Reinhold Messner

By Per Jerberyd 1997

Reinhold Messner is one of the most famous climbers in the world today, even after his retirement from extreme climbing.

Reinhold Messner has been climbing since he was five years old. Born September 17, 1944 in Villnöss in the South Tyrol/Italy.

By the age of 20, he had climbed most of the hardest routes in the Dolmites and Western Alps together with his brother Günther and had already started to formulate his dedication and philosophy in clean lightweight alpine-style climbing.

Günther was later killed by an avalanche near the base camp on Nanga Parbat after the first successful ascent of the Rupal Face. This was the Messner brothers first Himalayan expedition and a great personal lost for Reinhold that took many years to get over.

After the first oxygen less climb of Everest, his solo ascents of Nanga Parbat and Everest, being the first to climb all 14 eight-thou sanders and finishing the “Seven Summits” as the third person, he is a living legend among climbers.

Reinhold Messner: “As far as the public is concerned, since 1978 my sensational climbs – Everest without oxygen and Nanga Parbat solo – are unsurpassable.” Messner himself consider the traverse between Gasherbrum I and II with Hans Kammerlander in 1984 to be his supreme Himalayan achievement.

In 1975 he and Peter Habeler made a statement that they were going to attack an 8,000 metre mountain in the same manners as done in the Alps. Reinhold declared what he meant as alpine style: the start of the climb is done from the bottom of the mountain and you carry all the gears with you on the way, if any bivouacs, they will be found on the way. No route preparation is done. Supplemental oxygen is not used.

They where successful on Hidden Peak, by leaving almost everything behind, climbing unroped they made a fast ascent through a new route. This was the second ever ascent of the mountain!

Something to remember about Messners climbs that really point out his capabilities is that until today he is the only person to have climbed the extremely dangerous Rupal Face of Nanga Parbat and probably the only person that ever truly will climb Everest alone. Today the mountain is crowded and if someone claims to have climbed it “solo”, it means that it was done without help from others from the last camp to the summit. Not to forget is that his climb was done during the summer, regarded as monsoon season, something never done before.

Messner is also one of the few western people that claim to have seen the Yeti. He’s said to have met it twice, the second time during one of his latest expeditions to Karakorum, now with pictures as proof!? They where promised to be published in his book about the Yeti – but no real proof were actually published. Instead he speculates that the Yeti is a large, long haired bear.

Some people say of Messner that his personality has changed after his high altitude climbs, they suspect brain damage due to lack of oxygen, and uses him as a warning example of what can happen when pushing it to hard on extreme altitudes. The famous Pakistani climber, Nazir Sabir who’s been climbing with Messner, also says to have introduced Messner to the art of smoking hashish at high altitudes. If this is true, it’s not hard to imagine that this must be an easy way of loosing brain cells by millions!! It’s also said that Messner didn’t like it…

Messner has not only faced fame, he is a very strong personality that never leaves other people without an opinion. Saying what he thinks and what he belive is true, more than once he has been the one people chose not to belive in. Or more precise, the didn’t wanted to belive his version. When he failed on several expeditions in the mid -70: s, people where happy about his failures! He has also been accused for being a lunatic having brain damage due to lack of oxygen at high altitude.

Even among fellow mountaineers he faced a lot of criticism. After his two first expeditions to the Himalayas, he lost three team mates including his brother Günther. Upon returning home from those expeditions, he was accused by the public for leaving his friends behind to die; or like on


Gasherbrum, when he was accused for “climbing over bodies” to reach the summit. Later he and Hans Kammerlander buried the dead Austrian climber in a crevasse, even if it took them long time and decreased their own chances to make the celebrated traverse between Gasherbrum I and II.

Someone have calculated that Reinhold have had a 99, 9% chance of being killed on his expeditions while reading statistics. Perhaps, but what the statistics really show if that by having extraordinary physicals, psyche and a clear and calculated mind with the ability to take the right decisions in extreme situations, he has stayed alive where few, if any would have survived.

Messer who’s become a wealthy man has no intention to settle himself in a risk-free environment in his Castle Juval in the Italian Alps, he keep on exploring, climbing, writing and being out on adventures, he says he’s too old to learn something else.

Messner is not only a great climber. In 1990 he was first again, now by crossing the Antarctic continent on foot. Later it was time for the Arctic, however the expedition was unsuccessful, but a second try is on his mind…

By no doubt, Reinhold Messners memory as a top mountaineer and a true climbing hero will continue inspire generations of climbers for many, many decades ahead.

In the summer of 2000, Messner returned to Nanga Parbat 30 years after his first successful ascent, this time to try an unclimbed route. With him was his brother Hubert, Hans Peter Eisendle and Wolfgang Thomaseth. After reaching very high on the mountain wall, they found the summit ridge too dangerous to continue.


“Reinhold Messner is envied for his success. But it is not his success one should envy, it is his style.”

– Günter Storm


  1. […] […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: