“Stiff, Absent”: Simon Messner Speaks Out About his Father, Reinhold

Climbing Karakorum
Simon Messner.

Although it gives you certain advantages, it’s rarely fun to be the child of a legend. So confirmed Simon Messner, 30, earlier this week in an interview with Silvia MC Senette of Corriere del Veneto.

The younger Messner, a filmmaker and climber himself, is leaving shortly for Pakistan with Martin Sieberer of Austria to attempt an unclimbed 7,000m peak. He declined to give further details but did open up about his famous father, whom he calls Reinhold.

Key points from the blunt interview:

“I discovered mountains quite late, at age 17, precisely because it was so present in the house but I didn’t care,” said Simon Messner. “But when I tried climbing, it won me over. Yet I suffered from vertigo: When I was a child, a height of two metres was enough to panic me. Then when I returned to the ground, I wanted to go up again to understand what scared me. Thus, overcoming my limits, I became an alpinist.”

Reinhold Messner. Photo: Shutterstock

I have my life and he has his

How did his father react to his difficulties?

“I have no idea,” said Messner. “He wasn’t there…When I wanted to know something about him, I had to read [the German tabloid] Bild.

“I never went climbing with him nor did he ever take me on his adventures…It has never been easy. He doesn’t leave much free space for others, but as long as I was young, it was easier. Today, I no longer want to try to make it go well. I have my life and he has his.”

What kind of father was Reinhold Messner?

“Stiff, absent. His head is as hard as marble and he can be very fickle. It was not easy to be the son of a legend. Everyone sees him as a myth, but a child doesn’t need a legend. He needs a father and [Reinhold] never was. I will try to do better when I have my own children.

Simon Messner has an Austrian girlfriend, Anna, with whom he lives in Innsbruck. She would like to get married, but Messner is “not interested in marriage” — perhaps because of his father’s marital history. Reinhold, 76, has just married 41-year-old Diane Schumacher  — his third time at the altar.

I don’t accept that his wife is my sister’s age

“I must say that it bothers me a lot,” said Simon Messner. “I didn’t go to the wedding. I was not invited. I don’t accept that his wife is my sister’s age. But he is Reinhold: If he has something on his mind, he does it. And I keep my distance. It is no longer like it used to be.”

Recently, however, he has started collaborating with his father on a documentary about Reinhold’s 1976 Manaslu expedition, in which two partners perished in a storm.

“He is the boss, always,” says Simon. “Ours has never been a father-son relationship. He is not a parent like the others.”

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About the Author

Jerry Kobalenko

Jerry Kobalenko

Jerry Kobalenko is the editor of ExplorersWeb. Canada's premier arctic traveler, he is the author of The Horizontal Everest and Arctic Eden, and is currently working on a book about adventures in Labrador. In 2018, he was awarded the Polar Medal by the Governor General of Canada.

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S R
S R
16 days ago

Ouch! Brutally honest. Although we expect these climbing legends to be loners and egoists, Reinhold seems surprisingly extreme even in his personal/family life.

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Ooo
Ooo
16 days ago

I saw Messner at a grocery store in Seattle today. I told him how cool it was to meet him in person, but I didn’t want to be a douche and bother him and ask him for photos or anything. He said, “Oh, like you’re doing now?” I was taken aback, and all I could say was “Huh?” but he kept cutting me off and going “huh? huh? huh?” and closing his hand shut in front of my face. I walked away and continued with my shopping, and I heard him chuckle as I walked off. When I came to… Read more »

Frederick
Frederick
16 days ago
Reply to  Ooo

Oh wow, he is so funny but yes a little bit bored with his status. Still you saw one of your hero’s congrats.

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Marie
Marie
16 days ago
Reply to  Frederick

Well, Narcissists will do anything to be at the center of attention at all times, even if it can only be achieved by stealing mini cheese pizzas, offending their fans and harassing underpaid cashiers.

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MuddyBoots
MuddyBoots
15 days ago
Reply to  Ooo

The surprise in the pizza story is that Reinhold went out to buy frozen pizzas by himself. First: Frozen pizza! For shame!
Second: If you don’t want to be bothered, you stay in your hotel room and order room service. Or get someone else to go out for frozen pizza. He loves the attention, and he is provoking people to notice him, and then acting like that recognition is their problem.

