Günther Messner

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This article has been translated from German into English, from the German version of Wikipedia.

Günther Messner (18 May 1946[1] – 29 June 1970) was an Italian mountaineer from South Tyrol and the younger brother of Reinhold Messner. Günther climbed some of the most difficult routes in the Alps during the 1960s, and joined the Nanga Parbat-Expedition in 1970 just before the beginning of the expedition due to an opening within the team.

Rupal face of Nanga Parbat

Death on Nanga Parbat[edit]

Günther set off from an advanced camp to the summit of Nanga Parbat in the morning of the 27th June 1970, following the steps of his brother Reinhold, who had left during the earlier hours of the morning. Günther eventually caught up with Reinhold after having soloed the difficult Merkl couloir. Günther and Reinhold reached the summit together late in the afternoon, when Günther started showing signs of exhaustion, possibly due to the effort he made in trying to catch up with Reinhold earlier in the day. What happened next has been the matter of controversy. According to Reinhold Messner, the two brothers stayed near the summit overnight in an emergency bivouac in the so-called Merkle-notch, since a night descent seemed impossible on the Rupal face due to Günther's exhaustion and altitude sickness. Reinhold Messner was still relatively strong compared to his brother, and decided to attempt a rapid descent down the Diamir flank of the mountain, to get Günther to lower altitudes as quickly as possible. This multi-day decline brought the two climbers to the limit of their physical and mental strength, and was to end in tragedy when Günther disappeared at the bottom of the Diamir face, most likely killed by an ice avalanche during the descent. Reinhold Messner, facing exhaustion, severe frostbite and the loss of his brother, continued down along the Diamir valley until he found some local shepherds that helped him.

The expedition members Max von Kienlin and Hans Saler claimed that Reinhold Messner declined the assistance of others when his brother Günther Messner became ill. It has been asserted that Reinhold Messner descended alone on the Diamir side, while Günther Messner descended alone on the Rupal side - resulting in his death. Apparently Reinhold Messner had planned a crossing of the mountain on his own from the beginning. Reinhold alleged in a statement that he had the idea to descend on the Diamir side, and downplayed the severity of the situation in order to prevent the other climbers endangering themselves by rendering assistance.


In July 2000, climber Hans Peter Eisendle found a human fibula at the base of the Diamir wall of Nanga Parbat. Due to the decomposition of the DNA, it could not be determined with certainty whether the bone belonged to Günther Messner - it was possible that the bone could have come from climbers who died on the mountain in 1962. A subsequent analysis at the University of Innsbruck strongly suggested that the owner of the fibula was Günther Messner.[citation needed]

On 17 August 2005, more human remains of a climber were found on the Diamir face. Reinhold Messner claimed to recognise the shoes and jacket of his brother. On 21 October 2005 scientists at the University of Innsbruck completed a DNA analysis of tissue samples from the remains, and confirmed that the remains were that of Günther Messner. This evidence suggests that Günther Messner was on the west side of the mountain when he was killed, and not on the descent through the Rupal Wall.[citation needed]


On 8 September 2005, the remains were burned at the foot of Nanga Parbat on a pyre in Tibetan tradition. The participants sang "yelo Lak, the gods were merciful," and threw rice into the air.

Further reading[edit]

  • Ralf-Peter Märtin: Nanga Parbat. Truth and delusion of mountaineering. Berlin-Verlag, Berlin 2002, ISBN 3-8270-0425-X.
  • Max von Kienlin: Exceeding. Günther Messner's Death on Nanga Parbat Herbig, Munich 2003, ISBN 3-7766-2345-4.
  • Reinhold Messner and Others: Diamir. King of the Mountains. Mount Doom Nanga Parbat. Frederking & Thaler, Munich 2008, ISBN 978-3-89405-708-4.
  • Reinhold Messner: The Naked Mountain Nanga Parbat: Brother, Death, and Loneliness. Piper, Munich and Others, 2003, ISBN 3-492-23921-8.
  • Reinhold Messner: The white solitude, Piper, Munich and others 2004, ISBN 3-492-24186-7.
  • Hans Saler: between light and shadow. The Messner Tragedy on Nanga Parbat. A 1 Verlagsgesellschaft, Munich 2003, ISBN 3-927743-65-8.
  • Jochen Hemmleb: "Nanga Parbat The drama in 1970 and the controversy." Tyrolia, Innsbruck 2010, ISBN 978-3-7022-3064-7
  • Death on Nanga Parbat - The Messner Tragedy [Film]. TV documentary by Ludwig Ott (44 min, 2004).
  • Nanga Parbat [Film]. Director: Joseph Vilsmaier in collaboration with Reinhold Messner. Releasedate: 14 January 2010. Length: 104 minutes.


  1. ^ Diary of Günther Messner, entry from May 18, 1970. In Reinhold Messner, Der Nackte Berg, 2002, Piper Verlag, p. 119: Lager I (4700 m), Pfingstmontag, 18. Mai 1970. Heute ist mein Geburtstag, 24 Jahre werde ich alt. (= Camp I (4,700 m), Whit Monday, 18 May 1970. Today is my birthday, I'm getting 24 years old.)

See also[edit]