Reinhold Messner is a celebrated mountaineer, explorer, and adventurer from Italy who is known for being the person holding the highest number of “World’s Firsts” according to the Guinness Book of Records. The Mountaineer is listed on the Guinness Book of Records nine times for his mountaineering feats including being the first person to climb all mountains exceeding 26,000 feet in altitude, and the first person to complete a solo summit of Mount Everest. Messner is also the first person to climb both Everest and K2 without carrying bottled oxygen. Reinhold Messner has been honored on numerous occasions for his amazing feats. A recent example was in 2018 when the mountaineer received the Princess of Asturias Award (together with Krzysztof Wielicki). The Messner Mountaineering Museum, a museum celebrating mountains and mountaineering which he founded, was opened in 2006.
Personal Life Of Reinhold Messner
Messner was born in September 1944 in Brixen, Italy and spent his childhood climbing the Alps. Messner’s father, Josef was a strict disciplinarian but helped nurture mountaineering talent in his children including Messner. Two of Messner’s brothers were also skilled explorers and mountaineers in their own right. So talented was Messner in mountaineering in his early years that he had reached his first summit by the age of five. By 1957, Messner and his younger brother, Gunther were making successful summits. Gunther would later perish during a tragic mountaineering exercise on Nanga Parbat in 1970. The mountaineer founded a non-profit organization that advocated for the protection of mountains known as Mountain Wilderness. With advancing age, Messner has shifted his focus on taking expeditions which are also exceptional. An example is an expedition Messner took in 2004 where he crossed the Gobi Desert, covering a distance of over 1,200 miles. Messner also took a trek to Mount Everest in 2003 to celebrate the 15th anniversary of his first successful ascent.
The Adventures Of Reinhold Messner
Reinhold Messner has experienced dangerous and tragic incidents in his mountaineering career but one stands out. The expedition to climb Nanga Parbat in 1970 was arguably Messner’s most dangerous climb in his career. Situated in Pakistan, Nanga Parbat is the ninth-highest mountain in the world, with its summit rising 26,660 feet in elevation. Messner’s younger brother Gunther was in the team who attempted using the mountain’s South Face in the ascent. The climb started without any incidents, but weather conditions deteriorated when the Mountaineers were about to reach the summit. While the two brothers reached the summit, Gunther would get lost during descent. Messner claimed that an avalanche killed his younger brother and blamed the rest of the team for the loss, saying that they failed to come to their aid. Reinhold suffered severe frostbite during the climb which resulted in the amputation of six of his toes.
Mount Everest is among the most challenging and dangerous mountains to climb in mountaineering. The mountain’s 29,029-foot height is a leading cause of altitude sickness experienced by mountaineers. Climbing the mountain without supplementary oxygen was previously unheard of and even unimaginable. However, Reinhold Messner and his fellow mountaineer Peter Habeler did the unthinkable and reached the summit of Everest in May 1978 without using supplementary oxygen. Reinhold returned to Mount Everest in 1980 when he became the first person in history to do a solo climb on the world’s tallest mountain. Not only did Messner make the solo trip without carrying bottled oxygen, matching his 1978 feat, but he also did the solo climb through the northwest route which is among the most dangerous on Everest.
Reinhold Messner led a team of mountaineers who successfully climbed the world’s 11th highest peak, Gasherbrum I in 1975. The 26,510-foot tall mountain is situated on the Chinese-Pakistani border. Messner’s climb was record-setting as it was the first time in history that the mountain was climbed without bottled oxygen. The successful climb was also the first to be done on an eight-Thousander Mountain using alpine style mountaineering. Messner returned to the mountain on two more occasions, doing other successful climbs.
The eighth-tallest mountain in the world, Mount Manaslu rises 26,781 feet in elevation and is part of the Himalayas. While a Japanese team was the first to climb the mountain in 1956, Reinhold Messner holds the record for the first person to reach the summit without carrying supplementary oxygen in 1972. During the climb, Messner used the south face of the mountain which at the time uncharted territory. The expedition ended up in double tragedy as two climbers disappeared never to be seen again. One of the climbers, Frank Jager, got lost in descent while his counterpart, Andi Schlick disappeared while searching for Frank Jager.
In 1986, Reinhold Messner had his focus on climbing Lhotse, the only eight-thousander he was yet to climb. The mountaineer had in 1975 attempted to climb the mountain. Lhotse is a towering peak found in China whose elevation of 27,940 feet makes it the fourth tallest mountain on earth. Reinhold reached the summit of the mountain on October 16th, 1986 and became the first person in history to climb all the world’s 14 eight-thousanders.
In addition to the records held by Messner in the Guinness Book of Records, the explorer is also credited for many more firsts in mountaineering. For instance, Reinhold became the first person to scale the heights of Marmolada’s West Pillar in 1973. Three years later, in 1976 Messner became the first person to climb the Face of the Midnight Sun on Mount McKinley. In 1978 Messner climbed to the summit of Africa’s highest peak, Mount Kilimanjaro and became the first person in history to climb the mountain’s Breach Wall.
Legacy Of Reinhold Messner
The mountaineer’s feats have been immortalized in media including documentaries and films. Examples of the media include a 2002 documentary titled “Messner,” a 2010 film titled “Nanga Parbat,” and a mention in “The Lost World: Jurassic Park.” In 1999, the adventurer stood for office and was elected as an MEP (Member of the European Parliament), a position he held until 2004. While still in office, Reinhold starting working on a mountaineering museum that would be known as the Messner Mountaineering Museum. Opened in 2006, the museum celebrates mountaineering and the Himalayan culture. The museum is said to tell the stories of the mountains including their growth and decline. Interestingly, the museum is domiciled in five different locations, some being on the summits of mountains.
About the Author
Benjamin Elisha Sawe holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Statistics and an MBA in Strategic Management. He is a frequent World Atlas contributor.
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