So… what’s your best line for encounters with celebrities who compulsively seek attention, then reject and insult the people who give it to them?

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Don Paul
Don Paul
15 days ago
Reply to  Ooo

I have a fried who almost went to prison in Mexico over a 50 cent donut. He had to get rescued by other gringos.

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Ooo
Ooo
14 days ago
Reply to  Don Paul

It’s a copypasta

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Frederick
Frederick
16 days ago

I think the point about vertigo and climbing is interesting because some discussions have referred to DNA. E.g excelling because of family history in a sport. Most climbing legends gave up family life and are pretty much nomads during their adventures, so the rest of Reinhold’s decisions are not that surprising. In my mind he is an individual who pursues his dreams and set standards that wowed us all.

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MuddyBoots
MuddyBoots
15 days ago
Reply to  Frederick

True, and a good point about most climbing legends giving up on family life– actually failing at family life– because of their obsessive pursuits kept them away from any sort of home. They literally put climbing ahead of their children, and unlike the corporate guys who do this, climbing meant they were far away and out of touch. Actually, and metaphorically. Interestingly, Conrad Anker seems to be a good father, and his kids are actually Alex Lowe’s. But Conrad learned some hard lessons when he survived and Lowe died, and he was smart enough to change his behavior.

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Dario
Dario
16 days ago

Ho sempre pensato che Reinhold Messner, fosse un grande Alpinista, e nel contempo misero come uomo, arrogante, presuntuoso, ipocrita quando si tratta di ambiente, ha sponsorizzato dei fucili da caccia, tanto per dirne una. Un uomo pieno di se che ha depredato tutti i luoghi che ha visitato, con la scusa dei musei. Capisco il figlio nel vedere una sua quasi coetanea, sposare il vecchio padre, l’amore non è per niente cieco, vede bene il potere.

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Don Paul
Don Paul
15 days ago
Reply to  Dario

Messner sa parlare un italiano perfetto, però, devi ammetterlo.

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Big Milke
Big Milke
11 days ago
Reply to  Dario

To Dario You are wrong about Hunting. There are more wild deer in America now than there were before Columbus (another trouble making Italian.) The reason there are so many deer is fewer people are hunting now. Also, in the wilderness deer had to fight to stay alive. Here they eat on suburban lawns abd parks. Its better food, and they have no natural enemies anymore. Also, the female are so healthy they have two or three fawns a year in one birth. Before white men came to America, and brought people of other colors to do the work, doess… Read more »

Big Milke
Big Milke
11 days ago
Reply to  Dario

Ti sbagli sulla caccia. Ci sono più cervi selvatici in America ora di quanti ce ne fossero prima di Colombo (un altro problema a fare l’italiano). La ragione per cui ci sono così tanti cervi è che meno persone cacciano ora. Inoltre, nel deserto i cervi hanno dovuto combattere per sopravvivere. Qui mangiano sui prati di periferia e nei parchi. È cibo migliore e non hanno più nemici naturali. Inoltre, le femmine sono così sane da avere due o tre cerbiatti all’anno in un solo parto. Prima che gli uomini bianchi venissero in America e portassero persone di altri colori… Read more »

Trish
Trish
15 days ago

This story breaks my heart. To Simon or any of you that hasn’t had a father in your lives, or who has a father that is shitty and not been apart of your Iives, I want to tell you a story. My husband died before my son turned 11 months old. I think when my son was about 10 he started really asking questions and saying he wanted a dad. I told my son he might be lucky and not know it. I gave him these examples: What if you had a dad and he was very mean and beat… Read more »

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Big Milke
Big Milke
11 days ago

Full disclosure: Messner and I know each other. He writes books and I sell his books. As we meet under conditions where we are essentially equals, or he has a little higher standing than I do, he is always a gentleman and generous.
Also, I made comments below on another Messner opinion, and I also translated it into Italian as the original was in Italian. (Google translate, thank you again.)

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