On the eve of his 70th birthday, mountaineering legend Reinhold Messner sat down with adventure travel magazine Curious Animal for an eye-opening interview. As usual, Messner has strong opinions on life, death, and the mountains, and he isn’t shy about sharing those thoughts with the world.
In the interview, Messner talks about the challenges he sought as a younger man, both in rock climbing and high altitude mountaineering. He also discusses how testing your own limits helps you to learn about yourself, and your own possibilities when faced with survival in extreme environments. The Italian climber, who many believe to be the greatest mountaineer of all time, emphasizes that danger is an essential element of mountaineering, and without the chance of death, it just doesn’t hold the same appeal. He says that mountaineering is “…not a sport. It’s a play with nature, a serious play with nature.”
Messner goes on to discuss his preference for climbing and traveling solo, as it allows him more freedom to do what he wants, on his own terms. He also touches on whether or not climbing is “worth it” considering the number of people who have died in the mountains over the years, and shares his approach to an expedition prior to setting out.
One of the more interesting aspects of the interview are when Messner gives a nod to several of the exceptional young climbers today. For instances, he mentions David Lama’s free climb of the Cerro Torre in Patagonia as an amazing feat that he could never have accomplished, and he calls Ueli Steck’s solo-summit of Annapurna one of the most impressive climbs in recent memory. He also salutes Sandy Allan and Rick Allen for their impressive first ascent of the Mazeno Ridge on Nanga Parbat from a few years back, calling it one of the greatest, and most intelligent, ascents of the past few years.
Finally, Messner talks about his ongoing efforts in the mountains, which have slowed down in recent years, but his love for remote places keeps driving him to go back. He shares his thoughts on the Yeti, and mentions his efforts at setting up a charitable foundation, following in the footsteps of Edmund Hillary, who he says he respects “more for his social work than for his climbing.” He wraps up the interview by discussing his time in office as a politician, which seemed to leave him a bit frustrated by the process.
All in all, a good interview from a man whose reputation and legacy are certainly secure. For me, Messner is indeed the greatest mountaineer of all time, and I always enjoy reading his take on climbing, adventure, and life in general. He remains a very interesting man, and I’m not sure there will ever be another one like him.
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