Tuesday, September 4, 2012

All 14 Eight-Thousanders, by Reinhold Messner

Reinhold Messner sums up his career of climbing the world's highest mountains in All 14 Eight-Thousanders. As the first person to climb all of the 8000-meter peaks, Messner broke one more barrier in his life of expanding horizons. The book is an amalgamation of his styles, with some discussion of the future, as in The Seventh Grade, some revelation of the inner Messner (The Crystal Horizon), a bit of history (Second Death of George Mallory), criticizing other climbers (The Naked Mountain), complimenting other climbers (The Big Walls), etc. He relates his climbs roughly chronologically by chapters sorted by mountain. Each of the chapters contains an outline of the history of climbing the mountain, a diagram of Messner's route(s) on the peak, photos from his expeditions, a short narrative of his climb(s) on the mountain, and a short contribution to the prose from another climber associated with the mountain. It's a well-constructed book and a great introduction to Messner for the uninitiated, especially as his writing style is more mature than some of his more famous earlier books. He plays down a lot of the controversy from his career, but cites bad publicity continuously as a problem. He treats his climbs roughly equally, giving them all about the same space, which allows the reader to learn more about his less famous climbs, such as his ascents of Broad Peak or Dhaulagiri.

As the prose is relatively short, there isn't much room for new information on Messner's Everest climbs. If you've read The Crystal Horizon and Everest: Expedition to the Ultimate, you won't find any surprises in the narrative. The Everest chapter is perhaps a more sober, but still somewhat idealistic, reflection on his accomplishments. I appreciate that he later lauds Loretan and Troillet for their fast and direct climb up the North Face, though he decries speed as an accomplishment unto itself in climbing. I hadn't known before reading this book that Messner had made a semi-solo attempt on Lhotse from Nepal following his solo Everest climb.

I'm a Messner fan. I like that in his writing he discusses his inner thoughts in detail, hashes out ethics, espouses his personal ideals, and makes any climb, even those in which he turns back, sound like an accomplishment. His style, especially when discussing the interior workings of his brain, is unique. I also appreciate that he is a student of mountaineering history, and seems to appreciate a climb as much for its historical value as its aesthetic. I enjoyed this book. I hope you will too!

No comments:

Post a Comment