents and the exploration - Bonatti's resume is a compilation of ingenuity, elegance, courage, innovation, honesty and constant challenge, in the search for the raw beauty of pure climbing.

Recognition would need decades to come his way though. Instead, he fought accusations, envies and lies. Just because he had lived to tell the truth of what had happened on the first ascent of K2 - a dark story so different from the official fanfare.

He fought for the truth to prevail and, in the end, succeeded. Not that he cared anymore: Walter never forgot neither forgave his former accusers, even after they confessed and apologized. By then, he had simply stopped climbing (in style, by opening a new route on Matterhorn's north face, solo) and become a reporter - a job in which, not surprisingly, he also excelled.

Sumarizing, Walter Bonatti reached out for the uttermost difficulty, the unexplored, the impossible. His name is written forever on many of the most beautiful mountain faces of the world: from the East Face of the Grand Capucin (opened in 1951) to Gasherbrum IV's Shining Wall (1958) or the Cima Ovest di lavaredo (winter 1963). Pitch by pitch, he opened new routes and showed the way to a new generation of climbers. Or so he wished. Or so the entire climbing community wished, as they mourn today.

Rest in peace, Walter Bonatti.

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Walter Bonatti.