Reinhold Messner biography
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.
Death of Günther Messner
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.
The Himalayas, Mount Everest and 'The Crystal Mountain'
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.
Career Peak and Political Stint
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.
He continued to seek out these animals and later concluded that they were some type of nocturnal bear.
In 1999, Messner showed an interest in politics, winning a seat in the European Parliament. He served only one term and left office in 2004. Since then, Messner has been working on a network of five museums "dedicated to the art, culture, religion and pecularities of mountain regions throughout the world." Four sites of the Messner Mountain Museum are already open and a fifth in development. He has also established the Messner Mountain Foundation to "support the mountain races worldwide."
Messner lives in South Tyrol, Italy, with his partner, Sabine, and their children.