SURVIVING NANGA PARBAT
by Per Jerberyd © 1997 – 2002
Nanga Parbat, also known as “the killer mountain” is one of the worlds most dangerous mountains to climb. Before Hermann Buhls first ascent in 1953, 31 people had lost their lives attempting this avalanche dangerous colossus. Each year the mountain takes it’s toll. When reading the statistics on the 8,000 meter mountains, only Annapurna has a higher death ratio. More than any other mountain, Nanga Parbat formed Reinhold Messner into the outstanding mountaineerer he is.
1970 – THE RUPAL FACE
In 1970 the two brothers Reinhold and Günter Messner participated in their first Himalayan expedition. They successfully climbed the mixed route of the Rupal Flank to the summit of Nanga Parbat. The route where hard and the climb to the summit was a great feat itself. Due to extreme weather, the late hour and that Günther was extremely exhausted, they made the decision to descend through unknown terrain by the less steep West Face.
After three days of descending, both brothers were near total physical collapse. Especially Günther, who found it very hard to keep up in Reinholds pace. Near the foot at the mountain Reinhold was in front to scout a way through the crevasses. When he returned back up to meet Günter he had perished! Only a large avalanche cone showed the place where Günther should be! Reinhold searched desperately for his brother for a whole day. He just couldn’t believe that his brother, together with whom he has shared so many climbing adventures in the Alps together with was dead!
This was the first time that Reinhold got to know the thin line between total mental, physical collapse and madness. With his last powers he stumbled into base-camp. Badly frotbitten, Reinhold had to amputate sex of his toes and sevral fingertips. This was the third ever ascent of Nanga Parbat. – And a personal catastrophe for Reinhold Messner that took many, many years to get over.
1971 – LOOKING FOR GÜNTHER
The following year, Reinhold returned to Nanga Parbat to search for his missing brother. Not a trace was found…
1973 – A SOLO ATTEMPT
Again, in 1973, Reinhold returned to Nanga Partbat. The mountain was by now always present in his mind and dreams. He was totally obsessed with the idea to climb it solo – and tried – and failed.
1977 – A SOLO ATTEMPT
In 1977, during a personal crisis, Reinhold once again returned to “his” mountain, and once again he planned to climb it solo. This time he never dared to make a 100% committed try, because he was scared that – “somewhere up there, I would freak out and be unable to cope”.
1978 – THE DAMIR FACE
Finally, with with a strong inner force and self-confidence in his mind, Reinhold successfully solo climbed a new route on the Damir Face.
The climb was done in pure Alpine style. No climbing equipment except for his ice axe and crampons where brought on the trip. This was the first time ever an 8,000 meter mountain was climbed solo. On the way up, an earthquake triggered a massive avalanche that blocked the possibility for any retreat down through the chosen route. Reinhold immediately putted the avalanche behind him in his mind; this time he was ready and he had never a single thought about retreat.
On the third day Reinhold reached the top! The descent was a masterpice itself, done through unknown terrain.
A new route up, a new route down – solo on Nanga Parbat !
2000 – 30 YEARS LATER
30 years after his first successful climb, in the summer of year 2000 Reinhold once again returned to Nanga Parbat to try an extremely hard and unclimbed route. With him was his brother Hubert, Hans Peter Eisendle and Wolfgang Thomaseth. As often with Reinhold’s actions, there where a lot of speculations from other people why he now chosed to return to the high altitudes, the (probably false) rumour said the intention of the expedition was to search for his lost brother Günther. After reaching high on the mountain wall, they found the summit ridge too dangerous to continue.
“I even belive that it would be no longer be possible for anyone to traverse Nanga Parbat in the way I and Günther did in 1970. Perhaps if a thousand climbers tried, one might come through. I am sure that I could never survive those days a second time.”
– Reinhold Messner