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RobBob

Messner -Wall Street Journal Today

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I don't have an online subscription, but the headline is

 

High Drama: 30-Year-Old Mystery Roils Climbing World

Ascent that killed brother made Mr. Messner's name; now, mounting questions

 

It lays out the story of the 1970 Nanga Parbat climb, current controversy, and Messner's planned 2005 climb. Interesting fare for WSJ.

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Does anyone have an online subscription to WSJ? That lead in is kinda weird. Are they insinuating that something underhanded went on in 1970?

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There was a blurb about it in Outside and I think a couple of new books are out on the subject as well. Yes, there is some controversy surrounding the death of M's brother 30 years ago.

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Something underhanded did go on. Many people believe that he left his brother to die so he could summit, when he could have turned around and helped his brother down the mountain to safety. That's all I know

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do you think he offed him?? i have read a few of messners books and i think he told this story in his autobiography...he seems torn up..and i think he lost some toes seaching for him above 20k....

 

maybe he offed him cuz gunter didnt believe in the yeti?? or maybe gunter was dating a yeti and did not want rheinhold to expose their love??

 

 

 

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Some people say of Messner that his personality has changed after his high altitude climbs, they suspect brain damage due to lack of oxygen, and uses him as a warning example of what can happen when pushing it to hard on extreme altitudes. The famous Pakistani climber, Nazir Sabir who's been climbing with Messner, also says to have introduced Messner to the art of smoking hashish at high altitudes. If this is true, it's not hard to imagine that this must be an easy way of loosing brain cells by millions!! It's also said that Messner didn't like it...

 

article

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Hhmm. I didn't know there was controversy. Thanks. I read the first part of the Crystal Mountain and there were a few references to it in there. The book was so poorly written I just couldn't get through it.

 

As for high altitude brain damage, there was a really interesting Nova on the subject a few years ago. They did pre and post CAT scans and brain mass calculations on climbers before an Everest climb. It showed they lost some cells up there. I think Breshears and the other climbers were using O2. Since Messner doesn't use it he probably loses more grey matter.

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I didn't find the article, but I thought this was interesting

"Despite his great enthusiasm and energy -- he climbs with mountaineering legend Reinhold Messner -- Schrempp has taken a lower profile in the last three years as he has faced tough questions about the wisdom of his ambitious global strategy."

Schrempp is Jurgen Schrempp, head of Daimler-Chrysler. Weird!

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The WSJ spells it out. His climbing teammates kept their mouths shut until in 2001, when during a speech he made a comment to the effect that perhaps some of his teammates had hoped neither he nor Guenther would return. That popped the cork, and several of them have since said that he left Guenther near the summit, because he was determined to descend off the west side and make history. He claims that Guenther begged to go down the at-that-time unexplored west side. But his teammates point out that if Guenther were in such bad straights (AMS), wouldn't it have been much safer to descend where their fixed lines, tents, supplies, teammates were?

 

There are lawsuits and counterlawsuits currently going on over several books (Messner's trying to get printings halted). This may be a bigger hoopla in the end than the Bonatti K2 dispute.

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Here is the text:

 

 

 

December 10, 2003

 

 

PAGE ONE

 

 

 

TELL ME A STORY

 

 

 

Read selected excerpts from the anthology "Herd on the Street: Animal Stories from The Wall Street Journal," at WSJbooks.com/herd1.

 

 

 

 

 

 

High Altitude Drama:

30-Year-Old Mystery

Roils Climbing World

 

Ascent That Killed Brother

Made Mr. Messner's Name;

Now, Mounting Questions

By CHRISTOPHER RHOADS

Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

 

 

STAVA, Italy -- On June 27, 1970, Reinhold and Guenther Messner stood atop the 26,650-foot Nanga Parbat, a western Himalayan peak and one of the world's highest.

 

The young Tyrolean brothers had just become the first climbers to scale the peak's southern wall, considered the highest and biggest mountain face on earth. Then Guenther, 24 years old, began to suffer altitude sickness, which forced the brothers to take a different descent down the unexplored western side of the mountain, as Reinhold, then 25, later told the story. On the way down, according to Reinhold, an avalanche swept the weakened Guenther to his death.

