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:
- They are not intimidated. They roll right over roadblocks.
“Obstacles energize me,” says Messner.
- 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.
- 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.”