Nepal | January 16, 2021

Climbing legend stresses traditional alpinism with Sherpas

Rajan Pokhrel
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Legendary mountaineer for Italy Reinhold Messner

Legendary mountaineer for Italy, Reinhold Messner, talks to THT Online, in Kathmandu, on Thursday, November 3, 2016. Photo: Rajesh Gurung

KATHMANDU: Legendary mountaineer from Italy, Reinhold Messner, has said that Nepali Sherpas are capable of facilitating traditional alpinism on top mountains of the world.

Messner, who has devoted his entire 30 years of climbing life to promote traditional alpinism, said that Sherpas bore all the problems on mountains in order to facilitate the expedition members for the same.

Talking exclusively with THT Online, one of the world’s greatest mountaineers of all time, also stressed that the traditional art of mountaineering should be preserved and promoted as it was a direct exposure to the nature.

Messner is the first climber to reach the summit of Mount Everest without oxygen support and also the first person to climb all 14 of the world’s highest peaks above 8, 000 metres.  

Tourism vs. traditional alpinism 

“Tourism and traditional alpinism are two different things in Nepal, a home to thousands of peaks,” the 72-year-old father of four said.

Talking about the paradigm shift in mountaineering sector, the veteran remarked that traditional alpinism and tourism were two factors which created a huge division in the alpine club.

The present trend of mountaineering with commercial expeditions is just ‘climbing indoor’ while the traditional alpinism is all about ‘climbing on the rocks’ by making a direct exposure to the nature in its purity by limiting the use of artificial tools, the mountaineer, who crossed by foot the Antarctic, Greenland, Tibet, the deserts Gobi and Takla Makan, added.

“If you are on your own, expose yourself to some high altitude and experience the mountain nature with no artificial oxygen, no bolts or no communication as Nepal has thousands of peaks where you can enjoy the real climbing,” the world’s great alpinist suggested to the serious mountaineers.

Saying that at least 90% of young people go for the “indoor climbing” without being on the mountains, Messner said that he, however, was not against tourism as the trade activities on mountains weighed a high monetary value.

“I climbed the Mt Everest like Sir Edmund Hillary did. But, now people are climbing mountains in a different way,” he quipped, saying that the current trend on mountains was ‘tourism cum trade activity’, but not the traditional alpinism.

“Once I had proposed for a strict provision ensuring only one expedition permit on a mountain in a season; but my suggestion was dismissed saying it would not be good for the country’s tourism and economy,” he recounted.

Blame on tourism?

Commenting on a recent fraud on the Mt Everest regarding a claim of the certificate without summitting and multiple summit points on the Mt Manaslu, the renowned mountaineer said that it was all because of prioritising tourism over alpinism.

“But, tourism is good for Nepal and the country needs more tourists now than ever,” he defended.

About amputees, hearing or visually impaired attempting to climb the Mt Everest in recent days, Messner reacted that they paid thousands of dollars to make it happen. “(But), it is tourism, not alpinism,” he repeatedly said.

The stakeholders – government authorities, expedition organisers/operators and tourism entrepreneurs –must understand the difference between tourism and alpinisim while regulating the country’s mountaineering sector. “It is up to them how to handle commercial expedition and alpine activities.”

Valorisation of Sherpas

Sherpas put each and everything ready from base camp to summit for the people who reached the mountains, he observed, adding that it was tourism and he was not against of it.

Messner also expressed his happiness over local operators for their expertise. “Now, there is no need of any American or English company to manage expedition in Nepal as in the past. Local operators are well-prepared to offer the excellent services.”

“During our time, we had guided the Sherpas to the top of the summit. Now, they lead the westerners and climbers from the other world to the summit point, keeping all the problems of expedition members away,” he recounted, while appreciating the Shepra community for their courage and dedication. Sherpas were the real climbers, he added.

“Now, I want to give something back to this country,” the author of more than 50 books said.

According to him, he has also been supporting a museum project in Solukhumbu.

“We have supported hospitals built by Sir Edmund Hillary in Khumbu region, the founder of the Messner Mountain Foundation said.

While giving any explanation to the mystery of the yeti, Messner said, “It is a real story. I had a face-to-face with a yeti which was coming from Tibet in 1986.” Messner also claimed to have witnessed the footprint while scaling the Mt Annapurna.

Latest journey

Messener, who lately turned himself from politician to filmmaker/director, arrived Nepal last week for a filming project.

“I have fallen in love with this beautiful country,” he said, adding that he has visited Nepal for more than 50 times.

“This time, I came here to do a film on a holy mountain – Mt Ama Dablam.” We have flown to Khumbu region, visited Pokhara and shot a few scenes in the Capital city.

“I will come again in April/May here for a month for filming,” he said, while preparing to wrap up his weeklong stay in Kathmandu on Thursday.

The film “Ama Dablam” will mostly chronicle the real facts that the climber recorded from 1959 to 1979.

“Not a fictional one, it will be a true story based on real facts,” he added. The Nepal’s film would be about local culture, tradition, nature and the holy mountain.

“It (the film) will certainly be a good “propaganda” for Nepal as the film will have local characters to play.”

Kathmandu-based Thamserku Trekking has been locally assisting the legend’s filming project.

“It is our privilege to be organising travel and filming logistical support for Messner and his team for his upcoming film,” Thamserku’s Managing Director Namgyal Sherpa said.

More on the cards

The mountaineering legend also plans to come up with the Hollywood movie on the Mt Everest.

As he signed a five-year contract with a Hollywood producer last year, Messner said that the film would be something different than the ‘Ama Dablam’.

“I have written a script for the Ama Dablam, but there are other people to prepare the script and other necessary things for the Hollywood movie,” Messner said.

Messner, who has always chosen solitary trips, said he was now in a world mission to conduct research on why the particular mountain in the world was considered as the ‘holy’ one.

A permanent resident of South Tyrol, Italy said that he created the Messner Mountain Museum and it has its six interrelated thematic museums dedicated to the art, culture, religion and peculiarities of mountain regions throughout the world.

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