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Death of Famous Mountaineer Messner Brother 50 Years Ago Finally Solved

Over 50 years after Günther Messner died on the slopes of Nanga-Parbat in Pakistan, the details of his mysterious death have at last come to light.

Credit: YouTube/James Andy – Earth Science TV | Jaan Künnap

Over 50 years after Günther Messner died on the slopes of Nanga-Parbat in Pakistan, the details of his mysterious death have at last come to light.

Günther Messner was an experienced climber when he decided last-minute to take on the challenge of Nanga-Parbat. Nanga-Parbat, also known as Diamer to locals, is the ninth-highest mountain on the planet, with its tallest point reaching 8,126 meters or 26,660 feet. The mountain is infamously nicknamed “Killer Mountain” after the intense danger of its climb, as well as the high rate of climber mortalities.

Günther had climbed several of the most challenging routes in the Alps the decade prior. Upon setting off on Nanga-Parbat, both brothers completed the initial summit with relatively little issue; however, their descent proved more challenging.

Credit: Imrankhakwani

Reinhold began the climb earlier than Günther, misinformed about a threat of severe severe weather. Shortly after, Günther sprinted difficult climbs on his own in an attempt to catch up with his brother. Upon reaching the peak, Günther experienced intense exhaustion and altitude sickness. According to Reinhold, Günther did not want to descend via their prepared route, the sheer Rupal Face, and instead urged for the gentler decline of Diamir Face.

After another day and night on the mountain, Reinhold said Günther was exhibiting signs of delirium. Their third morning on Nanga-Parbat, Günther was unable to walk or climb normally, and could only stumble slowly alongside his brother. At the bottom of the Diamir Face, Günther disappeared. The most likely theory is that he died in a sudden ice or snow avalanche. Reinhold continued his descent on frostbitten feet and little sleep until he found local farmers who provided aid. Years later, Reinhold still claims he “cheated death.”

Many of the other members of the expedition are suspicious about Günther’s death and Reinhold’s role in it. They suggested Reinhold lied about their via Diamir Face, rather than Rupal Face, in order to throw off attempts to find Günther’s body. They also accuse him of responding inaccurately to offers of help: “Yes! Everything’s okay,” Reinhold reportedly said when asked about their state at the summit, despite Günther’s visible exhaustion and increasing delirium.

Credit: Jaan Künnap

Reinhold’s survival in the face of his brother’s death inspired suspicion globally, in fact. Across the world, many suggested Reinhold abandoned his brother in order to prove his individual climbing prowess.

Over the next several decades, lawsuits were filed and many legal and personal attacks were launched on behalf of Günther and Reinhold respectively. Soon, pieces of the story began surfacing. First, a human fibula was found and was later identified as Günther Messner’s by a DNA analysis at the University of Innsbruck. A few years later, Günther’s body was found on the Diamir Face by local guides. Just a few days ago, in June of 2022, Pakistani locals found Günther’s second boot and foot.

The location of the shoe proves to many what Reinhold has claimed for the past 50 years: he didn’t leave his brother behind. Günther was exactly where Reinhold claimed he lost him, on the bottom section of the Diamir Face. “This is further proof that I did not abandon Günther,” Reinhold said to Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera. “People say I left him to die, sacrificing him for my own ambition.”

Credit: YouTube/Mountain Queen

Continuing on Instagram, Reinhold writes: “Thank you again for the countless poignant messages about the discovery of Günther’s shoe.As I read many people have accompanied me all these years with the Nanga Parbat tragedy.Thank you.I am now an old man, but Günther remains forever young” [sic].

After his brother’s death in 1970, Reinhold Messner went on to enjoy an illustrative climbing career. He was the first person to climb all 14 peaks above 8,000 meters (26,000 feet), the first person to climb Mount Everest without supplemental oxygen in 1978, and the first person to solo climb Mount Everest in 1980. He also crossed Antarctica and Greenland without the assistance of snowmobile or dogsled. In his lifetime, he has written over 80 books on mountaineering and his experiences in the practice.

Interested in reading more about recent random discoveries? Click here to learn about the James Webb Space Telescope that will soon tell scientists everything they need to know about a nearby planet where it rains lava.

Written By

Makenna Dykstra (she/her) is currently pursuing her M.A. in English Literature at Tulane University in New Orleans. She writes journalism and poetry.

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