The Second Boot from Reinhold Messner’s Brother Found on Nanga Parbat

As they melt away, glaciers sometimes bring the memories of those lost to the mountains back to the surface.

Reinhold Messner lost his brother Guenther on Nanga Parbat in 1970. Last week, he relived the tragedy again. “The second shoe of my brother Günther was found at the foot of the Diamir Glacier by local people,” wrote Messner on social media.

The first boot turned up on the ice back in 2005 after Messner discovered a bone in 2000 while attempting a new route. He brought the bone home, and DNA analysis revealed that it did belong to his brother. That these remains appeared on the Diamir side of the mountain helped answer several questions.

Possibly the last photo of the Messner brothers, Reinhold (left) and Guenther, at Nanga Parbat’s Camp 5.


Guenther perished after summiting

Mainly, it supported Reinhold Messner’s claims that Guenther had perished only after the two brothers summited via the Rupal Face. The elder Messner always said that Guenther disappeared in a whiteout while descending down the Diamir side. Likely, an avalanche swept him away during this first-ever traverse of Nanga Parbat.

However, some members of the expedition doubted Reinhold’s word. They accused him of leaving his younger, less experienced brother behind and going alone for the summit, the traverse, and the glory.

The 1970 Nanga Parbat traverse was one of the greatest feats in high-altitude mountaineering in the second half of the 20th century. It was also the dramatic final outcome of a troubled expedition. The bold, creative Messner clashed with the strict expedition leader, the legendary Karl Herrlingkoffer. Herrlingkoffer had led four previous attempts on the so-called Killer Mountain, two successes via the Diamir and Rakhiot routes and two failures on the sheer 4,300m Rupal Face.

Reinhold Messner disobeyed his leader’s orders and set off alone toward the summit from Camp 5. His brother ran after him when he saw Reinhold high above. That was the last time that the rest of the team saw Guenther. The rest is history and mystery, which these findings in the new millennium have helped clear up.

A recent photo of Reinhold Messner, who has spent this spring in Nepal.


It was also a traumatic experience for the surviving Messner, who barely made it down alive, exhausted and alone. He only survived thanks to some shepherds. The expedition on the other side of the mountain had already packed and left, believing that the brothers had perished.

What happened to the 2005 remains and some contradictions regarding their location raised controversy, as this early ExplorersWeb story outlines. Reinhold peremptorily burned the unidentified bones on the spot and brought the boot back for his mountain museum.

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.