King of the 8000ers, Reinhold Messner has seven brothers born and raised in St. Peter, Villnöß, a mountain village in South Tyrol, Italy. He is second, with Helmut Messner being the eldest, born in 1943. After Reinhold, there was Günther, born in 1946, followed by Erich (1948), Waltraud (1949), Siegfried (1950), Hubert (1953), and the youngest, Werner (1957).
Reinhold Menner’s Brother & Climbing Partner: Gunther Messner
Among eight brothers: Reinhold and Gunther found immense love in mountaineering. As a kid, they climbed on weekends with their father. When Reniold turned thirteen and Günther eleven, the brothers started climbing together. By the time they had developed strong bonding between them. By their early twenties, they established themselves as the best mountaineers in Europe, climbing the most difficult routes in the Alps.
Messner brothers were a member of a 1970 expedition, attempting unclimbed Rupal’s face of Nanga Parbat in Pakistan. The expedition was led by Karl Herrligkoffer, who had already conducted six expeditions to Nanga Parbat before.
On 27th June 1970, Reinhold began ascending toward morning without equipment. On the other hand, Günther and fellow expedition member Gerhard Baur were preparing ropes to support the harrowing descent of Reinhold. Suddenly something inside of Günther happened. Out of nowhere, he dropped the rope and began climbing to reach the summit alongside his brother. Indeed, Günther went to the limit of his possibilities to catch up with Reinhold.
They summited very late in the afternoon, and Gunther was too exhausted to descend in the nighttime. Hence, they were forced to bivouac near the summit. Tragically, the following day saw, Günther in the worst condition. Though they had encountered possible helping hands about 100 yards apart, miscommunication snatched the last chance of being rescued.
Hence, the brothers bivouacked the second night as well.
On the third day, Gunther became so weak he lost his balance while descending. Three nights in the freezing temperature without shelter and food made the brothers fragile, and they eventually separated. The next happening brought a huge controversy in mountaineering history: Reinhold left his brother to die on the mountain.
Reinhold lost seven toes due to frostbite. Even worst than that, he lost his climbing partner, his brother, in the mountain’s western Diamir face due to Avalanche. However, the world would not believe Avalanche is the cause of Gunther’s death.
Hans Saler and Max von Kienlin, members from the same 1970 expedition, both authored books accusing Reinhold of leaving his brother, Gunther, to death.
Did Reinhold Messner Find His Brother?
What happened to Reinhold Messner’s brother Günther Messner is mysterious. His fate was unknown: he disappeared while descending from the Nanga Parbat summit via Rupal Face with his brother, Reinhold Messner.
Reinhold Messner was heavily accused of his brother’s death. In 1971, he returned to Nanga Parbat to find his brother Gunter Messner. Unfortunately, he did not find the remains of his brother.
You may also like:
Where was Gunther Messner found?
In July 2000, a human fibula (belonging to Gunther) was discovered by a mountaineer, Hanspeter Eisendle at the Diamir Wall of Nanga Parbat.
In June 2005, the three Pakistani locals found the remains of Gunther at the precise location where Reinhold claimed his bother disappeared in an avalanche. Finally, the three-decades-long controversy came to an end, with Reinhold’s claims proving accurate.
Ultimately, Gunther received a final ritual. His remains were burned at the base of Nanga Parbat. Further, a chorten was built on his memory.
In June 2022, the second boot was discovered after fifty-two years that still had the foot’s remains inside.