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

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.”