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Reinhold Messner: Mountaineer, Adventurer, and Author

Reinhold Messner is a renowned Italian mountaineer, adventurer, and author who has made significant contributions to the field of mountaineering.

Born on September 17, 1944, in Bressanone, Italy, Messner has a long and impressive list of accomplishments that have established him as one of the most important figures in the history of mountaineering.

Reinhold Messner

Early Life and Mountaineering Career

Messner grew up in the Dolomite region of northern Italy, and his love for the mountains began at a young age. He started climbing when he was just five years old, and by the time he was a teenager, he had already climbed many of the mountains in the area.

The Alps

His first major ascents were in the Alps, where he climbed several new and notoriously difficult routes. This includes:

  • A direttissima route on Ortler

  • The Walker Spur on Grandes Jorasses

Other early ascents include:

  • First ascent of Heiligkreuzkofel middle pillar

  • First ascent of the direct south face of the Marmolada

  • The first ascent of the Yerupaja east face

  • The first ascent of Yerupaja Chico

  • First solo ascent of the Droites north face.

Messner's early climbing experiences taught him important skills that he would use throughout his career. He learned to navigate difficult terrain, read weather patterns, and make quick decisions in high-pressure situations.

Notable Mountaineering Accomplishments

Messner has accomplished numerous impressive feats throughout his career, including the following:

  • First solo ascent of Mount Everest (8,848 m/29,029 ft) without supplemental oxygen in 1980.

  • First ascent of Nanga Parbat (8,126 m/26,660 ft) in 1970 with his brother Günther, which ended tragically when Günther died during the descent.

  • The first person to climb all 14 peaks over 8,000 meters (26,247 ft).

  • First ascent of Mount Vinson (4,892 m/16,050 ft) in Antarctica in 1985.

  • First ascent of Mount Kilimanjaro (5,895 m/19,341 ft) via the difficult Breach Wall route in 1978.

Messner's accomplishments in the world of mountaineering are truly remarkable. He has pushed the limits of what is possible, taking on some of the most challenging climbs in the world with skill and determination.

Nanga Parbat

In 1970, Messner and his brother, Günther, climbed the as-of-yet unclimbed Rupal Face of Nanga Parbat. This successful but tragic expedition ended with his brother's death two days later and Messner losing seven toes. The expedition was used as inspiration for a 2010 movie called Nanga Parbat.

Eight years later, he made a solo ascent of the Diamir Face of Nanga Parbat, where his brother died. It was only another eight years later that he became the first person to climb all fourteen eight-thousanders (mountains over 8,000 meters).

Throughout his later life, Messner has continued to break barriers. This includes crossing Antarctica on skis and completing a 1,200-mile expedition in the Gobi Desert.

Climbing all Fourteen Peaks over 8,000 meters

The accomplishment for which Messner is best known is being the first person to climb all 8,000-meter peaks, the fourteen tallest mountains in the world. The fourteen peaks Messner ascended throughout his career are (tallest to shortest):

  • Everest 8,848m / 29,028 ft

  • K2 8,611m / 28,250 ft

  • Kanchenjunga 8586m / 28,169 ft

  • Lhotse 8,516m / 27,940 ft

  • Makalu 8,463m / 27,766 ft

  • Cho Oyu 8,201m / 26,906 ft

  • Dhaulagiri 8,167m / 26,795 ft

  • Manaslu 8,163m / 26,781 ft

  • Nanga Parbat 8,125m / 26,660 ft

  • Annapurna I 8,091m / 26,545 ft

  • Gasherbrum I 8,068m / 26,469 ft

  • Broad Peak 8,047m / 26,400 ft

  • Gasherbrum II 8,035m / 26,362 ft

  • Shishapangma 8,012m / 26,285 ft

The Fourteen 8,000 Meter Peaks

Mountaineering Philosophy

Reinhold Messner is regarded as one of the world's legendary mountaineers. He's known for his minimalist approach to mountaineering, which emphasizes climbing fast and light and using as little equipment and supplies as possible. Messner's philosophy has had a significant impact on the mountaineering community, both in terms of the attitudes climbers have towards equipment and their approach to climbing.

Messner's philosophy has been debated in the mountaineering world, with some critics arguing that his emphasis on speed and efficiency can be dangerous and that climbers should prioritize safety over speed. Others have praised Messner's approach for its efficiency and focus on the essential elements of climbing.

To climb fast and light, Messner employs a range of specific techniques and strategies. These include using bivouacs instead of tents, traveling solo or with a small team, and minimizing the amount of food and equipment carried. Climbing without a lot of gear can present a number of risks and challenges, such as exposure to the elements or the need to improvise in case of an emergency.

In addition to the practical considerations of climbing fast and light, Messner's philosophy is also shaped by his mindset as a climber. Messner places a great emphasis on mental preparation, believing that success in mountaineering requires a strong mental focus as well as physical ability. He is also known for his willingness to take risks and push himself beyond his limits.

Annapurna I

Writing and Environmental Activism

In addition to his mountaineering accomplishments, Messner is also a prolific writer and environmental activist. He has written numerous books about his experiences as a climber, including "The Crystal Horizon," "The Seventh Grade," and "My Life at the Limit."

Messner is also a vocal advocate for environmental protection. He has spoken out about the impact of climate change on the world's mountains and has called for greater efforts to protect these fragile ecosystems. His work as an activist has helped to raise awareness about the importance of preserving our natural world for future generations.


Reinhold Messner's contributions to the world of mountaineering are significant, and his legacy as a pioneer in the field will continue to inspire climbers and adventurers for generations to come. His commitment to pushing the limits of what is possible, combined with his passion for environmental activism, has made him a true icon in the world of outdoor exploration.

Reinhold Messner Quotes

Messner is known for his skillful writing and his very thoughtful understanding of adventure, risk, and the high mountains. Here are a few of his best quotes:

Adventure and Mountaineering Quotes

I didn’t go up there to die. I went up there to live.

Without the possibility of death, adventure is not possible.

I always take the same perspective with each new adventure. I put myself in the position of being at the end of my life looking back. Then I ask myself if what I am doing is important to me.

Mountains are not fair or unfair, they are just dangerous.

Spirituality and Philosophy

In my state of spiritual abstraction, I no longer belong to myself and to my eyesight. I am nothing more than a single narrow gasping lung, floating over the mists and summits.

When I rest I feel utterly lifeless except that my throat burns when I draw breath... I can scarcely go on. No despair, no happiness, no anxiety. I have not lost the mastery of my feelings, there are actually no more feelings. I consist only of will. After each few metres this too fizzles out in unending tiredness. Then I think nothing. I let myself fall, just lie there. For an indefinite time I remain completely irresolute. Then I make a few steps again.

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