Reinhold Messner Interviewed on the Eve of his 70th Birthday

Reinhold Messner

German journalist Stefan Nestler, who always does an excellent job of covering the world of mountaineering and other outdoor sports, has interviewed Reinhold Messner on the eve of his 70th birthday. The Italian climbing legend, who is the first to climb all 14 8000-meter peaks, amongst a number of other feats, will reach that milestone tomorrow, and indications are that he is both philosophical and pragmatic about his advancing years.

When asked how he’ll celebrate his birthday, Messner says he’ll have a private party with close friends, where he’ll invite them to bivouac with him under the stars one last time. He says it will be the last night that he spends in a sleeping back outside, which is a surprise for a man who has spent a lot of nights outside over the course of his life.

Nestler asks Messner about his level of happiness at this point in his life, how he spends his time in his private castle, and what his goals are for the next decade of his life. To that Messner says he’ll concentrate on his mountaineering museum, ensuring that it has a lasting legacy beyond his lifetime, and that he’d like to work on some films, in addition to his farms.

Perhaps more importantly, Reinhold discusses his thoughts on Carlos Soria still climbing 8000 meter peaks at the age of 75, how the events on Everest this past spring will impact climbing there, and his advice for young mountaineers heading to the mountains today. He closes the interview by discussing the state of his own personal climbing ambitions, saying that he still routinely goes above 6000 meters (19,685 feet), and actually feels better at that altitude than he does in normal life. He says that might serve as incentive for him to visit Nepal more regularly over the next decade, as the altitude seems to make him feel better. He is quick to point out however, that he has no intention of climbing the big mountains again, adding “I don’t want to die in the mountains.”

This is another intriguing and insightful interview with Messner, who is always an interesting guy. I like that he doesn’t hold back on his thoughts and opinions, and is always happy to share his perspectives. At the age of 70, clearly his best days of climbing are behind him. But I’d venture to guess he could still teach today’s mountaineers a thing or two, and many of them would not be where they are today if it weren’t for Messner breaking trail for them. On this milestone birthday, I salute his accomplishments. Happy birthday Reinhold!

Kraig Becker