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After Reinhold and Günther completed their schooling, they began to train, grudgingly, for professions, Reinhold as an architect at Padua University, Günther to work in a bank. But their real education continued on the rocks. "I trained also to stay days out—days and days without food," Reinhold said. "We went into the mountains without taking food with us; we had to carry it, so we learned to do without it." They also learned, as Reinhold put it, "to handle situ-ations," or retain emotional equilibrium.

"I think that courage is only the other half of fear," he said. "Only because I am afraid, I need courage . . . If I am well-prepared, and if I'm living a long time in my visions, in my fantasy, with my challenge—before doing it, I'm living with it, I'm dreaming about it, planning, preparing, training. So when I start to climb—especially when I'm on a big wall, whatever difficulties—I am so concentrated that there is nothing else existing; there's only a few meters of wall where I am hanging and climbing; and in this concentration, everything seems quite logical. There is no danger anymore. The danger is gone . . . But the concentration is absolute."

By 1969, Reinhold had obtained his diploma in architecture and was teaching mathematics in a local secondary school, an occupation he had chosen solely because it allowed him to climb. Then out of the blue came an invitation to join an expedition in the Himalaya. It was to be a turning point. "I see Reinhold in two phases, you see," Hansjörg said, carefully. "I see him before Nanga Parbat and after Nanga Parbat."

Climbers speak of a mountain's "line," the route up its face that unlocks the summit. The line of Reinhold Messner's life, that line that unlocks and defines him, is unquestionably the 1970 Austro-German Sigi Löw Memorial Expedition to Nanga Parbat. Rising in northern Pakistan, Nanga Parbat is one of the world's eight-thousanders, the 14 mountains standing above 8,000 meters; at 8,126 meters (26,660 feet), it is the ninth highest in the world. Following numerous unsuccessful, sometimes fatal, expeditions, it was first summited in 1953, by the great Austrian climber Hermann Buhl. "In my time, the most technically demanding climb was not any one peak," Reinhold said. "It was surely, at least in the German-speaking world, the south face of Nanga Parbat, the Rupal Face." Even the victorious Buhl, who had climbed by way of the north side, had been intimidated by this massive wall, which he described with palpable amazement as "the highest mountain wall in the world, plunging 17,000 feet in one sheer sweep from the summit into the unplumbed depths."

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