14 April 2018

It Is Climbing Season On Mount Everest; Legendary Mountaineer Reinhold Messner Explains ‘The Art Of Not Getting Killed;’ And, Some Key Ingredients To Overcoming Our Fears

It’s that time of year again. It is nearly mid-April and as I write this, there are those hearty souls, excessively driven to push the limits of their physical and mental abilities; and, summit the highest mountain on Earth. So, perhaps it is appropriate to get a better appreciation of how those who succeed in summiting Everest and the descent — confront the emotion of fear — and, find a way to survive. Last October, 2017, NDTV (New Delhi Television Limited) conducted a sit-down interview with legendary mountaineer, Reinhold Messner, about the ‘Art Of Not Getting Killed.’ Mr. Messner, for those of you who do not know about him — has lived quite a remarkable life. The Italian born Mr. Messner, as the publication noted. “became the first person to summit Mount Everest solo; and, without the help of oxygen in 1980. Perhaps one of the world’s last great adventurers: he has conquered the world’s highest peaks; crossed Antarctica; and, hunted for the elusive Yeti,” the publication noted.

“That he has lived to tell those tales, is mainly down to luck,” he told NDTV.

Mr. Messner, now 74 years old, told Agency France Press (AFP) last fall that, Life is about daring to carry out your ideas. And for me, it always comes back to the wilderness, nature, and the mountains.”

In addition to make the first successful, solo ascent of Mount Everest — without the use of oxygen — Mr. Messner, in 1986, became the first mountaineer to successfully summit all 14 of the world’s tallest peaks, and……..all without the use of oxygen.

“Along the way, NDTV noted, “he has pioneered an extreme style of mountaineering, known as alpinism, where climbers aim to reach the top [of their climb/s], with as little material and outside help as possible.”

“We were the first generation to say: We don’t need all that,” Mr. Messner told AFP, who thehy add “grew up in South Tyrol, an autonomous province in Northern Italy, and not far from where the Lion of Carthage, Hannibal made his entrance into Italy back in the late 3rd century B.C. Mr. Messener caught the climbing bug early, starting when he was just five years old.

But, solo climbing, with as little support as possible, and not oxygen bottle support, “is an art that is increasingly getting lost,” Mr. Messner told AFP; and, he “dismissed today’s climbers who rely on sherpas, [guides], and ready-made routes [ladder emplacements, ropes, etc.] to reach the peak.”

“The true alpinist,” Mr. Messner said, “doesn’t want any infrastructure,” or outside help/assistance — “he wants to go into the wild. And, the odds of getting killed there [when climbing solo & no support] are relatively high. And, most people are sensible enough not to want that,” or temp fate in that manner, Mr. Messner laughed

“But, the art of not getting killed — is only an art — if there’s a [reasonable] chance you could die,” Mr. Messner said. “If I rule out the chance of getting killed in advance [of such a climb] the whole thing becomes a game, or tourism, or consumerism,” he added.


“Mr. Messner’s own exploits, have not been spared from tragedy,” AFP reported.

“In 1970, Mr. Messner’s own brother, Gunther, died as they [he & Reinhold] were descending Pakistan’s “killer mountain,” Nanga Parbat, in bad weather. Mr. Messner himself, lost seven toes to frostbite,” AFP noted.

Gunther’s death, “prompted one of the most infamous rows in mountaineering history,” AFP reports, “which haunted Messner for decades. Other members of the expedition accused him of leaving his brother near the summit — in a bid to become the first to ascend the mountain from one side, and descent from the other. It wasn’t until 2005, [35 years after Gunther’s death], that Messner said he felt vindicated, when Gunther’s remains were recovered close to where he [Messner] had always insisted his brother died as the result of an avalanche.”

“His daring feats, [which] have become the stuff of legend,” have also come with a price, AFP noted. Climbing solo, without oxygen, and/or, little to no support structure, not surprisingly caused resentment, envy, and jealousy from some of his fellow climbers/team/s.

“Around half the top alpinists have died climbing,” he told AFP.

Moving On To Other Challenges

“Messner later moved on to different challenges,” AFP noted, “crossing the Gobi Desert, and Antarctica; and, claims he discovered that the Yeti, also known as the “Abominable Snowman,” was just a bear.” He is also took a dab into politics, became a prolific writer and author — having recently written, “Wild,” a true story about an ill-fated, 1916 Antarctica expedition;. and, he has taken a stab at directing films. His most current movie, “Still Alive,” is set in Kenya; and, tells the story of two Austrian climbers who run into trouble, [on Mount Nelion]and are faced with life-altering dilemmas.”

“Still Alive,” tells the dramatic true story, of the rescue of an Austrian climber who was marooned on Kenya’s Mount Nelion for two weeks, after falling down 80 feet into a crevice/gully. An October 1, 2015 article by Alice Nduta and posted on the Daily Nation, describes “the accident and rescue operation that lasted a record 13 days; and, claimed the life of a helicopter pilot in a fatal crash.”

