The Himalayan Times Interviews Reinhold Messner

Legendary Mountaineer from Italy Reinhold Messner

Reinhold Messner is thought by many to be the greatest mountaineer ever. His list of accomplishments is long and distinguished, including such feats as the first ascent of Everest without oxygen and the first solo climb of that mountain too. He is also the first person to successfully summit all 14 of the 8000-meter peaks as well. So any time he weighs in on the state of climbing, it is always interesting.

That is exactly what he did in this interview with The Himalayan Times. The Italian climbing legends talks about the role that Sherpas continue to play in expeditions to the big mountains, how “traditional” alpinism needs to be preserved, and his thoughts on the current mountaineering approach, which is dominated by commercial teams.

Not one to hold back on his opinions, Messner tells the Times that commercial mountaineering is basically the same as tourism, and even equated it to “climbing indoors.” He notes that when he climbed the big peaks he did it much the same way as Edmund Hillary. But now, anyone with enough money can pay a commercial guide service to take them to the top. This isn’t true alpinism in his mind.

Messner went on to say “During our time, we had guided the Sherpas to the top of the summit. Now, they lead the westerners and climbers from the other world to the summit point, keeping all the problems of expedition members away.” He stressed that the situation was very different in the past, with the Sherpas being more teammates rather than just guides.

Currently, the Italian explorer – who has skied across Antarctica, trekked the Gobi, and gone in search of the Yeti in the Himalaya, has returned to Nepal to film a movie on Ama Dablam. The film will be the true story of efforts to climb that mountain from 1959 to 1979. He also says that he’s working on a movie about Everest with Hollywood producers too.

Messner tells the Times that over the years he has fallen in love with Nepal, and has been there more than 50 times. It doesn’t sound like that love affair will end anytime soon.

Kraig Becker