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Published: November 2006

Greatest Mountaineer

Mountaineer

Murdering the Impossible

Superhumanly determined, Reinhold Messner has pursued his uncompromising vision to reach the summits of Earth's highest peaks—and beyond.

By Caroline Alexander
Photograph by Vincent J. Musi

Beyond the walls of the 16th-century fortress, in northern Italy, the Dolomite range rose burnished and glowing in the late afternoon light. Within the walls, Reinhold Messner, the world’s greatest mountaineer, was building a mountain. At his energetıc direction, a backhoe lumbered back and forth in the dusty courtyard, heaving slabs of rock and depositing them in an artful pyramid that by the end of the exercise had formed a small mountain.

"This is Kailas, Holy Mountain," Reinhold said, while the backhoe filled the air with golden dust. He was relishing the scene—the whole scene; not just the satisfaction of seeing Tibet's most holy mountain assembled in miniature under his supervision but also, I suspected, the roar and rumble and chaos and dust and magnificent improbability of the undertaking. The Kailas installation is only one of the many features, fanciful and inspired, that will fill his latest Messner Mountain Museum, this one dedicated to the theme of "When Men Meet Mountains."

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