Thursday, December 15, 2005

Greg Child on the Messner Mystery

The January issue of Outside has an excellent article by Greg Child on the bizarre and enduring mystery surrounding Reinhold Messner's brother Günther, who disappeared on Nanga Parbat in 1970. A body that appeared to be Günther's, based on its clothing and a single boot, was discovered at the base of the Diamir Face of the 26,660-foot peak this summer, which would seem to end charges that Messner had abandoned his brother on the other side of the mountain; DNA testing later confirmed the body was indeed Günther Messner's. (The Outside article has dramatic photos from the grave site.) Although Child doesn't come right out and say it, the article makes plain that he thinks most of the claims against Reinhold Messner are hogwash. Even his former teammates have conceded that Günther died on the Diamir Face, yet the conspiracy theorists won't give up. "Finding Günther's body, they reiterated, did not by itself solve anything," Child writes. "Günther might have perished in a fall near the summit, or in the upper or middle part of the Diamir Face, not toward the bottom, where Messner said he'd last seen his brother." So much anger and resentment have accumulated between the antagonists in this drama that they can't let Günther rest. And, in the best passages of this article, Child makes clear that much of the fault for this bitter rivalry lies with Messner, who began attacking his teammates shortly after the expedition ended in 1970 and has rarely let up since. Even as most of the mystery of what happened to Günther Messner has been resolved, the rancor and name calling seem destined to continue indefinitely. Now that's a tragedy.

This same issue of Outside has several other decent climbing articles, including a good short report on the great German ice climber Ines Papert, a fun bit with Jack Osbourne, the British celeb who was guided up El Cap for TV in October, and a couple of how-to-have-the-adventure-of-a-lifetime interviews with Ed Viesturs and Tommy Caldwell, by yours truly. But what's up with the Corey Rich photo of "Caldwell warming up on the Great Roof of the Nose on El Cap"? It is quite clearly a picture of Beth Rodden. Oops!

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