Contemplating Nanga's Rupal face close up, "how did Tomaz Humar do it?" Joel pondered the other day.
Image by Tomaz Humar courtesy Tomaz Humar
ExWeb Messner brothers' special: Remains found at Nanga Parbat suspected Asian

Posted: Aug 28, 2005 11:03 pm EDT
A few weeks back, media reported that Günther Messner's body might have been found - by the Diamir face. A (local) mountain guide allegedly found the body about a month ago. Only some bones, no head, and some clothes were left. Messner made it official that he has identified the remains as his brother by the jacket and the boots.

Yet details are scarce, and there are unanswered question - among them the most important: Was the identification 100% positive?


One inconsistency is that according to New Kerala, Messner spokesman Naeem Khan said that the remains of Günther Messner were found at 4600m on the Diamir side of Nanga, dragged there from 7000m. This would contradict Messner's claim that his brother died on the base of the mountain.

In addition, sources who also saw a body at the base this summer (or whats left of it; bones and rests of clothing) have told ExWeb that one plastic boot was found by the body, whilst Günther apparently was wearing leather boots when he disappeared on the mountain. There are also other question marks with regards to the clothing.

A scientific study is needed to show the remains belong to Günther. Not to settle an argument, but more importantly - if the body is not Günther's, it belongs to somebody else.

We need funerals

Occasionally, Nanga Parbats glaciers spits the remains of past expeditions: Ragged clothes, old gear, and even human rests are commonly found at the mountains base. More than 60 people have died on Nanga Parbat since the first attempts. In fact, 31 of them perished before Herman Buhl summited the peak for the first time. The Naked Goddess earned her nick-name Killer Mountain well.

The bodies are however more than a sad reminder of our shortcomings at the forces of nature. Once identified, they can bring peace to families whose loved ones never returned home. People need a real body to mourn; studies show that performing funerary rituals help to accept loss and go on with our lives. Thats why those who have lost relatives or close friends in disasters, where corpses were never found, will suffer from different traumas for the rest of their lives.

The search for peace after death

It is crucial to find out who the body reportedly found on Nanga Parbat this past summer belongs to - and whether the remains claimed by Reinhold Messner as his brother's are the same mentioned by other expeditions on the spot.

The bones characteristics lead to think they could be from an Asian climber. Plastic boots are relatively modern. The jacket suggests the climber died during the 80s or 90s. Requests to Japanese alpine climbers have brought no results. We are now waiting for answers from Korea: Three Korean climbers have been reported missing on the Diamir side of the mountain since 1980.

The supposedly 'Asian body is the only confirmed to ExWeb to have been found at Nanga Parbats base this past summer. However, ExplorersWeb has contacted and await reply from Hushe treks, the outfitting company whose workers found the body reportedly identified as Günther Messners.

Are there several bodies found? When and where? There are no images published and no forensic reports. Whether or not the findings are from the same climber, it's important that they are thouroughly examined before buried - to rest in peace at last.

On June 27, 1970, Reinhold Messner and his brother Günther accomplished one of the boldest feats in mountaineering history when they made the first ascent of the Rupal Face -- the worlds highest rock wall -- and reached the summit of Nanga Parbat. It was their first attempt on an 8,000m peak. It would also be Günthers last.

In Reinholds account, it was a combination of the weather, the hour, Günther's exhaustion, and having no ropes to descend back down the wall safely, that led the brothers to opt for descent down the less steep, but unknown Diamir face on the west side of the mountain. In a grueling two days that left both near total collapse, Reinhold went ahead to scout a route through the crevasses. He returned for Günther, only to find his brother had disappeared under an avalanche. Günther was never seen again.

Over the years, Reinhold has returned to Nanga Parbat six times - sometimes to look for signs of his brother, other times to climb. Messner wants put to rest the question of his credibility, raised in recent years by fellow expedition members from the 1970 expedition.

Like Reinhold, Max-Engelhardt von Kienlin and Hans Saler have written their own books about the 1970 Nanga Parbat expedition to set the record straight. They make strong claims that Messner abandoned Günther (on the Rupal face) for his own ambition and concocted the avalanche story to hide his guilt.

If found, the location of Günther Messner's remains would prove a vital key. A finding at the Rupal face would support Messner's critics - a finding at the Diamir face would support Messner's account.

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