Gunther Messner’s Second Boot Returns to Reinhold

Reinhold Messner has finally received the second boot of his younger brother Gunther, who controversially died in 1970 on Nanga Parbat. For most, it is a reminder of one life lost on the so-called Killer Mountain. For Reinhold, it is a message Gunther sent from beyond the grave to confirm his innocence.

The boot was found and retrieved from the glacier on the Diamir side of the mountain in June 2022, 52 years after Gunther Messner’s death. Last week, Pakistani climber Liver Khan traveled to the South Tyrol and gave the boot to Messner, Barrabes reported.

The boot is important because it corroborates Reinhold Messner’s side of the story about the tragedy on Nanga Parbat.

The 1970 tragedy

In 1970, the Messner brothers, part of a big expedition led by Karl Herrligkoffer, launched a summit push on the still-unclimbed Rupal side of Nanga Parbat. (Check the last videos of the two brothers on Messner’s Instagram below.) Only the elder brother returned, days later, badly frostbitten and almost dead from exhaustion, on the Diamir side of the mountain.

Reinhold explained that after the two of them had summited at 5 pm, Gunther was too exhausted to retrace his steps down the difficult sections of the Rupal face without a rope. They then decided to go down the milder Diamir side. Reinhold went first. At one point, on the lower part of the mountain, he lost sight of his brother. He looked for him but only found the signs of a recent avalanche.

Decades of accusations

However, some of the expedition members didn’t believe him. Hans Saler and Max von Kienlin deemed Reinhold an overambitious climber who didn’t want the weaker, less experienced Gunther along.

According to Herligkoffer’s orders, Gunther was not supposed to go with Reinhold on the summit push. But when Reinhold set off from the high camp, Gunther followed him nevertheless. Saler and Kienlin openly accused Messner of abandoning his brother to his death during the ascent, before reaching the summit.

Guenther Messner in a black and while photo, sitting by a tent, with icce behind him and a cooking stove in front.

Gunther Messner. Photo: Reinhold Messner/Instagram


The controversy has pursued Messner for 34 years. In 2004, the first boot and some bones surfaced on the Diamir Glacier. A climber who was looking for minerals for his children stumbled upon the remains. Hearing word of the find, Messner traveled to Nanga Parbat’s Base Camp and burned the remains at a small ceremony on the spot. However, he took a few samples for genetic identification. The remains were indeed Gunther’s. The controversy was settled, and the boot was exhibited in one of Messner’s museums.

The second boot was not necessary proof, but for Reinhold Messner, it was a kind of confirmation that “disprove[d] the conspiracy theories about Gunther and the Nanga Parbat tragedy,” he wrote. “Gunther, thank you and I am thinking of you.”

Angela Benavides

Angela Benavides graduated university in journalism and specializes in high-altitude mountaineering and expedition news. She has been writing about climbing and mountaineering, adventure and outdoor sports for 20+ years.

Prior to that, Angela Benavides spent time at/worked at a number of local and international media. She is also experienced in outdoor-sport consultancy for sponsoring corporations, press manager and communication executive, and a published author.