K2 is the second highest mountain in the world, and is thought by many climbers to be the ultimate climb. The sheer icy summit is flanked by six equally steep ridges. K2 is the only major mountain in the world which has surveyor's notation as its common name (K stands for Karakorum, 2 means it was the second peak listed. Lord Conway of Allington climbed up the great glaciers in 1892 but was content to look at K2 from a distance, describing ‘the majesty of K2’ almost too brilliant for the eye to rest upon in its mantle of sunlit white. Attempts in 1902, 1909, 1934, 1938, 1939 and 1953 all failed. The Duke of Abruzzi organized an elaborate expedition in 1909 with the express purpose of conquering the great peak. The Duke, too, had to admit defeat.
Victory came at last in 1954. The Italian expedition, led by Ardito Desio, professor of geology at Milan University, was one of the largest and best-equipped in Himalayan history. Achille Compagnoni and Lino Lacedelli were among the summit team.