© Ronny Kiaulehn

6 Questions for Reinhold Messner

Reinhold Messner has climbed the highest and most dangerous peaks in the world. But for the 78-year-old from Bressanone, the Dolomites are the most beautiful. In our interview he makes no secret of his love for South Tyrol.

August, 10, 2023


For Messner, the Dolomites are the most beautiful mountains in the world. © IDM South Tyrol-Alto Adige/Andreas Mierswa

The South Tyrolean Reinhold Messner was always looking to make the impossible possible. The result reads like a string of superlatives: he was the first to conquer all 14 eight-thousanders without an oxygen tank, climbed the Seven Summits and stood on fabulous 3500 mountain peaks. Even at the age of 60, he crossed the Gobi Desert on foot. Today, the summit climber, who at least in spirit always kept both feet on the ground, describes himself as a Sunday mountaineer. He lives with his wife Diane at Juval Castle in South Tyrol.

You once described South Tyrol as a mental and geographical in-between world. What do you mean by that?
We South Tyroleans are the link between the German north and the Italian south. We aren't Austrians, we aren't Germans, we are not Italians, although we are Italian citizens - we are South Tyroleans, perhaps also still Tyroleans, Europeans and citizens of the world. Having our own self-confidence is very valuable because it doesn't have a nationalistic dimension. That's why we are an intermediate. All we need is a European passport. Then I would understand us to be completely embedded in a world that corresponds to us.


"I eat everything. I learned that on my expeditions. But I like to go to a good restaurant from time to time because I also appreciate the art of cooking," Messner said. © Florian Jaenicke/laif

The world of your childhood was strongly influenced by the Dolomites. How does that affect your own personality?
The Dolomites are the most beautiful mountains in the world, the maximum of elegance and beauty. I started climbing there and lived out the first passion of my life as a mountain climber.

Juval Castle in South Tyrol is the residence of mountaineering legend Reinhold Messner. © Thomas Rötting/laif

But you have already climbed the first three-thousand-meter peak with your father as a five-year-old. How do you manage that?
I'm also surprised that I was able to muster the stamina to do so at the age of five. But as children we have played outdoors a lot, were as wild hordes on the road, often kilometers from home. Something like that would no longer be possible today.

© Thomas Rötting/laif

Can you only fully understand the Dolomites when you climb them?
No, I would not say so. But if we see the Dolomites only from the car window, then we perceive basically only postcard images, but not the reality. We have to measure the mountains with our own muscle power; only with the speed of the pedestrian we can recognize macro- and microcosm. When you find a stone that contains a shell, you wonder how this is possible - right? Many millions of years ago, the Dolomites were under water. Strictly speaking, they are coral reefs. Even today.

Do you have any tips for our readers who want to experience the South Tyrolean mountains?
In any case, don't follow the photos of the influencers - they always lead to traffic jams, to noise, to hectic. It's enough to simply hike in peace; putting one step in front of the other, without a specific goal. All the people who run around in the mountains as if they had to do races, don't perceive the Dolomites in their breadth of radiance.


Messner's mountaineering museum MMM Corones on the Kronplatz with panoramic view was designed by star architect Zaha Hadid. © Mauritius Images

You have been married to Diane Schumacher since 2021. Was there a honeymoon respectively? Is there also something like vacation in your life?
No, actually not. But we are soon going to Nepal for ten days to inaugurate a museum on which we have worked for many years. Sooner or later, though, there'll definitely be some form of vacation. Diane and I plan to visit countries we have not yet traveled to. I can't imagine sitting or lying on a beach - I can't even swim! (laughs)

This article appeared in the Falstaff TRAVEL issue South Tyrol Special 2023.

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