 

Despite the tragedy, the remarkable climb launched the career of Reinhold Messner, who went on to become one of the world's greatest mountaineers and adventurers. He was the first to climb Mount Everest without oxygen, the first to scale all 14 of the world's 26,000-foot peaks and the first to traverse Antarctica without machines or dogs. He has earned millions of dollars from sponsorships, speaking fees and more than 40 books. In 1999, he was elected to the European Parliament as a member of the Green Party representing his native Tyrol in northern Italy.

 

Now, more than three decades after the climb that changed Mr. Messner's life, the events on Nanga Parbat are threatening to ruin his well-cultivated reputation.

 

For the first time, four of the surviving members of the 1970 expedition have broken their silence about what happened. They accuse Mr. Messner, who is now 59, of lying about the events and placing his goal of personal glory above the safety of his brother. His much heralded descent, they assert, was not a necessary emergency route, but, rather, part of a plan he had all along to achieve the first ever traverse -- up one side, down the other -- of a 26,000-foot peak. They believe Guenther died somewhere near the summit, after Reinhold abandoned him. "Not even the emergency condition of your exhausted brother could keep you from your ambitious goal," wrote Hans Saler, a member of the team, in an open letter posted last year on the Internet.

 

 

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

DOW JONES REPRINTS

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To order presentation-ready copies for distribution to your colleagues, clients or customers, use the Order Reprints tool at the bottom of any article or visit: www.djreprints.com. • See a sample reprint in PDF format • Order a reprint of this article now.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

A furious battle has erupted, in the German-language press and in the courtroom. The accusations fly in several new books relating to the expedition that have appeared in the past two years, including two by Mr. Messner himself and two by fellow climbers from the 1970 expedition. He is suing to have books written by Mr. Saler and by fellow-climber Max-Engelhardt von Kienlin taken out of print temporarily so that what he considers inaccuracies can be corrected. The climbers are testifying now in a state civil court in Hamburg, Germany.

 

"Once you lose your credibility, you can never restore it," says Mr. Messner, in the kitchen of the restored 13th-century castle where he lives, perched on a 3,000-foot cliff in the Tyrolean Alps. "The only way I can prove my case is to find my brother."

 

To this end, Mr. Messner is now preparing to return to Nanga Parbat to scour the avalanche field on the western side of the mountain for his brother's remains -- to prove that he did not abandon Guenther at the top. He visited the mountain in October to begin training local villagers to help with the search. "I will do it as long as it takes," he says.

 

Located in the western Himalayas of Pakistan, the summit of Nanga Parbat wasn't reached until 1953, when Hermann Buhl, another Tyrolean, made a controversial solo dash -- against the wishes of the trip leader -- from his camp below the peak. Mr. Buhl's aggressive single-mindedness deeply influenced the young Mr. Messner, who calls him his model as a climber.

 

The plan for the 1970 expedition was to try to repeat Mr. Buhl's feat but this time by scaling the previously unconquered southern wall, called the Rupal Face. The first sight of the mountain was "overwhelming," wrote Guenther, in his journal dated May 15, 1970. "Huge hanging glaciers, terrifying precipices, furrowed by avalanches. Right over to the left is the summit of Nanga!"

 

 

At 2:30 on the morning of June 27, Reinhold set out alone from the highest camp in the 25-below-zero darkness up the face. He had no pack or provisions, since he figured to be back that night and wanted to travel light. He was climbing alone because the team had decided that if the weather was bad, they would scrap the group climb and let Reinhold try a sprint for the summit. The weather actually was good -- clear and sunny -- but the expedition leader at the base camp mistakenly fired the signal flare for bad weather.

 

Late that morning, sensing he wasn't alone, Reinhold turned to find Guenther following him up the face. Guenther knew Reinhold would make the summit in the clear weather and grew frustrated that he wouldn't share the summit with his older brother, according to a climber who was with Guenther when he set out after his brother.

 

The two made the top together late that afternoon, when Guenther began showing signs of altitude sickness.

 

What happened next is in dispute.

 

According to Reinhold, Guenther said he was too weak to return the way they had come up and pleaded to go down the western side, called the Diamir Flank. Even though the risks on that route were incalculable -- since no one had done it -- Reinhold led his wobbly brother down the unplanned descent, he says. He happened to have a photo of the Diamir, which helped in finding a route, he says. After a night without a tent, Reinhold says he spent much of the next morning yelling for help.

