| Reinhold Messner
Berlin, June 18: The mountaineer Reinhold Messner has pledged to return to the mountain that made his reputation three decades ago to find the body of the brother he is accused of abandoning on the peak.
In 1970 Messner set out for Nanga Parbat, a 27,000ft peak in Pakistan, with his brother Gunther, and climbed it by a route that has never been repeated.
Gunther died during the expedition and in recent books two of Messner’s former colleagues accused him of abandoning his brother to his fate to ensure his own success.
Messner, 57, seen as the world’s greatest living mountaineer and the first man to climb the world’s 14 highest peaks, has denied the claims.
Yesterday he told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung he was desperate to counter what he saw as a jealousy-fuelled “smear campaign” against him.
He said he would return to Nanga Parbat to try to locate Gunther’s body.
“I will find my brother, even if it takes me 20 years,” he said.
Hans Saler and Max von Kienlin, who accompanied the Messner brothers on their 1970 expedition, argued in separate books that Reinhold abandoned the physically-ailing Gunther just below the summit, commanding him to retrace his steps down the Rupal face.
Gunther either died on the way down or in his tent, they claim.
Messner’s former friends say that they broke their silence after he told his version of events last year in his book The Naked Mountain: Brother, Death and Loneliness.
Messner said that his brother developed altitude sickness after they reached the summit.
They then began to descend the Diamir face, but lost contact and Gunther was never seen again, possibly buried by an ice fall.
He insists that his critics are motivated by jealousy and personal rivalry, not least because Messner had an affair with von Kienlin’s wife and married her.
Due to the conditions on the mountain, Messner, who is Italian-born and now an MEP for the Green Party, will not be able to embark on his expedition until next year.