Status: 25.09.2023, 21:30 p.m.
By: Isabel Winklbauer
The Guinness Book has stripped Reinhold Messner of his world records: He is said not to have been the first person to climb all 14 eight-thousanders. In an interview, the mountaineering legend takes a stand.
Instead, the American Edmund Viesturs is now considered the first climber of all "true 8000m peaks", because the peaks have been given a new basis for calculation. It's no wonder that Messner is – not because he mourns his records, as he tells our newspaper, but because "99.9 percent of all those involved in this story have no idea about mountaineering and peaks. No one can imagine the dimensions up there!"
Guinness Book revokes Reinhold Messner's world records
The Guinness publishing house has recently updated its mountain records because a German mountain statistician and chronicler has recalculated the positions of the eight-thousander peaks: Eberhard Jurgalski from Lörrach has been evaluating digital geodata from the German Aerospace Center as well as summit photos for years. He came to the conclusion that the peaks of at least three out of 14 eight-thousanders have been incorrectly positioned so far - and their record climbers were not at the top at all.
Reinhold Messner with his yak herd in Sulden am Ortler. © Sammy Minkoff
Reinhold Messner and Hans Kammerlander would not really have been on Annapurna in 1985, but would have turned around 65 meters before the finish. So Messner would not have been on all the highest mountains in the world, his two records as first on all eight-thousanders and first on all eight-thousanders would have lapsed without oxygen. And not only his: those of Edurne Pasaban as the first woman on all eight-thousanders and of Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner, who walked all eight-thousanders without oxygen, are now also marked as "outdated". Jurgalski's coordinate games sweep away entire mountain legends.
Messner emphasizes: "Of course we were at the summit"
For Messner, it is immovable that he and Kammerlander were at the top of Annapurna. "Of course we were at the summit," he says, "you can't miss it when you come out of the northwest face. This is a relatively flat spot. We were able to look into the south face and saw the exit points of the tours that climbed up to the summit in front of us via other paths. We were even able to briefly radio to the base camp to say that we were at the top. We also located ourselves with binoculars. There was no doubt."
Mountaineer criticises withdrawal of records
But can digital geospatial data lie? "It may be that another point is five meters higher today than it was then," he says, "but you can't measure like that. If the current highest point on the summit is a guard (a snowdrift, editor's note), it is not accessible. This is life-threatening! You have to take changing snow conditions into account." To underline this aspect, Messner posted a photo of mountaineer Stéphane Benoist at Annapurna summit on his Instagram profile. The man sits at the highest point of the mountain – next to a huge guard that would be suicide to climb. For statistician Jurgalski, who is not a mountaineer himself, Messner therefore has only contempt. "He hasn't been to Annapurna, he doesn't know the mountain. Perhaps he is confusing the East Summit and the West Summit. He's just doing his business with it."
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At 8091 meters, Annapurna is the tenth highest of the 14 eight-thousanders. © Wikipedia
In an interview with our newspaper, Messner explains what he was really concerned about at the time: "We weren't first-time climbers who were looking for records. That's why you can't take records away from me. Our aim was to overcome the difficult walls without any aids. We were interested in mountaineering in wild nature, the path was the goal. Today, it's all about being on top. No matter how much help."