 

He exchanged a few words late that morning with two other climbers from the team who were making their way to the summit, but they weren't able to help from their location, says Reinhold. Later the next day, near the bottom of the mountain, Guenther fell victim to an avalanche, Reinhold says. The body was never found.

 

Reinhold suffered several frostbitten toes that would later require amputation.

 

The former team members now say it made no sense that Guenther's weakening condition would force the brothers to choose the Diamir side. If anything, Guenther's illness would be more of a reason to stick to the same route they came up, where there were fixed ropes, tents, provisions and other climbers, who could have helped Guenther down the mountain.

 

Reinhold chose the other route because that was his path to fame, charges Mr. von Kienlin, a baron who became close to Reinhold during the trip. The sunny weather meant that other members from the team likely would also make the peak, he says.

 

"To be one of a group of five or six on the summit was not the program for Reinhold Messner," says Mr. von Kienlin, wearing a pink shirt, gold tie, pin-striped pants and black leather boots in his antique-filled Munich home. "He wanted to be the next Buhl, and that required a Buhl moment."

 

 

Mr. von Kienlin and other team members say Reinhold had shared with them more than once in the preceding days his desire to descend the Diamir Flank, calling it the "next step" in the climbing world. He had shown them his photo of it. That he had it in his pocket on the summit that day was no accident, they assert. Mr. Messner admits he may have brought up the prospect of the Diamir, but, "I was just chatting like maybe in 100 years we'll be climbing on the moon."

 

The other team members also question the brief exchange Reinhold had with the two other climbers he met during his descent. The lead climber of the two on the way up, Felix Kuen, and Reinhold agree on the rudiments of their conversation.

 

"Hello," Reinhold called out when Mr. Kuen was about 300 feet away, though with a precipice between them. Guenther was not visible. Reinhold suggested Mr. Kuen take a slightly different summit route from the one he and Guenther had taken.

 

Then Mr. Kuen asked, "Is everything OK?"

 

"Yes, everything's OK," Reinhold responded. Mr. Kuen and his partner continued their ascent.

 

After calling for help for more than three hours, why would Reinhold not mention Guenther's predicament now that help had finally arrived? Reinhold answered that way because at that point he was alone, Mr. von Kienlin says, and didn't need help. Instead of calling for help all morning, Reinhold had actually been looking for Guenther, whom he had abandoned at the summit the previous day, Mr. von Kienlin adds. Reinhold had confided all of this in him while recuperating after the team had reunited, Mr. von Kienlin says, but Reinhold later concocted his story, at Mr. von Kienlin's suggestion, to protect his budding career.

 

Mr. Messner calls this nonsense. He explains that since the two climbers below had no rope, they could not have helped Guenther anyway. He adds that at that elevation, health is "relative." The brothers were still alive, so they were "OK," he says. Mr. Messner thinks Mr. von Kienlin has a motive for trying to destroy his name: Shortly after returning from the expedition, Mr. Messner fell in love with Mr. von Kienlin's wife. Though she had just given birth to their third child, she divorced Mr. von Kienlin and married Mr. Messner. Mr. von Kienlin says he got over the split years ago.

 

Over the next 30 years, the story faded into mountaineering lore -- until Oct. 4, 2001. At a presentation in Munich launching a new book on the expedition's leader, Mr. Messner said that his brother's death "was truly a mistake of the other climbers' not going in the Diamir valley" to look for them. He then accused several of the team members of wishing for them not to return.

 

Two expedition members in the audience were dumbstruck. The controversy that has followed hasn't hurt Mr. Messner's drawing power. Late last month, he delivered his first public account of the events, complete with a multimedia presentation, in a symphony hall in Munich. His tan, weathered face beamed from one of the two huge video screens behind him on stage. He eagerly signed his books for a long line of fans, before and after the presentation, and during intermission.

 

"I am the only one who survived," he told the sold-out audience -- with ticket prices starting at $21. "So I am the only one who can say what happened."

 

Mr. Messner says he had wanted to write about the trip for years, for his family and for his own peace of mind. Now, finding his brother's remains on the Diamir side, he says, is the only way to lay the matter to rest. The trip is planned for 2005.

