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The Duke of Abruzzi: Mountaineer, Explorer, and Scholar

Born in 1873 in Turin, Italy, the Duke of Abruzzi was a member of the royal House of Savoy and grew up with a strong interest in natural sciences and exploration. He pursued these passions throughout his life, becoming a leading figure in the development of mountaineering as a sport and science in Italy and beyond.

He also made significant contributions to the study of glaciology and geology and led several important scientific expeditions. Beyond his mountaineering and scientific accomplishments, the Duke of Abruzzi was also a respected naval officer, politician, and philanthropist.

Despite his many achievements, the Duke of Abruzzi is perhaps less well-known today than some of his contemporaries in the golden age of mountaineering. Nevertheless, his legacy as a pioneer in exploration and mountaineering, as well as his contributions to science and society, continue to inspire and fascinate adventurers and scholars around the world.

The Duke of Abruzzi: At a Glance

  • Name: Prince Luigi Amedeo di Savoia, Duke of Abruzzi

  • Born: January 13, 1873

  • Interesting Facts: Claimed the first ascent of Mount Saint Elias and attempted to climb K2 in 1909.

  • Died: March 18, 1933, in Kenya

Notable Mountaineering Accomplishments

Here are the most important climbing achievements in the Duke of Abruzzi's career:

  • First ascent of Mount Saint Elias (7,285 m/23,901 ft) in the Saint Elias Mountain Range in 1897.

  • First ascent of Mount Luigi di Savoia (4,627 m/15,180 ft) in the Ruwenzori Mountains of East Africa in 1897

  • Climbed several peaks in the Alps, including Mont Blanc, Matterhorn, and Dent d'Hérens

  • Member of the Duke of the Abruzzi-led expedition to the Karakoram range in the Himalayas in 1899, which made several first ascents and mapped the region

  • Attempted to climb K2 in 1909, reaching an altitude of 6,650 m/21,818 ft, which was the highest point reached on the mountain at the time

  • Member of the Italian expedition to the Caucasus Mountains in 1910, which made several first ascents and mapped the region

Early Life

Prince Luigi Amedeo di Savoia, Duke of Abruzzi (1873-1933), was an Italian mountaineer, explorer, and scientist. Born in Madrid, Spain, to the Italian royal family, the Duke of Abruzzi was educated in Italy and began his mountaineering career at a young age.

Mountaineering Career

He climbed many peaks in the Alps and the Andes, and in 1897, he led an expedition to the Ruwenzori Mountains in East Africa, where he made the first ascent of Mount Luigi di Savoia.

First Ascent of Mount Saint Elias

In 1899, the Duke of Abruzzi joined the Duke of the Abruzzi-led expedition to the Karakoram range in the Himalayas, which aimed to explore the region and climb several unclimbed peaks.

The expedition was successful in mapping the area and making several first ascents, including the first ascent of the 18,008' peak of Mount Saint Elias, which is located in the Saint Elias Mountains on the border between Alaska and Canada.

Mount St. Elias
The Duke of Abruzzi's first ascent of Mount St. Elias was a stunning accomplishment.

The team arrived in the region in May of that year and established a base camp on the coast of Alaska. They spent several weeks scouting the mountain, studying the terrain, and planning their route. They encountered many challenges, including difficult weather conditions, dangerous crevasses, and steep ice walls.

Despite the difficulties, the team persevered, and on July 31, 1897, the Duke of Abruzzi and two other climbers, Vittorio Sella and the American mountain guide Martin Conway, reached the summit of Mount Saint Elias. It was a remarkable achievement, and the team made history by completing the first ascent of this imposing mountain.

The climb was not without its challenges. The team faced extreme weather conditions, including high winds and cold temperatures. They also encountered dangerous crevasses and steep ice walls that required great skill and determination to overcome.

The Duke of Abruzzi's first ascent of Mount Saint Elias was an important moment in the history of mountaineering. It demonstrated the incredible skill and courage of the climbers and set a new standard for what was possible in the world of mountaineering.

Attempt to Climb K2

In 1909, Prince Luigi Amedeo, Duke of the Abruzzi, led an Italian expedition to attempt to climb K2. The expedition was composed of experienced climbers and had the support of the Italian government.

The Duke was one of the first climbers to get high up on K2..

The expedition arrived in the region in May 1909 and set up their base camp. The team faced many challenges, including bad weather, difficult terrain, and avalanches. They made several attempts to climb the mountain, but each time they were forced to retreat due to the harsh conditions.

Despite the difficulties, the team persevered, and on July 13th, 1909, the Duke of Abruzzi, along with two other climbers, reached a height of approximately 6,250 meters (20,505 feet). This was the highest point ever reached on K2 at the time, and the team had made an incredible achievement.

However, the team was not able to reach the summit. The Duke of Abruzzi made the difficult decision to retreat due to the risk of bad weather and the possibility of not being able to descend safely. The team returned to Italy, where they were celebrated for their incredible achievement.

Other Expeditions

He also attempted to climb Chogolisa (25,148 ft), the 36th tallest mountain in the world, in the Karakoram range of Pakistan. While he didn't reach the summit, he did attain a new world record-- the highest altitude ever reached at 24,600 ft or 7,500 meters. He was turned around about 150 meters from the summit by bad weather.

The Duke of Abruzzi Climbing Chogolisa
The Duke of Abruzzi climbing Chogolisa with his guides.

The Duke of Abruzzi continued to lead expeditions to remote and unexplored regions of the world, including the Arctic, Antarctica, and the Caucasus Mountains. He was also an accomplished sailor and led several expeditions to the Arctic and Antarctic seas, including an expedition to the North Pole that reached a record latitude of 86° 34'N.

A Scientist and Scholar

In addition to his mountaineering and exploration achievements, the Duke of Abruzzi was also a respected scientist and scholar. He held several academic positions, including professor of geography at the University of Turin, and published numerous scientific papers on geography, anthropology, and natural history.

He was also an active member of several scientific societies and was awarded several prestigious scientific honors throughout his career.

Lasting Legacy and Death

The Duke of Abruzzi's contributions to mountaineering, exploration, and science continues to be recognized and celebrated today. Several peaks, glaciers, and other geographic features around the world bear his name, including the Abruzzi Spur on K2 and the Abruzzi Glacier on Baltoro Kangri Peak in Pakistan.

The Duke of Abruzzi died on March 18, 1933, in Nairobi, Kenya, while on a hunting expedition. He was 59 years old. The cause of his death was reportedly a heart attack. His body was returned to Italy, where he was buried in the royal mausoleum in the Basilica of Superga near Turin.

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