Search form

Last updated: 1 min 30 sec ago

You are here


Mountaineer Reinhold Messner, and the art of not getting killed

Mountaineer Reinhold
FRANKFURT: Italian mountaineer Reinhold Messner is perhaps one of the world’s last great adventurers: He has conquered the planet’s highest peaks, crossed Antarctica and hunted for the elusive Yeti.
That he has lived to tell those tales, is mainly down to luck, he says.
Now 73 years old with an unruly mop of grey hair and a full beard, the man who counts German Chancellor Angela Merkel as a walking buddy says he is always in pursuit of the next challenge.
“Life is about daring to carry out your ideas,” he told AFP in an interview at this week’s Frankfurt book fair. “And for me, it always comes back to the wilderness, nature, mountains.”
One of the best-known living mountaineers, Messner became the first person to climb Mount Everest solo and without the help of bottled oxygen in 1980.
He also became, in 1986, the first the scale the world’s 14 summits over 8,000 meters (26,000 feet), again without supplemental oxygen.
Along the way, he has pioneered an extreme style of mountaineering known as alpinism, where climbers aim to reach the top with as little material and outside help as possible.
“We were the first generation to say: We do not need all that,” recalls Messner, who grew up in South Tyrol and started climbing at the age of five.
But it is an art that is increasingly getting lost, he says, dismissing today’s climbers who rely on sherpas and ready-made routes to reach the peak.
“The true alpinist does not want any infrastructure, he wants to go into the wild.
“And the odds of getting killed there are relatively high. And most people are sensible enough not to want that,” he laughs.
“But the art of not getting killed is only an art if there is a chance you could die,” he adds. “If I rule out the chance of getting killed in advance, the whole thing becomes a game, or tourism or consumerism.”