 

Write to Christopher Rhoads at christopher.rhoads@wsj.com2

 

URL for this article:

http://online.wsj.com/article/0,,SB107101071024896700,00.html

 

 

Hyperlinks in this Article:

(1) http://WSJbooks.com/herd

(2) mailto:christopher.rhoads@wsj.com

 

Updated December 10, 2003

 

 

 

 

-----Original Message-----

From: Roy Grossinger

Sent: Wednesday, December 10, 2003 9:34 AM

To: Steve Oparka

Subject: RE: article in WSJ

 

 

Got rejected, send text.

-----Original Message-----

From: Steve Oparka

Sent: Wednesday, December 10, 2003 8:26 AM

To: Roy Grossinger

Subject: article in WSJ

 

 

Mystery Roils Climbing World

 

An expedition to a western Himalayan peak in 1970 launched the career of Reinhold Messner, but the events that took place on the mountain also claimed the life of his brother and now threaten to ruin the famed adventurer's well-cultivated reputation.

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This has everything, love triangle, group dynamics, hiddin agendas, brother vs brother, you name it. Soap opera time.

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Ursa_Eagle said:

we could run into Reinhold... smile.gif

Maybe the ghost of Willy Merkl?

 

What is it with German's and Nanga Parbat?

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Don't forget about Heinrich Harrer! (although I guess he was Austrian)

 

The Germans thought they owned Nanga Parbat, especially after so many of their countrymen died there before the first ascent. Thankfully for the German's, it was Buhl who got the FA (and probably had one of the greatest climbs in history.)

 

And for the record, Messner is from Italy (a German-speaking part of Italy.) Perhaps we should just say "What is it with people who speak German and Nanga Parbat?"

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Ursa_Eagle said:

Don't forget about Heinrich Harrer! (although I guess he was Austrian)

 

And for the record, Messner is from Italy (a German-speaking part of Italy.) Perhaps we should just say "What is it with people who speak German and Nanga Parbat?"

 

Tyrolia was Austria until WW1.

 

Ever see "The Mountain"? Cool movie about the first ascent of NP.

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Make sure you get the right The Climb. Wasn't there a tv movie by the same title last year that was basically a religious movie?

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Nazir Sabir hugged me once, it must be the hashish! Or maybe Nazir is really the yeti blush.gif

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cj001f said:

Ursa_Eagle said:

Don't forget about Heinrich Harrer! (although I guess he was Austrian)

 

And for the record, Messner is from Italy (a German-speaking part of Italy.) Perhaps we should just say "What is it with people who speak German and Nanga Parbat?"

 

Tyrolia was Austria until WW1.

 

Ever see "The Mountain"? Cool movie about the first ascent of NP.

 

I travelled a bit around Larga de Garda (or should I say Gardasee) in the Italian Tyrol a bit years ago. I remember how a lot of the German speaking natives didn't like being part of Italy (an artificial contrivance of the treaty that ended WWI in their opinion). I remember seeing the phrase "Sud Tyrol Frei Solte" (South Tyrol should be free) painted in giant letters on a big rock face.

 

FWIW

 

The place was crawling with German tourists who like to go windsurfing there, so it didn't even feel like Italy much anyway.

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read the article as well today.... found the following excerpt interesting... perhaps Guenther was in way over his head. Lil' bros do that from time to time. A tragedy nonetheless.

 

Late that morning, sensing he wasn't alone, Reinhold turned to find Guenther following him up the face. Guenther knew Reinhold would make the summit in the clear weather and grew frustrated that he wouldn't share the summit with his older brother, according to a climber who was with Guenther when he set out after his brother.

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This is certainly an interesting topic. Especially when you factor High altittude brain degridation into it. Messner has made many statements on the topic of honesty in mountaineering. He supported Tomo Cesan's Lohtse claim and then recently retracted his support.

 

One thing I have to call bullshit on is the press (and some of the cc.com posters) claim that Messner's traverse of NP was pivotal in his career. He was so badass, that he would have been at the top of the high altitude game anyway

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Within the last couple of days, the Wall Street Journal ran a small article reporting that the body of Reinhold Messner's brother, Gunther (or Guenther), was found about 500 feet below where Messner reported losing his brother during the descent from Nanga Parbat. Apparently, the body was found three years ago, and "it wasn't clear why it took three years to determine the bones were his brother's." It does seem as if this may lend some support to Reinhod's version of events, and Reinhold says he hopes that this find will put the matter to rest.

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