This summer, Vulcain, famous for its Cricket watch, pays tribute to the 60th anniversary of the ascent of K2 made by 14 climbers from the Italian Mountain Club in 1954. Three ascents, each equipped by Vulcain with Cricket watches, have been celebrated by the brand.
The first took place in the Andes, in the heart of the Cordillera Vilcamba in the centre of Peru. On August 5th 1952, a French-Belgian expedition directed by Bernard Pierre and two American teams conquered the north face of the Salcantay, one of the Andes’ untamed peaks, which reaches to a height of 6,264 metres. The assault took more than three weeks, and was punctuated by snowstorms.
Following this achievement, Vulcain received several testimonies from the climbing party praising the qualities of their Cricket Vulcain watches. These took in the entire ascent, reaching a height of more than 6000 metres. Despite substantial differences in daytime and night-time temperatures and despite the snow and the damp, the climbers confirmed that they never experienced the slightest failure of any kind.
The second noteworthy expedition took place 60 years ago.
In celebration of the 90th anniversary of the Italian Mountain Club, a team of 14 transalpine climbers were determined to conquer K2 for the first time. At 8,612 metres, K2 is the second highest mountain in the world after Everest. K2 is located in the north of Pakistan on the China-Pakistan border. The team was led by Ardito Desio, a professor of geology. 700 porters carried more than 13 tons of material to the base camp located at an altitude of more than 5,000 metres. On July 31st 1954, the party, with Lino Lacedelli and Achille Compagnoni, reached 8,612 metres. They too were accompanied by their trusty Crickets. Walter Bonatti, one of the most notable Italian climbers, was part of the expedition at the age of just 24 years old.
A few years later, in 1958, the 100th anniversary of Vulcain, a team that again consisted of Bonatti and other members of the first expedition, set off to conquer Gasherbrum IV (7,980 m), a Karakorum peak reputed to be inaccessible. Here again, Vulcain equipped the climbers with Crickets.
The watches from this small Swiss Manufacture achieved considerable success with these extreme climbers. Publications at the time proudly announced that these timepieces served “their owners faithfully by providing the exact time and by chiming at the right moment”. Vulcain paid tribute to this achievement by introducing its 50s President’s model in 2011.
Ascent of K2, the Italian Route
The Italian Mountain Club expedition was the first to climb K2 via the historic Abruzzi Spur – named following an attempt in 1909 by the Duke of Abruzzi up to 6,000m. The Abruzzi Spur route is the most often used trail. Around 75% of climbers choose this route. It starts at 5300 metres at the bottom of a ridge, drops gently for several kilometres and continues up to the 8612 summit.
The length of the trail, coupled with extreme weather conditions and the inherent dangers of mountain climbing, make it one of the most hazardous routes in the 8000 metre climbing range. The challenging topological characteristics of this route are fraught with technical difficulty and danger. The area known as the 'Bottleneck' is an abrupt passage of ice and snow located at 8200 metres under an ice cliff and is regarded as one of the most difficult parts of this route, with the ever present possibility of chunks of ice falling at any time, like the tragedy which occurred in 2008 in when 11 people perished.
The route is punctuated with several camps at different altitudes. Once on the summit, the descent to Camp 4 is equally dangerous. Most accidents occur during this phase, chillingly, with one climber out of every two that has reached the summit dying during the descent.
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