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The Conquest of K2

The Conquest of K2, Pakistan, 24 November 2004

Directed by Alessandro Varchetta. Released 2004. In English. 49 minutes. This film was added to the German DVD of K2: Das letzte Abenteuer released in 2007. This film celebrates the 50th anniversary of the first ascent of K2 blending footage from the 1954 expedition with current interviews with expedition members, including Achille Compagnoni and Lino Lacedelli. There is also a brief re-enactments of Walter Bonatti's carrying oxygen up to Camp IX, which wasn't in the film.


Ardito Desio organized the expedition, but needed the Italian Prime Minister’s help to get the K2 permit, making it a state affair, a dream to unite post-war Italy. The film shows Desio lecturing the team in Italy, testing their equipment on the Matterhorn and Monte Rosa in winter, traveling to Rawalpindi, flying to Skardu and the porters carrying the supplies.

They set up base Camp and start setting up the camps and fixed ropes. Tragedy struck when Mario Puchoz died on June 21. We see a sad team bringing down his body and a small team ceremony next to his simple tombstone. They go up again in bad windy snowy weather, using a pulley system to bring supplies up to higher camps. Compagnoni comments on the weather: "We had 47 days of foul weather out of 70. It was like an affliction. We had to summon up enormous willpower to keep going." They set up Camp VIII (7700m) and got ready for the summit push.

The film deals openly with the team conflicts. Desio down at base camp had no idea what conditions were like 2000m further up. But that didn’t stop him from barking orders to the climbers in his usual military style. Bonatti and Mahdi would be the ones to carry the oxygen up to Compagnoni and Lacedelli at Camp IX, but they had moved Camp IX and Bonatti couldn't reach them. A near tragedy at the foot of the summit that night would bitterly divide the mountaineering world for 50 years. It would be an endless night; a mad struggle for survival. Lacedelli: "I have to admit that if it wasn’t for his (Bonatti's) help, we would never have got to the top."

As they near the summit Compagnoni films the Karakoram panorama from the Gasherbrums to Broad Peak and Chogolisa. They shoot film on the K2 summit of each other and the views. Compagnoni recalls his emotions on the summit: "I asked God to let me stay because it was, it was just too beautiful up there." Back in Italy the radio announced the good news. The whole of parliament applauded.

The colour in the 1953-54 footage is vibrant. I especially liked seeing the climbers in Italy dressed nicely in suits. It was wonderful to see the youthful and playful Walter Bonatti goofing around on the ship, in a Rawalpindi pool and anxiously waiting for mail. The film near the summit and on the summit is excellent.

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