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 is a journalist specialised on high-altitude mountaineer and expedition news working with ExplorersWeb.com.

Angela Benavides 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 national and international media. She is also experienced in outdoor-sport consultancy for sponsoring corporates, press manager and communication executive, radio reporter and anchorwoman, etc. Experience in Education: Researcher at Spain’s National University for Distance Learning on the European Commission-funded ECO Learning Project; experience in teaching ELE (Spanish as a Second Language) and transcultural training for expats living in Spain.

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Shivering Yeti
Shivering Yeti
23 days ago

Reminds me of a Don Whillans quote. “Was the foot still inside?” Think it was in a book about the Eiger climb.

Jahan
Jahan
23 days ago

How do they it was Gunther’s boot?

jajo_majo
jajo_majo
23 days ago
Reply to  Jahan

i read somewhere that all the members of the exped had the same boots, but reinhold and gunther only had have them laced in a different way and that is how reinhold recognized the first boot as gunthers.

OldHikerDude
OldHikerDude
18 days ago

Is it me, or does Reinhold seem to be getting even more hair as he gets older?