August 20, 2020
40 Years Ago, Reinhold Messner Summited Everest Solo Without Bottled Oxygen
40 years ago on this day, mountaineering great Reinhold Messner shocked the climbing community, and the world, when he summited Everest alone and without supplemental oxygen.
At the time, people had just begun to accept it was physically possible to ascent to Everest’s 29,000-foot roof without oxygen, but to do it alone was to court almost certain death. Messner went anyway. At one point during the climb, he slipped and fell into a crevasse. With no one to assist him, it was climb out or die. Where many might turn back after a miscue like that, Messner shouldered his pack and climbed on.
Messner arrived via the Tibetan side, climbing a route that had unclimbed sections, ascending Everest below its Northeast Ridge.
“I was so exhausted at the summit that I just let myself fall into the snow and dozed off,” Messner told an interviewer. Fortunately, after an hour of puffing – that’s all it was – I had the strength to get up again and to descend.”
“It seems that a drunk came down from the col and not the same man who left four days ago,” Messner’s girlfriend Nena Holguin wrote in her diary. “He looks at me with tears in his eyes. His face is yellow, his lips are chapped and frayed.”
For Messner, and the rest of the mountaineering world, his mind-blowing feat was proof there was still adventure to be had on Everest, even as late as 1980.