Reinhold Messner (Bresanona, South Tyrol, Italy, 74 years old) is, for mountaineering purists, an inescapable reference, a myth that broke all the roofs of mountaineering with its example: the first person to climb the 14 eight thousand (between 1970 and 1986) ), and also without the use of bottled oxygen, the first to climb Everest to the full lung (1978), the first to ascend solo to the top of the world (1980) … Hours before receiving this Friday, along with the Polish Krzysztof Wielicki, the Princess of Asturias Award for Sports, Messner departe by phone with EL PAÍS with the same commitment and freedom of those who always showed. Advanced to his time, ready to erase all the barriers of the unknown in high mountain, Messner hardly accepts comparisons and remains unique when it comes to thinking mountaineering. His categorical speech, clear and consistent with his way of acting, he remembers today the path of authenticity applied to mountaineering. In 1988, the Italian rejected the medal of the Olympic order of the IOC alleging that mountaineering is not a competitive sport. Now, however, he happily accepts the Princess of Asturias Award for Sport while defending that mountaineering is a form of culture.
Question. What does the Princess of Asturias Award for Sports represent in your case?
Answer. It makes me happy to receive this award because it is the first time it is granted to a climber and it is recognized, in a certain way, that mountaineering is not only something related to sport but also to culture. It makes me especially happy to receive the award with Wielicki, because that is how Polish mountaineering is also recognized. It is pleasant to receive the award of a country like Spain, which houses beautiful mountains, mountains that remind those of my land.
P. How would you define the figure of Reinhold Messner yourself?
R. At 74 years old I consider myself as the narrative of mountaineering. Throughout my career I have carried out many facets: I started climbing on rock, then I went to climb in height and completed the 14 highest mountains on the planet, I crossed both poles, I climbed the sacred mountains of the earth, I defended as a politician in Brussels the environment and the mountains [entre 1999 y 2004, con el grupo de Los Verdes]… At this moment I have a mountain museum and film development. All this means that I still have the ability to design and carry out projects.
P. Is the mountaineering of the 21st century as I expected?
R. With mountaineering you can not tell if something is wrong, or if it is better or worse … Each individual has the right to carry out any activity related to the mountain world. Nowadays, mountaineering is getting closer and closer to a sport, each time climbing more in climbing walls, using resin grips … and in terms of outdoor mountaineering, simply is, increasingly, tourism, is slipping to tourism. In Spain, mountaineering was known later, since this activity was born and grew in the countries of the alpine arch. What happens now is the following: a person can climb often and have no idea what the mountaineering means. In Tokyo, for example, there are 800 climbing walls [salas de escalada] Thousands of people who enjoy the exercise of climbing, but not the soul of mountaineering.
P. Would you say then that mountaineering without adventure is not mountaineering?
P. Does a person who climbs a mountain of more than 8,000 meters helped by porters and caught on fixed ropes is a mountaineer?
R. A person who chooses the normal route of an eight-thousander, a previously equipped route, conditioned by others, should know that he is not doing mountaineering but tourism. The climber goes there where there is nobody, where the others do not arrive. That is my definition of mountaineer. The tourist goes to those places where an infrastructure is already mounted that allows him to reach his objectives.
P. Has mountaineering been a matter of men, and if so, what role does the woman currently play?
R. Mountaineering is open to both men and women. In fact, the level of women today is very similar to that of men, although they are less numerous. In the past, mountaineering was reserved almost exclusively to male circles, where the woman was not really allowed to enter.
P. What dream did you fail to fulfill as a mountain climber?
R. I am still a mountaineer: I climb easy routes, I can climb to an altitude of 6,000 meters, but obviously I am aware that at my age I have clear limits. It is true that now I have found other areas where I can become a mountaineer, even if it is not climbing: the cinema and my work in the museum motivate me.
P. Did you admire some mountaineer of his time?
R. Yes, to the Polish Jerzy Kukuczka. I admired him because in the eighties he was the strongest of all. He was the one with the most capabilities, the one who had the most experience, he was very strong and had an enormous capacity for suffering. Mountaineering is not done to have fun and have fun …
P. What values should never lose sight of the mountaineering?
R. The uncertainty, the incognito. If there is no uncertainty, if this is displaced by the technical capacity of the climber, the exercise loses value. If there is no mystery, if the technical and physical preparation kill the uncertainty, the mountaineering is dead. The mountaineering and consumerism that we know today are two opposing forces. I believe that the mountaineering of the future must renounce the technique not to kill the mystery …
Pole Krzysztof Wielicki, 68, was the first man to climb Everest, Kangchenjunga and Lhotse in winter, as well as being the fifth mountaineer on the planet to conquer the 14 eight-thousanders. Messner celebrated Thursday that "finally" his legacy was recognized. Wielicki recalled how his companions and he left their professions to venture into the conquest of the winter peaks. For him, mountaineering must be practiced in these conditions. "It's a passion, an addiction, a way to cross the red line," said the Pole.