In deep


The K2

The K2 is, with its 8611 meters, the highest mountain in the Karakoram and second in the world after Mount Everest. Also known as Mount Godwin-Austen, Chogori (language BALT) or Dapsang, lies on the border between China and the part of Kashmir controlled by Pakistan. The name K2 is derived by Colonel Montgomerie, who in 1856 conducted the first survey. He gave all the mountains in the area where the initial letter K in the chain of Karakoram, K2 was wrongly assessed as the second highest mountain chain, which is why she was assigned the number 2. The summit of K2 was first reached by the Italian expedition of 1954.


The Karakorum (in Turkmen “black stones”) is a major mountain range in Asia, located northwest of the Himalayas. 800 km long and direct from the northwest to southeast, is home to four mountains taller than 8,000 meters, including K2, which with its 8611 meters is the second highest mountain in the world. The chain of the Karakoram is bounded on the south by India and its two tributaries Shyok and north of Gilgit and Chinese Turkestan. The chain for about 450 km form the border between the Indian and Pakistani Kashmir and China. To the west it connects with the chain of Hindukush in Afghanistan. The Karakorum is, along the Himalayas, one of the most geologically active, lies at the edge of two tectonic plates, the Indian and Eurasian colliding with each other. The area is also the subject of numerous studies in the field of climatology, given the presence of huge glaciers, environmental indicators of primary importance.

Italian expeditions

The 1909 expedition

The expedition of 1909 led by Luigi Amedeo di Savoia, Duke of Abruzzi’s main objective is to climb K2. The expedition also involved Vittorio Sella as photographer. The expedition wasn’t able to reach the top, but identified the same route along the south-east spur of the mountain (later called the Abruzzi Spur). In an attempt to the near Bride Peak, the expedition reaches 7493 meters above sea level and set a record altitude. They also gathered numerous scientific data and, thanks to the tireless efforts of Vittorio Sella and his assistant Erminio Botta, made the first photographic documentation of the region.

The 1929 expedition

The geographical expedition to the Karakorum in 1929 has as its initial target to reach the summit of K2, but because of the controversy that arose following the dramatic climax of the adventure of the Italian Umberto Nobile’s airship, the intentions are modified and reduced. The expedition led by Aimone di Savoia, Duke of Spoleto was therefore purely geographical objectives and aims to study the basin of the Baltoro glacier and explore the valley Shaksgan, a “geographical problem” left unresolved from previous explorations. The expedition involved 12 Italians, including the geologist Ardito Desio and Massimo Terzano, a photographer and cameraman, which makes the photographs more than a documentary.

The 1954 expedition

After a survey in 1953 by Ardito Desio and Riccardo Cassin, in 1954 a new Italian expedition led by geologist Ardito Desio, left for the K2 mountaineering and scientific purpose: to reach the summit of K2 and continue scientific work undertaken by previous expeditions. Part of the expedition are scientists, mountain climbers, a doctor and the cameraman Mario Fantin, who makes the film and photographic documentation of the shipment. On July 31 climbers Achille Compagnoni and Lino Lacedelli reached along the south-east (The Abruzzi Spur) the summit of K2, untouched until then.


Luigi Amedeo di Savoia

Mountaineer and explorer, and noble Italian, Luigi Amedeo di Savoia was born in Madrid in 1873. He started a military career in the Navy, made several trips in the seas of the world and, touching India, was fascinated by the snows of the Himalayas. At 19 he began his career climbing in the Alps. In 1897, just 24 years, leads his first expedition to Mount St. Elias in Alaska and manages to reach the summit. After the success in Alaska, he organizes a new expedition in 1899/1900 to reach the North Pole, where it arrives at the maximum latitude of 86 °. In 1906 he leaves, together with Vittorio Sella as a photographer, for the Ruwenzori, a mountain chain with the most important glacial group of Africa: the geographical expedition successfully explores the highest peaks of the massif. In 1909, Luigi Amedeo di Savoia is organizing an expedition in Karakorum with the intent to reach the summit of K2, in which also participates Vittorio Sella. The summit is not achieved, but the expedition still collects a significant amount of scientific data. After World War I, Luigi Amedeo di Savoia is sent to Somalia to colonize the country; in 1928 completes the exploration of the Uebi Scebeli river basin. He died in Somalia in 1933.

