Reinhold Messner a leggendary man

Reinhold Messner

Born 17 September 1944 in Bressanone Italy.

Reinhold MessnerWhen you are born in Val di Funes, into the Dolomites, “the most beautiful mountain in the world” as he likes to tell, is not automatic become the greatest mountaineering alive. Anyway, it helps a lot, many people like to climb in the Alto Adige region.  To become the greatest most of all you need to have in you a natural talent. So the talent added to the environment create a magical fusion ad permit to do something great.

Reinhold Messner was 5 when he climbs with his Father the first mountain, the Sass Rigais, is clear the generational transmission of the mountains passion. The Dolomites are a complex of mountains groups across three regions, Trentino-Alto, Adige Veneto, and Friuli Venezia Giulia. It is interesting to understand that is not the territory who define the Dolomites area but the particular composition of the rock.  Around 1790 Déodat de Dolomieu discover a new kind of rock in Italy and he sends a sample to Théodore-Nicolas De Saussure in Swiss for analyzing it. De Saussure will call this rock dolomite (MgCa(CO3)2) in honor of discoverer. The dolomitic environment is magic, and we can understand the attraction of the young Reinhold for this walls.

Reinhold Messner the King of Dolomites

In the following years, Messner moves the first steps climbing the major walls of the region. With his brother Gunther, they become quickly the best climbers in Europe. In the Dolomites, they will open many significative new lines. Famous for the alpine climbing lovers was the new line on the middle pillar of the Sass de la Crusc. This line is an incredible adventure in a sea of rock, up that moment just Vinatzer has climbed difficult up to grade VII.

Reinhold Messner with the mountain boots and not the climbing shoes of our days arrive in a place where he has just the space for feet. It is an uncomfortable position, above him 4 mt of a smooth vertical plate and he hasn’t the courage to start and climbs this 4 mt. After one hour of trying he starts is done, he will know years later, but that 4 mt open the way to the grade VIII. Need to put that action in the context of years 60′, but remember that almost the totality of climbers which repeat that line don’t climb that 4 mt, they use a Mariacher variant. On the line you will find some pressure piton, it is not by Reinhold Messner, Messner refuses this protection.

Respect for the mountain

In the video below you can see the famous steep Messner plate with Nicola Tondini in action, he is an alpine guide and one of the best climber “by fair means”.

Reinhold Messner in an article published in the Italian Alpine Club newspaper in 1968 titled “the killer of impossible”. He is refuse totally the use of the pressure piton because it removes the risk. He said is like to climb a ladder and is no more climbing, plus you leave on the rock a lot of dirty. In the mountain, if you are not able to pass with your own ability chose another line and respect the mountain.

Reinhold Messner applies the same concept even in the Himalaya climbing. In Himalaya Reinhold Messner find the environment where is possible to free his power. But like all the great pioneers he will pass across very strong tests.

Himalaya “by fair means”

Nanga Parbat, starting a new era.

In 1970 he is invited to participate in the Nanga Parbat expedition directed by the German Karl Maria Herrligkoffer. Is the first time for the Messner brothers in front of an eight-thousander, and early he will understand the how much is dangerous that mountains. Anyway,  the day 27 June they are with other two climbers in the last camp under the summit in the Rupal face. The forecast communicates that the day after the weather will be bad. Reinhold Messner decides to try the summit alone without ropes and helps for to be faster and summit the Nanga Parbat before the storm. Gunther, at a certain point, decides to start even him, and he gets him on the way below the summit. In the evening they reach the summit of Nanga Parbat.

The drama

Is late and there is no chance to descend from where they came, they need to bivouac. In the morning other two components of the expedition, Reinhold Messner asks a rope but they don’t understand. He understood they don’t have a choice, they start the descending of Diamir face. It is all ok but at a certain point Reinhold look for Gunther but Gunther there is no more.  He will search Gunther for the whole day the night and the day after at the end he suffering frostbit at one foot, he needs to save his life. After 6 days from the summit, he arrives in the valley and is rescued from some local shepherds. He will lose 7 fingers in the feet but it was nothing compared to the loss of his brother.

The other components of the expedition reached the summit they said the Messner brothers were lost in the mountain. It was not true, they communicate with Reinhold Messner and they knew they had reached the summit. In the second moment, Reinhold understands all is started because from the base camp they sent forecast mistake. From Reinhold Messner and the boss of the expedition, Herrligkoffer starts a legal battle along decades. Messner was accused to abandon his brother for to be the first to arrive at the summit.

