Famed mountaineer claims remains of brother, killed on Himalayan peak 35 years ago
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – A famed Italian mountaineer retrieved his brother’s lost remains from Pakistan’s perilous Nanga Parbat mountain, 35 years after their conquest of the peak ended in tragedy.Fellow members of the 1970 expedition have accused Reinhold Messner of having abandoned his younger brother Gunther, then 24, after reaching the summit of the world’s ninth highest peak, when Gunther was suffering altitude sickness.The climb was to prove a turning point in Messner’s career. The Italian went on to make a solo ascent of Mt. Everest, and became the only man to scale the world’s 14 tallest peaks without using bottled oxygen.”On Nanga Parbat I suffered my biggest tragedy, losing my brother,” Messner, 61, said Sunday at a news conference, after a weekslong trek around the mountain.Messner, who has also been a member of the European Parliament, showed reporters a leather mountaineer’s shoe, with holes in the front but largely intact, that he said belonged to his brother.He said villagers found it July 17 near the base of the 26,658-foot-high peak, along with human remains apparently churned down its steep slopes over the years by glaciers and snows.”Today nobody (is) using leather shoes. Only in this expedition we used this shoe,” Messner said.He said the remains were cremated “in a beautiful spot” near Nanga Parbat’s base and the ashes will be scattered over the Himalayas.Some 31 people died attempting to reach the summit of Nanga Parbat before it was conquered by the German mountaineer Herman Buhl in 1953.Messner said he and Gunther had reached the summit on June 28, 1970 – the first conquest on the mountain’s cliff-like southern side.The next day, bad weather struck, and the brothers lost contact with fellow expedition members. Messner said that because Gunther was suffering from altitude sickness, he decided they would descend on the less-difficult western side.Messner, who lost seven toes and parts of finger tips to frost bite in the expedition, said he was ahead of Gunther on the descent when an avalanche struck and buried his brother.He claims the location where the remains were found – on the western side of the mountain – support his account of what happened.Messner has sued two members of the 1970 Nanga Parbat expedition, Hans Saler and Max-Engelhardt von Kienlin, for alleging in books that he had sacrificed his brother’s life so he could reach the summit.They alleged that Messner sent Gunther down a more dangerous route, although the two brothers had both nearly died on the way up it, while Messner himself took a safer route for his descent.On Sunday, Messner rejected their account as “lying, lying and again lying.”Saler and von Kienlin could not immediately be reached for comment.Vail, Colorado
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