Aimone di Savoia

Italian prince, born in Turin in 1900 and in 1904 receives the title of Duke of Spoleto. Studies at the Naval Academy of Livorno, and participate in the First World War in the Navy. In 1929, twenty years after his uncle Luigi Amedeo di Savoia, Duke of Abruzzi, Aimone organizes a geographical italian expedition to Karakorum, which also includes Massimo Terzano as a photographer-cameraman and the geologist Ardito Desio. Aimone becomes Duke of Aosta on March 3, 1942 after the death of his brother. Participates, always in the Navy, in the World War II, and after the institutional referendum leaves Italy and moves to South America, and died eighteen months later in Buenos Aires.

Ardito Desio

Italian geologist, geographer and explorer, Ardito Desio was born in 1897 in Palmanova in Friuli. In 1920 he graduated in Natural Sciences in Florence and in 1927 he becomes professor, covering the chair of geology at the University of Milan until 1972, where he also founded the Institute of Geology. He’s the author of several books related to research studies conducted in Asia and Africa, and particularly in Libya. In 1929 he participated in the Italian expedition led by Aimone di Savoia, Duke of Spoleto, in Karakorum. Later he organized and directed several expeditions in Asia and Africa, including the 1954 Italian expedition in Karakorum, during which it is achieved for the first time the hitherto unclimbed summit of K2. Ardito Desio continued his research into the subsequent years. He died in 2001 at the age of 104 years.

Vittorio Sella

Photographer and mountaineer, pioneer of photography in the mountains, Vittorio Sella was born in 1859 in Biella. From his uncle Quintino Sella, founder of the Italian Alpine Club, has inherited the love for the mountains; starting in 1880 he accomplishes major mountaineering in the Alps, including several first winter ascents (the Cervino in 1882, the Dufour peak of Mount Rosa group in 1883, the Gran Paradiso and Lyskamm in 1885, the crossing of the Mount Bianco in 1888 and the Mount Rosa in 1889). Over time, however, the photographic passion that accompanies he since his childhood takes precedence over purely mountaineering: having as its primary goal the photography, Sella climbs up into the mountains also burdened with 30 kg of equipment. Around 1890, focuses his photographic work in the Alps, then broadens his horizons devoted to expeditions outside Europe: in the years 1889, 1890 and 1896 he leaves for the Caucasus, in 1897, participating as a photographer to the Duke of Abruzzi’s expedition to Mount St. Elias in Alaska, in 1899 leaves for the Kanchenjunga, while in 1906 follows the expedition of the Duke of Abruzzi to the Ruwenzori in Africa. Following participates, always following the Duke of Abruzzi, in the Italian expedition to the Karakorum in 1909. The numerous high quality photographs that he made during these expeditions give it a prominent place in the history of international photography. He died in Biella, his hometown, in 1943. His archive is now housed at the Institute and the Foundation of Biella named after him.

Massimo Terzano

Professional photographer and cameraman, Massimo Terzano was born in Turin in 1892. Enters the world of cinema in 1907 as assistant operator and pursue his career in this field, with a good success during the years 1930 to 1940 as an excellent cameraman and director of photography. As for the photography of the mountain, he is best known for shooting film and photographs of the Italian expedition to the Karakorum in 1929 led by Aimone di Savoia, Duke of Spoleto, in which it participates as a photographer and cameraman. He died in 1947 in Rome.

Mario Fantin

Traveler, photographer and mountaineer, Mario Fantin was born in Bologna in 1921. After the end of World War II he joined the Italian Alpine Club, and started to visit the mountains and to report on their quality and uniqueness. In 1954 he participates as a photographer/cameraman, in the Italian expedition to K2 led by Ardito Desio and take photographic and film documentation of the enterprise. Later he travels and expeditions all over the world, during which triggered tens of thousands of photographs and made several films on the mountain. In 1967 he founded the Italian Centre for Studying and Documenting the Extra-European Mountaineering (CISDAE), which collects documents and information on mountaineering outside Europe. He died in Bologna in 1980.

On the march 2010 issue of the prestigious magazine “National Geographic Italia” an article regarding the 2009 expedition to Karakorum and the photographic exhibition, hold at the Sala S. Rita of Rome from 24/2/2010 to 1/4/2010, has been published. The article retraces the footsteps of the first pioneers to Karakorum, to explain Fabiano Ventura’s expedition, 100 years later, to the same places, combining science and photography to study our environment.