Reinhold Messner: Ultimate Mountain Man



By: Nathan Chandler

6 Min Quiz

Image: Wiki Commons

About This Quiz

Reinhold Messner isn't just a mountaineer. He is a mountain-climbing machine who has climbed thousands of peaks all by himself. His physical stamina is legendary and his sharp tongue is, too. How much to you know about Messner, the ultimate mountain man?

Reinhold Messner was the first person to climb Mount Everest under what condition?

Mount Everest is so tall that the air at the top has relatively little oxygen. Messner was the first person ever to climb without oxygen tanks.


Messner completed the monumental climb alone.

In 1978, Messner climbed Mount Everest without an oxygen mask. He accomplished the feat with one other man, Peter Habeler.


Which mountains did Messner grow up climbing?

Messner was raised in Italy and grew up climbing the Alps. His experience there gave him a lifelong love of the mountains.


Messner is a master of surviving the "death zone" on mountains. What's the death zone?

Once climbers ascend past about 23,000 feet, they enter the rather ominously named "death zone," a place so high that there isn't enough oxygen for human life.


Messner grew up preferring "alpine style" mountain climbing. What does that mean?

Messner liked the idea of self-sufficiency and minimalism in climbing. In alpine climbing, mountaineers take all of their own gear on their own backs.


Great explorers have a wide variety of personality traits. What's Messner's like?

Messner is known to be an intense man who can be grumpy at times. His serious demeanor helps him focus his mountain-climbing efforts.


Why doesn't Messner like the idea of using massive amounts of equipment to conquer tall mountains?

Messner has a holistic view of mountains and nature. He thinks that using tons of gear and dozens of helpers to conquer mountains is disrespectful (and damaging) to the environment.


In 1970, Messner and his brother Gunther attempted their first climb in the Himalayas, on a mountain named Nanga Parbat. How did it end?

Both brothers summited the mountain but Gunther died on the return trip, probably due to unstable ice. Messner was accused of taking too many risks during the ascent.


What happened to Messner during the 1970 climb that killed his brother?

The weather was terribly cold during the climb. Reinhold nearly died, too, but wound up in the hospital instead, where doctors amputated six of his toes. This, of course, changed his climbing career.


Why did Messner return to Nanga Parbat in 1971, the year after his brother died?

Gunther's body was nowhere to be found in 1970. Reinhold returned to the mountain looking for Gunter … but couldn't find his brother's remains.


Messner was the first man to climb every mountain on Earth that exceeds what height?

There are 14 mountains on Earth that are 26,000 feet or taller. Messner was the first to climb all of them.


How many years did it take for Messner to climb all 14 of those giant peaks?

It took Messner about 16 years to climb all 14 of the world's tallest mountains. He was 42 years old when he attained this goal.


Messner conquered all 14 of the world's tallest mountains without supplemental oxygen.

Few normal humans could simply survive the heights without extra oxygen tanks, much less scramble to the tops of such tall peaks. But Messner didn't use an oxygen mask for any of his major climbs.


Messner took a total of five expeditions to Nanga Parbat, the ninth-highest mountain on Earth. How many times did he reach the summit?

Nanga Parbat holds a special place in Reinhold's heart -- it's where his brother died. He's attempted the summit five times and succeeded twice.


How old was Messner when he climbed to his first summit?

Messner was just a child when he was introduced to rock climbing. As a 5-year-old, he went (accompanied, of course) to the top of his first mountains in the Dolomites.


How tall is Geisler Peak, the mountain that Messner climbed when he was just 5 years old?

At 11,000 feet, Geisler Peak isn't as crazy tall as many mountains, but for a 5-year-old to complete the feat is certainly worth noting. From that point, Messner was hooked on mountain life.


Messner eventually climbed Mount Everest alone.

When Edmund Hillary became the first to summit Mount Everest in 1953, he had hundreds of people helping him. In 1980, Messner did it alone. You decide which feat is more impressive.


Messner climbed Mount Everest all by himself. How much time passed between the moment he left base camp, summited the mountain and then returned?

It's an act that still boggles the mind. Not only did Messner climb Mount Everest alone, but he did it in just four days. Many people call it the most amazing feat ever in mountain climbing.


Messner has a college degree in which subject?

With his degree in architectural engineering, Messner has helped design some amazing buildings, some of which rest in high-altitude areas.


What sort of relationship did Gunther and Reinhold have with their father?

Reinhold's father was a war veteran who struggled with family life. He sometimes physically attacked the boys, who used climbing as an escape.


Messner is famously anti-social and hasn't publicly profited from his famous expeditions.

Messner can be a prickly personality but he's not shy about profiting from his fame. He's written more than 60 books and made countless public appearance to tout his feats.


Messner is famous for sharing his approach to his own life. He mentally divides his life into what?

He famously divides his life into stages. In Stage 1, he was a vertical rock climber, and in Stage 2 he was a high-altitude climber. At each stage, he pushes himself to achieve as much as possible.


Messner is famous for marketing his adventures. How has he handled fame?

Messner uses the media to spread his messages and to make money, but he says he personally has grown to dislike fame. He said that crowds make him feel crazy.


Messner climbed Mount Everest alone in 1980. What happened just a few moments after he started the historic climb?

He'd only made it several hundred feet from his base camp when he slid into a crevasse. He collected himself and moved on alone.


In 1998, Messner was performing a climb when he fell and broke his ankle. What was he climbing?

It sounds like fiction but it's true. He somehow got locked out of his personal castle and decided to climb the walls to get inside -- but he fell and broke his ankle.


Which feat did Messner achieve in 2004?

In 2004, Messner set out on foot across the Gobi Desert in Mongolia. He covered about 1,200 miles during this long journey. He was 60 years old at the time.


Messner wrote a book about yetis, mysterious furry creatures of the Himalayan Mountains. He eventually came to what conclusion about yetis?

At one point in his climbing career, the skeptical Messner decided that he'd seen a yeti and that the creatures were real. After years of additional climbing and research, though, he decided that yetis were simply bears mistaken for other creatures.


In 2005, the body of Reinhold's long-lost brother was finally found. How did his body suddenly appear?

A blast of unseasonably warm weather melted much of the mountain's snow and ice, revealing Gunther's body. In some ways, it finally brought Reinhold a bit of closure to the tragedy.


Since mostly giving up mountain climbing, Messner has been active in politics, mostly with regard to what issue?

Messner's love of nature and the mountains has led him on many missions to preserve these areas for future generations. He is a former elected member of the Italian Green Party.


Messner climbed the last of the world's 14 tallest peaks in 1986. He never attempted another peak this tall again.

After Reinhold climbed his 14th and final peak over 26,000 feet, he never again attempted such a tall mountain. But he is and will always be considered one of the most capable mountaineers of all-time.


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