The Italian Almanac

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Reinhold Messner

Italian News - July 28

Renowned Italian mountaineer Reinhold Messner is set to lead his family, including his four-year-old daughter, on a physically demanding pilgrimage to the world's most treacherous mountain. Messner, 66, is preparing to take his wife, four children, seven brothers and their families to the Himalayan peak of Nanga Parbat, where he lost his brother in an ill-fated expedition in 1970.

The 8,125-metre peak is considered the ultimate challenge by top mountaineers because, while not as high as Everest, it is more difficult to climb. Messner, the first man to scale all 14 of the world's 8,000 metre peaks, has come close to death twice on the mountain. He is not intending to take his family to the top, but to the base camp on the southwest face, from which he and his brother Guenter set out on the day they were hit by an avalanche.

The camp is at 4,200 metres, an altitude at which the air is already thin. Just getting there requires several days of hard walking. Discussing the expedition with reporters, he denied that the exertion would be too much for his four-year-old daughter Anna. "Children's metabolisms adapt to high altitudes much quicker than those of adults," he said, noting that he often took the child on walks near his home in the Italian Alps. Messner has been quoted as saying his little girl is already training for the expedition because, although he may carry her on his shoulders part of the way, she will also have to walk.

The Himalayan pilgrimage is important for the Messner family because the remains of Reinhold's brother were only found and definitively identified last year. The position of the body, on the western Diamir face of the mountain, finally put to rest years of polemics over what happened on that fateful day in 1970. The Italian always maintained an avalanche had swept away his brother on the way down and that he had spent two days and a night searching for him in vain. Last year Guenter's body was in fact found on the return route.