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Mountain man fights fear with focus

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Like most of us, Reinhold Messner’s career has traversed several stages. Unlike most of us, he has led the world in at least two of those stages.

First, Messner was one of the very best among elite rock climbers. Next, he became unquestionably the world’s greatest high-altitude mountaineer.

From a tiny mountain valley in Italy’s South Tirol, beneath the heavenly Geislerspitzen range, Messner made his first summit with his father at age 5. He took to dashing lightning-fast and alone to the tops of the highest mountains on earth … without oxygen, gear, porters, ropes or anything else but a small rucksack.

As a veteran of 31 expeditions of 8,000 meters, Messner became the first man to attain all 14 of the world’s 8,000-meter mountains and stands among the minority of top-flight climbers who haven’t died trying.

If you’ve ever wondered what makes mountain climbers into leaders, here are three traits:
  1. They are not intimidated. They roll right over roadblocks.

    “Obstacles energize me,” says Messner.

  2. They know what they’re capable of. After watching Muhammad Ali’s boxing matches on the village television, Messner took to calling his climbs the way Ali called his fights: Instead of a boxer in round six, it would be the Eiger in 10 hours.

  3. They neutralize fear with concentration. “Courage is only the other half of fear,” Messner says. “Only because I am afraid, I need courage. So, when I start to climb, I am so concentrated that there is nothing else existing; and in this concentration, everything seems quite logical. There is no danger, anymore. The danger is gone. But the concentration is absolute.”
-- Adapted from “Murdering the Impossible,” Caroline Alexander, National Geographic.

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