K2 2004 - 50 years later
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At 6.00 pm
on July 31, 1954, Lino Lacedelli and Achille Compagnoni became the first
people to reach the summit of K2, the second highest mountain in the world
(8,611m asl). Now, 50 years after the first successful ascent, Italians are
returning to the Karakoram to celebrate that memorable moment with a new
expedition titled “K2 2004 - 50 years later”. The expedition intends not only
to repeat the historic endeavour, but also aims to reinterpret the values and
challenges of the original adventure.
ambitious and multifaceted project, coordinated by the Ev-K²-CNR Committee, is
entrusted to a team of highly professional mountaineers including Alpine
Guides and members of the Alpine Rescue Team, the Italian Alpine Academic Club
(CAAI) and other elite climbing associations from all of Italy’s mountain
regions. Technical and scientific teams will complete the group, reaching a
grand total of nearly 100 people, to be led by Himalayan expert, experienced
expedition leader and remote area scientific research coordinator, Agostino Da
mountaineering program includes an ascent of K2 by the Abruzzi Spur on the
South face from Pakistan (the route used in 1954), and a simultaneous summit
along the North Ridge from China. Prior to that but in the same season, the
climbers will have first ascended Mt. Everest along the NE ridge from the
Tibet Autonomous Region in China.
during the 1954 expedition, the 2004 team will include climbers from all over
Italy, not just from the Alps, and two female climbers, nowadays a common
reality in most important expeditions.
Da Polenza, on his fourth expedition to K2 as both mountaineer and expedition
leader, will lead the team made up of:
Guides from the Aosta Valley,
Grignetta” elite climbing group,
Guides and professional climbers from the Italian regions of Piedmont,
Lombardy, Veneto, Abruzzo and Lazio.
ascent of K2 will be preceded by a scientific expedition to Everest, in a
concluding salute to another Golden Jubilee: the 1953 summit of the world’s
highest mountain by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay Sherpa.
made up of climbers, technicians and scientists will leave Italy on April 7
and will attempt to summit Everest along the North-West Ridge as part of a
series of physiological tests on physical and psychological reactions in
research on physiology, geodesy, glaciology, environmental sciences and
eco-compatibility is coordinated and financed by the National Institute for
Scientific and Technological Research on Mountains, INRM, and will also be
carried out on K2. Italy aims in this way to “conquer” a new summit in the
field of science, in the wake of the great Italian tradition begun by Ardito
Desio continued today within the excellence of the Ev-K²-CNR Project.
commitment also ideally corroborates the aims of the 1954 expedition, when for
two months following the climbers’ return to Italy, Prof. Desio and his
collaborators stayed on to complete their research on the Karakoram Valleys
begun in 1953. The vast amount of scientific data accumulated then still
today represents an important point of reference for researchers world-wide.
Karakoram National Park and the Siachen Peace Park
should not be seen as just a mountaineering and scientific project, its aims
including also important humanitarian and environmental programs, for example
the implementation of protected area management and environmental research
around K2, in collaboration with IUCN (the World Conservation Union) and UNEP
(United Nations Environmental Programme). The Central Karakoram National Park
around K2 was in fact instated by the Pakistani Government in 1993 but has yet
to be implemented. “With your assistance, the 50th anniversary will be a good
opportunity to make it into a reality,” Javid Zafar, Secretary of the Pakistan
Ministry of Environment, recently said.
The aim of
these initiatives is also to aid in stimulating the declaration of a Peace
Park on the Siachen glacier. The Ev-K²-CNR Committee has now invested months
in networking organisations and international institutions to promote peace in
the mountain regions around K2, where a disastrous conflict between India and
Pakistan has been waged for decades. The Minister of Agricultural and Forestry
Policies and honorary expedition leader, Hon. Gianni Alemanno, will lead the
initiative in collaboration with Italy’s Prime Minister and the Minister of
Foreign Affairs. Together with the Italian Parliamentary Group “Friends of
the Mountains”, an awareness raising campaign and actions to help promote
dialogue in favour of the Peace Park has also been launched parallel to
international initiatives promoting the peace process between India and
Pakistan in the Karakorum and Kashmir region.
2004” project in Pakistan began precisely one year before the anniversary of
the summiting of the world’s second 8000 m peak with the inauguration of a
medical dispensary in Askole, the last inhabited village along the route
towards K2. The only health post in the Baltoro valley, the dispensary concept
was elaborated following the 1996 expedition led by Agostino Da Polenza, when
he and his team of climbers conceived this humble tribute to commemorate the
death of the their companion Lorenzo Mazzoleni of the “Ragni di Lecco”.
Mazzoleni fell from the western face of the mountain on his night-time descent
from the summit on July 29, 7 years ago.
A Karakorum Museum in Skardu
On July 31
in Skardu, the capital of Baltistan in Pakistan’s Northern Areas, a museum
named “Italy K2 – 50 years of Italian successes” will be inaugurated, as an
outcome of the concept elaborated by the doyen of mountain journalism, Rolly
will host a photographic history of the successful first climb of K2 and
equipment used during the 1954 expedition will be put on display. The exhibit
will also include reference to other Italian successes over the past 50 years,
including images, documentation, products and memorabilia of 50 companies or
individuals that have contributed to Italian popularity worldwide since the
ascent of K2.
involvement has not been left out of this rich program. Live televised
broadcasts of the expeditions will be carried out by a specialised
communications team and daily on-line reports will be sent directly from K2.
Italian TV, and RCS, editorial group, join the climbing team
partners of the “K2 2004 – 50 years later” project. RAI will be actively
involved, dedicating a series of live broadcasts and TV specials to the event,
culminating in a live special on the summit attempt. RCS will facilitate
communication through its two national newspapers, Corriere della Sera and
Gazzetta dello Sport.
summiting of K2 in 1954 was the culminating event of a project begun years
prior by Ardito Desio, with the exceptional support of the Italian Alpine
Club, the Italian National Research Council, the National Olympic Committee
and the then Prime Minister Alcide De Gasperi. The summit of K2 can in fact
be seen as the crowning glory of an Italian dream started years earlier, as
far back as the beginning of the last century, when the first Italian effort
to climb K2 was made 1909 by the Duke of the Abruzzi who repeatedly and
unsuccessfully made attempts at the summit for an entire month.
later, another Italian expedition set out for K2 with a new mountaineering and
scientific agenda. Avoiding the possibility of a failed summit attempt, as
potentially clamorous and tragic as that of Gen. Umberto Nobile and his
trans-Arctic airship Italia earlier that same year, the scientific research
became the real goal of the expedition. Ardito Desio took part in that
expedition led by Aimone di Savoia, Duke of Spoleto.
involved in repeated rapid surveys on the glaciers, accompanied by an
exploration team of scientists and mountaineers, later stated: “The sight of
K2 was unforgettable, leaving a deep impression on my spirit and an indelible
memory, full of desires and propositions.” These intentions would resurface 25
years later to be topped off by the success that put the Italian expedition in
the limelight of the world.
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