And yet, to be honest, what amazes me most is the fact that, unlike most of his fellow mountaineers—at least as far as I know—he had not followed in his father’s footsteps, nor he was, in his early years, a mountain man, having grown up on the banks of the Po River, in the flatlands of Lombardy and Emilia. He was an outsider. “My character and personality were already beginning to form in my childhood home by the River Po: the great river was like an ocean for me, the sandy river banks like deserts and the Alpine foothills on the horizon the highest mountains in the world,” he said in a 2010 interview. But he used to spend his holidays by his uncles in the mountains of Bergamo… and thus it happened that he decided to become a mountain guide and to move to Courmayeur, below the mighty Mont Blanc group. And that’s where the real life of Bonatti started. The life of a man who reached out for the uttermost difficulty, the unexplored. He cobbled a philosophy from his passion: pursuit of the impossible, he called it. His was a story of independence and freedom of spirit: there is no such thing as the “destiny,” man is the master of his own destiny.
His memoir The Mountains of My Life, which was republished in English in 2010 to celebrate his 80th birthday, is certainly one of the best books in mountaineering literature.
Rest in peace, Man of the Impossible.