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Explorer and mountaineer Reinhold Messner is famous for making the first solo ascent of Mount Everest without supplemental oxygen.
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Italian mountaineer and explorer Reinhold Messner has made a career of near-impossible climbs, and is considered one of the greatest climbers in history. On May 8, 1978, Messner completed his ascent of Mount Everest without supplemental oxygen—a feat previously thought to be impossible. Additionally, Messner has climbed all 14 of the world's peaks that measure 8,000 meters and up. Messner is also an author, politician and businessman.
One of the greatest mountaineers of all time, Reinhold Messner is best known as the first person to climb all 14 of the world's 8,000-meter peaks without supplemental oxygen. Born on September 17, 1944, in South Tyrol, Italy, Messner's father introduced him to mountaineering when he was just 5 years old, and he soon developed into an expert climber. He grew up surrounded by the Dolomites, part of the Italian Alps, in the Villnöss Valley, a primarily German-speaking area.
Messner studied at the University of Padua for a time, but soon devoted himself to other adventures. Messner became a proponent for a simpler, more streamlined type of mountaineering. On a trip to the Peruvian Andes in 1969, he met another likeminded climber, Peter Habeler. The pair would later team up.
Messner soon learned firsthand the tragedies that sometimes befall mountaineers. In 1970, he was on an expedition in the Himalayas when disaster struck: Messner and his younger brother, Günther, had climbed the Rupal face of Pakistan's Nanga Parbat, and when Günther began to show signs of altitude sickness, Reinhold began trying to find the fastest way down. During their descent, Reinhold got ahead of Günther. When he went back to check on his brother, however, he discovered that Günther had been swept away by an avalanche.
After looking for his brother to no avail, Messner eventually made it down the mountain. He lost six toes and several fingertips to frostbite during this trek, and upon his return, many blamed him for his brother's death. This tragic experience did not stop Messner from pursuing new challenges, however.
In 1975, Messner climbed Gasherbrum I in the Himalayas with Peter Habeler without supplemental oxygen. Three years later, he tackled Mount Everest with Habeler, becoming the first to do so without the aid of oxygen tanks. He once described the experience as being "a single narrow gasping lung, floating over the mists and summits."
In 1980, Messner decided to go it alone. He completed the first solo ascent of Mount Everest without extra oxygen, sherpas or crevasse ladders. Chronicling his epic journey, Messner wrote the book The Crystal Mountain about the climb. The famed explorer would go on to write more than 50 books during his career.
Messner reached a career peak in 1986, when he became the first man to climb every mountain across the globe standing above 8,000 meters. Around this time, he first reported seeing a yeti, an animal that some believe to be mythical.
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Throughout the centuries, brave explorers have fearlessly traveled the globe and beyond to discover new lands, people, animal species, riches and glory. Ferdinand Magellan of Portugal proved the world is round with his mission to sail around the world. His fellow countryman Vasco da Gama commanded the first European ship around the southern tip of Africa to reach India by sea. Norseman Leif Eriksson is regarded as the first European to reach North America, nearly 500 years before Christopher Columbus, who is credited with discovering the “New World” of the Americas. Juan Ponce de León scoured Puerto Rico and Florida in his quest for the fountain of youth. Meriwether Lewis and William Clark blazed new trails during their Corps of Discovery Expedition across the western half of the United States. Traveling to new heights of discovery were mountain climber Sir Edmund Hillary, the first man to reach the peak of Mount Everest, and U.S. astronaut Neil Armstrong, the first human to walk on the moon. These intrepid explorers and more have made an indelible mark on human history. See all Explorers.
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