ML 139361


Interview :17 - 20:40 Play :17 - More
Audio »
Video »
species »
Audrey Salkeld  







Reinhold Messner; Mountaineering  

NPR/NGS Radio Expeditions
8 Jul 1999

No locations found with lat/long
  • Stereo
    Sampling Rate
  • 48kHz
    Bit Depth
  • 16-bit
    Equipment Note
  • Stereo=1; Dual-Channel Mono

Show: Geographic Century
Log of DAT #: Audrey Salkeld
Date: 7/8/99

ng = not good
ok = okay
g = good
vg = very good

Characterize for me what Reinhold Messner has accomplished.

Well, Reinhold Messner has probably been the most prolific mountaineer we¿ve seen in generations. The biggest thing about him is he anted to climb mountains fairly, no gimmicks or assistance. Over the years, he¿s been refining this, dispensing with the trimmings. Just a single man and a mountain. Prophet on the spirit of mountaineering. Straight and narrow,

is that important?

I think it is if its to have any validity and if its standards are to go on meaning anything at all. You don¿t need the technology. If there is a climb that you cant do, then you should leave it for someone who can. He can climb as well or better than anyone who is using the technology.

Style is the key word really, you do everything in the best style you can.

Has his example- has that taken hold

I think it certainly has. Among his generation, following was slow, but he strikes a chord with the young. Young rock climbers probably haven read his books, but he was a showstopper. Told them the way mountaineering ought to be. He was applauded one of the most inspirational talks they¿d ever heard.

In the pantheon, do we put him in that stature

Certainly. Reinhold Messner, for Reinhold, that wasn¿t enough. He came in 1978 and with one other friend, climbed Everest for the first time without oxygen. and in fact, its so marginal that it isn¿t humanly possible to do. He proved that is was possible to get to the top of Everest. A couple of years later he came back and did it solo. He put his lightweight tent on his back, started from base camp and in about 3 days was down again.

How much of a leap was this?

It¿s possible its a mistake to talk about leaps. Reinhold took the next logical step from that. Already people had decided that it was only Everest that you needed oxygen for. It was just those extra feet that Everest surpassed the other mountains.

In the course of your research, have you talked with climbers who have been on the mountains with him?

The essential thing about Reinhold is that he is self-contained.

Well, I don¿t think there¿s anything I could add to that. He is regarded very highly be his fellow mountaineers.

He seems to be as interested in the inner journey and what you find out about yourself as he is in the summit.

The inner journey has always been important to Reinhold. There is an essence that he has to prove to himself and the world various tenets that he holds. He¿s had to give up a lot for his mountaineering. There would have been a lot of times when he doubted himself whether mountaineering was worth it. The books he writes are very much stream of consciousness books. He gives you all the detail. So that he doesn¿t feel totally alone, he¿ll tell you that.

Any commonality of traits that are common among those with great achievements

I think it¿s less that than that the degree to which they put themselves. Physically able, but in the end, its your mental powers that get you up. To lesser mortals, this sort of commitment borders on obsession. Although Reinhold appears obsessional, he has come down from mountains without getting to the top as many times as he¿s got to the top.

When we talked, he talked about coming back to the real world.

I¿m sure that must be true. Because if you are alone 5 miles into the sky, you¿re two days or more by your own effort, every step down is reducing your remoteness, it must be almost a rebirth. Very much like being a spaceman to be on the top of Everest.


I think physically probably the first time that he climbed the 8000 meter peaks on his own, Nanga Parbot before he climbed Everest. That was the one where he was putting himself to the test where his brother died. Earthquake while he was climbing that changed the route. He was barely hanging on to his piece of mind after the death of his brother.

Of course. He¿s not only physically gone to places on the earth that no one¿s gone before. He¿s actually treading ground that no one¿s tread before. In style and finesse and method, too.

Is he just one of a kind?

He will have become one of a kind by doing what he did when he did it. It¿s not going to be as easy for other people to. You couldn¿t climb Everest completely alone on the mountain now. But he realizes that he¿s taken the biggest challenge on mountains and now he does other things.

He comes from a part of Italy that has been tugged back and forth between Italy and Austria. For years, they have felt a very fierce independence. He certainly has felt this strong nationality to this little place that he belongs to.

I would imagine the sort of level of energy that you have to pull out and the way you have to set your brain must be similar. You may not have to contend with expanse beneath your feet, but those things apart, you are calling for a similar amount of endurance and the time that it takes is much longer.

I¿ve talked to Reinhold Messner over a number of years, but hardly deeply. I wouldn¿t claim any particular closeness.

He¿s an electric person, he fizzes, there is enormous energy there. He is full of ideas, they tumble out of him. He has a very strong presence. He¿s obviously learned over the years how to make the best of himself as a performer, lecturer, writer. Tremendous self-assurance

Audrey Salkeld. I¿m born in England, live in England. History of mountaineering. I have worked on the translation of seven books by Messner.

Close Title