The infamous accuse and the Messner truth

For decades this infamous accuse follow the Reinhold life, but what his accusers did not knew is that the mountain sometimes makes big surprises.   In 2000 casually was found at the base of the Diamir face a bone. The DNA analyzing say is of Gunther Messner, but the destiny wants to give a better surprise. In 2005 the local shepherds found a body and Reinhold Messner arrived in Pakistan confirm is the body of Ghunter. He hides a boot and some bones in the backpack and arrived in Europe the analyze confirm is the Ghunter DNA.

There is no doubt, Nanga Parbat changes the life of Reinhold Messner, in the following years will come back 7 times in Nanga Parbat. Even looking for his brother but even for to reach the summit of this mountain alone without sherpa and oxygen. He starts a sequence of climbs in Himalaya, and more he climbs more he understands himself and the eight-thousanders. He can’t think more of the rock climbing, the amputations prevent his rock climbing ability.

The eight-thousanders

Mount Everest Base CampIn 1978 he wants to climb the Mount Everest without oxygen, all the scientific world say is impossible. They don’t know who is Reinhold Messner, the impossible is the place where he works better. He will do a recognition with the airplane at Everest altitude with no pressurization and he understand is possible. The 8 May 1978 is on the summit of Mount Everest with Peter Habeler from the south face.

Reinhold is hungry for the research of the limit, after 3 months he comes back to the Nanga Parbat. He attacks the Diamir face, where somewhere there is the Ghunter body. 9 August 1978 in on the summit of Nanga Parbat, is the first alone in that face through a new line. It is even the first alone of an eight-thousander without oxygen.

Another record

In 1980 he comes back to the Everest, and it is not enough for him to arrive at the summit without oxygen. He wants to do again but alone. 20 August 1980 is on the top of Everest after an epic climb. Through incredible risks and at the limit of his energies. It is the first climbing of the Everest alone without oxygen on the north face and using partially a new line.

In 1982 became the first mountaineers who climb three eight-thousanders in the same season.  With Hans Kamerlander in 1984, he will do the first absolute chaining of two eight-thousanders, Gasherbrum II – Gasherbrum I.

In 1985 with Hans Kamerlander they climb the Annapurna through a new line on the never climbed north-west face.

In 1986 Reinhold Messner with the Lhotse conquest became the first climber who climbs all the eight-thousanders in Alpine Style.

Reinhold Messner a serious athlete and planners

We need to remark that Messner an athlete too strong but his biggest quality, is to isolate the event from the training, and during the adventure, mind, and body are concentrate on the action. The external world doesn’t exist until the ending of the action. All his 100 expeditions were prepared in the minimum particular, spending time in the study of the mountain and the training of the body.

In 1986 he becomes the fifth that climbed the Seven Summit, he creates even a different list of the Seven Summit. His list is appreciated in the mountaineering world because more extended and difficult. This list includes Mount Everest, Aconcagua, Denali, Kilimanjaro, Mount Elbrus, Mount Vinson, Puncak Jaya.

The big adventures

Arrived at this point Reinhold Messner understands that he can’t do anymore in Himalaya, so he decides to change direction. From vertical direction to the Horizontal direction. Exactly like his friend the great Walter Bonatti he decides to explore the world at the sea level or almost.

In 1990 with the German explorer Arved Fuchs, they cross Antarctica through the south pole. 3000 km 120 days a challenge at the limit of surviving without mechanic or animals help. Just two men with skis and sled of over 100 kg.

In 1993 with his brother Hubert they cross Greenland, 2.250 km in 35 days, another spectacular adventure.

In 1995 again with Hubert, they try to cross the arctic continent through the North Pole. Just two days and the Arctic show them what is the power of nature. Because of the wind, the Arctic pack move and cracking everywhere creating an apocalyptic scenery. Hubert almost die in the water and they lost a sled, impossible to go ahead and they send the SoS. A Russian helicopter will arrive to save them.

Last adventure is in 2005, at the age of 60 he crossed the Gobi desert between China and Mongolia. Almost 2000 km in just one month, not difficult like the previous maybe but a great adventure.


He dedicates all the last years to create a great project, the Messner Mountain Museum (MMM). A series of museums located in the Alps dedicated to the mountains.

He lives from 1983 at Castel Juval in Alto Adige region. He manages from there, his museum and also a herd of some yaks imported from Himalaya.

In conclusion, Reinhold Messner is definitely the mountaineer explorer greatest ever. It is reasonable to think this because it is possible to find someone greater of him in any single activity, there is no one in all like him. There is a rule not wrote but commonly accepted that say “the greatest is who come back alive.”

Below you can watch a fascinating documentary about the Reinhold Messner life. It is the movie about his Nanga Parbat climbing where he lost his brother Gunther. It shows even intimate aspect of his activity and can help you to have a complete vision of him. It is in German Language but subtitled in English.

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