5 Great Climbing Quotes by Reinhold Messner

Quotes from the World's Greatest Mountaineer

Reinhold Messner is one of the greatest Mount Everest climbers. In 1978 Messner made the first ascent without supplemental oxygen with Peter Habeler and in 1980 he soloed the first ascent of a new route up the North Face. Photograph courtesy Reinhold Messner/Rolex

Reinhold Messner, born in 1944 and raised in the South Tyrol's Villnöss Valley among the Dolomite mountains of northern Italy, is simply the greatest mountaineer of the 20th century and perhaps of all time.

Messner's Amazing Climbing Resume

Reinhold Messner’s feats are legendary:

  • Solo first ascents on the great faces of the Dolomite mountains in northern Italy.
  • The forbidding North Face (Nordwand) of Switzerland's Eiger climbed in a quick 10 hours with Peter Habeler in 1974.
  • The first person, along with partner Habeler, to climb Mount Everest, highest mountain in the world, without supplemental oxygen in 1978.
  • The first solo ascent of Mount Everest in 1980, and by a new route!
  • The first person to climb all fourteen 8,000-meter peaks, the world's highest mountains.
  • The second person to climb the Seven Summits, the highest points on the seven continents.
  • Later Messner made expeditions to the North and South Poles, crossed the Gobi Desert in central Asia on foot; and researched and wrote a book about the infamous Yeti.

Messner's Early Climbing Days

The first quote about Messner's first ascent in 1965 of the 600-meter-high North Face of the Grosse Fermeda in the Dolomites comes from Messner’s 1989 autobiography . He learned to love climbing and to climb from his father and later, as a young man, his father would lend him his Lambretta motor-scooter so Reinhold and his brother Günther could venture to farther ranges, greater adventures, and first ascents.

Reinhold writes: “He was generous when it came to giving us our freedom in the mountains.”

Messner Quote from Free Spirit: A Climber's Life

“Today I am amazed that my father did not forbid us to make such first ascents. At that time I had a confused picture of freedom: today the name is the only thing people know about freedom.

They want to be free of laws, free of everyday cares, free of hate, free of ambition. Who knows what freedom is? No one. I often think that we mountaineers get nearest to it, this paradise on earth. Or, to put it another way: the truly free climber is one who obeys no rules. He is no high flyer, keeping up with the Joneses; no slave of others or of the summit fall line, like the directtissima men. I am sorry for them all, but especially for those who do not realize at all that rules force their way between them and the mountains.”

Messner Quote from The Crystal Horizon: Everest

“When I rest I feel utterly lifeless except that my throat burns when I draw breath... I can scarcely go on. No despair, no happiness, no anxiety. I have not lost the mastery of my feelings, there are actually no more feelings. I consist only of will. After each few meters this too fizzles out in unending tiredness. Then I think nothing. I let myself fall, just lie there. For an indefinite time I remain completely irresolute. Then I make a few steps again.” 

Messner Quote from The Telegraph Interview 2008

"Mountaineering has become part of tourism. Today you can buy an ascent of Everest like you can buy a trip to Rome.

You can buy the summit and be taken there as a tourist, but you cannot buy the experience I had or that [Edmund] Hillary or Chris Bonnington had [1953 first ascent of Mount Everest; 1975 ascent of Everest Southwest Face]. Real mountaineering means that you--or you and your partner--are solely responsible for what you do and the decisions you take. It is completely different.” (Interview in The Telegraph with Adrian Bridge, 2008)

Messner Quote Ponders "Things"

"The wonderful things in life are the things you do, not the things you have."

Messner Quote from The Crystal Horizon: Everest

“Not only during the ascent, but also during the descent my willpower is dulled. The longer I climb the less important the goal seems to me, the more indifferent I become to myself. My attention has diminished, my memory is weakened.

My mental fatigue is now greater than the bodily. It is so pleasant to sit doing nothing--and therefore so dangerous. Death through exhaustion is like death
through freezing--a pleasant one.” 

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Green, Stewart. "5 Great Climbing Quotes by Reinhold Messner." ThoughtCo, Nov. 26, 2015, thoughtco.com/climbing-quotes-by-reinhold-messner-755507. Green, Stewart. (2015, November 26). 5 Great Climbing Quotes by Reinhold Messner. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/climbing-quotes-by-reinhold-messner-755507 Green, Stewart. "5 Great Climbing Quotes by Reinhold Messner." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/climbing-quotes-by-reinhold-messner-755507 (accessed November 21, 2017).