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Reinhold Messner is the most famous living mountaineer in the world. He was the first person to climb all 14 eight-thousanders. In 1978, together with Peter Habeler, he was the first to climb Mount Everest without artificial oxygen. In addition to mountaineering, he has undertaken a number of extreme hikes through some of the most remote regions on earth. He was also politically active for many years and, among other things, became a member of the European Parliament.
Reinhold Messner was born in South Tyrol in 1944. He grew up there with his eight siblings. He made his first experiences with mountaineering at the age of 5, when his father took him to the top of a three-thousander. After graduating from school, Messner studied surveying and then taught mathematics at a middle school for a year before devoting himself entirely to mountaineering.
At the beginning of his career, Messner was mainly active in the Dolomites, where he led over 500 climbing tours. From 1965 he turned to climbing difficult walls in the Alps before taking part in an extensive expedition to the Andes in 1969 with Peter Habeler. There he achieved some remarkable mountaineering achievements that quickly earned him the reputation of being one of the best mountaineers in the world.
From 1970, Messner began climbing the eight-thousanders, the highest mountains on earth. The first mountain was the notorious Nanga Parbat, on which a tragedy was to take place. Messner and his brother Günther set out for the mountain peak, which they both reached. However, only Reinhold managed to climb back down. The death of his brother sparked a year-long legal dispute with the expedition leader at the time, Karl Herrligkoffer. Additionally, Reinhold Messner lost seven toes to frostbite after the descent.
In the years that followed, Messner climbed one eight-thousander after the other. His most notable success came in 1978 when he climbed Mount Everest together with Peter Habeler, without the aid of oxygen equipment. In the mid-1980s, the ascent of all eight-thousanders developed into a race between Messner and the Polish mountaineer Jerzy Kukuczka. With the ascent of Lhotse on October 16, 1986, Messner succeeded in winning this race and becoming the first person to climb all 14 eight-thousanders. After this ascent, he should also never climb an eight-thousander again.
In the next few years, Messner concentrated on a series of extreme expeditions. In 1989 he crossed Antarctica on foot, covering a distance of 2800 km. Further expeditions through Greenland and the Gobi desert followed. At the same time, Messner became increasingly political. He was already committed to environmental protection in the 80s. In 1999 he moved into the European Parliament for five years as a non-party candidate for the Greens of South Tyrol.
Reinholds Messner’s mountaineering career was accompanied by his lively entrepreneurial spirit. Because at the beginning of his career he could not afford the considerable costs of an expedition to one of the eight-thousanders (up to EUR 450,000), he decided to do without as much equipment as possible in order to save costs. His alpine-style ascents, without a large expeditionary convoy or oxygen tanks, revolutionized mountaineering in the Himalayas. Inspired by his countless experiences during his career as a mountaineer, Reinhold Messner also worked as a successful author. He gave countless lectures and published over 50 books. This is how he earned his first million after his famous ascent of Everest in 1978.
In his career as a mountaineer, Reinhold Messner made numerous first ascents of peaks and difficult walls. For him it was not only important to reach the summit. He also wanted to do this on routes that had previously been unconquered. For example, when it climbed Nanga Parbat in 1970, it descended the Diamir Face instead of taking the same route back as it had climbed. He was the first to cross the mountain.
His two personal highlights were undoubtedly the first ascent of Mount Everest without oxygen in 1978 – an achievement previously thought impossible. In addition, in 1986 he was the first person to climb all 14 eight-thousanders and the second to scale the Seven Summits.
“The image of the fearless hero is deceptive. It’s a fantasy product. A hero who is not afraid does not need courage. Fear is a constant companion. No frontier worker lives long without fear.”
“The mountains that need to be moved are in our consciousness.”
tips for success
Since his life, Messner has sworn to the great importance of one’s own willpower. It is it that can drive every human being to grow beyond themselves and to create the impossible. According to Messner, the will, like muscles, can be trained. By setting yourself new, even more ambitious goals after every success, you are constantly confronting your own will with new challenges.