Regarding the film, Mr. Messner told AFP that he “wants to observe [examine] how people act in a very difficult, [and potentially life-threatening] situation.

The Psychology & Emotion Of Fear

The ancient Greek philosopher Socrates once wrote that “The unexamined life isn’t worth living.” Mr, Messner’s remarkable life certainly fits Socrates’ ideal of a adventurous and fulfilling life. On the website, “Logical,” they made an attempt at explaining how individuals like Mr. Messner are able to stare down their worst fears — while the majority of us…..struggle to do so. In an article titled, “ 4 Steps For Finding The Courage To Conquer Your Fears,” the author (not provided), notes that “What if,” is perhaps the scariest question for most people.”

“Everyone experiences fear, it is an innate emotion, woven into our DNA that helps is respond to danger and protect ourselves,” the publication noted. ” It is a self-defense mechanism that has evolved over thousands of years to protect the survival of the species.”

“While fear protected our ancestors, and helped them cope with the challenges of a danger-laden environment,” Logical noted, “it doesn’t serve near a noble a purpose in modern day society,” Reinhold Messner is definitely the exception. “Far too frequently, fear, and the anxiety that tags along with it — just keeps people from taking a risk, trying something new, and potentially repeating the benefits of doing so.”

“Interestingly, as babies, most researchers agree, we are born with only two innate fears,” Logical noted. “Babies are not afraid of the water; after all, they lived for nine months — suspended in amniotic fluid. Nor are they claustrophobic; they actually find comfort in tightly controlled spaces, as it reminds them of the time when they were safely tucked away in their mother’s womb.”

“The fear of failure. The fear of change. The fear of public speaking. The fear of rejection. The fear of judgment. The fear of ridicule. The fear of dying, And, the ever-present fear of creepy crawly things (spiders, snakes, bugs, and other little critters that come out at night,” and, the paranormal/things, we do not fully understand. Every one of these anxiety causing, gripping fears we were not born with — we LEARNED to be afraid of these things,” Logical noted.

But, Logical pointed out, “we can decidedly influence the degree to which our [those] fears debilitate us. In fact,” the publication noted, “this is one of the biggest differences between highly successful people [and the Reinhold Messner’s]; and, those who struggle in life.”

“People who are the greatest achievers have learned to rule their fears — rather than be ruled by their fears.” 

So, The Critical Question Is: “How Does One Move Past Their Fears, Overcome Their Self Doubts — And Find The Courage To Take The Actions That Will Ultimately Lead To Their Success?” Logical asks.

I refer you to Logical’s article for the full details. Having said that, these are the keys to overcoming fear, and what makes Reinhold Messner who he is:

1) Focus more on what you want…than what you don’t want. As motivational speaker Terry Litwiller likes to say, “Success comes from having dreams….bigger than ourselves.” As Logical noted, “People who rule their fears possess tremendous clarity on what they are looking to accomplish; and, they think about it frequently. Visualizing what their life will look like, the things they will be able to do, and the opportunities that will open up to them. They know what they want and, why they want it, so they willingly pay the dues [and the sacrifice] to get it.”

2) Become comfortable with being uncomfortable: “He who is not everyday conquering some fear, has not learned the secret to life,” poet, essayist, lecturer, Ralph Waldo Emerson. “Our comfort zones are an imaginary boundary line that exists in the mind: one comfort zone is based upon our level of experience; and, the second is based upon our belief in our own potential. All success, all greatness — happens on the other side of your comfort zone.”

3) Change your perspective on failure: “Would you like me to give you a formula for success? It’s quite simple really. Double your rate of failure.” Thomas Watson, Founder of IBM. Edison would later say, “I have not failed, I just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Failure is a fact of life. But, it is how we respond to failure that separates the great from the average. As Logical points out, “it took Thomas Edison more than 10,000 experiments before he was able to make the first light bulb glow. Orville and Wilbur Wright built and tested more than 12,000 different wing designs — before they perfected the one that was actually capable of lifting an airplane into the sky.”

4) Get to know your unknowns: “The only fear we have to fear, is fear itself.” Franklin Delano Roosevelt., 32nd POTUS — though Julius Caesar said something virtually identical. But, I digress. “What lurks in the deep recesses of the dark closet is scary,” Logical noted We don’t like things, we cannot see, or prepare for, and protect ourselves. Thus, we avoid them in an effort to perpetuate our own existence, and mental well-being.” But, as they like to say on Wall Street, “You can’t make any real money — if you are not willing to risk it.” You need….skin in the game.

The Logical article ended on this observation: “You have within you, everything you need to master your fears, overcome your doubts, and conquer your demons. You have within you, the courage to move forward — even when you are afraid. You have within you, everything you need…..to be great.” 

And, one last quote, from Gen. George Patton: “Where there is fear of failure, there will be failure.”

Lots of good advice here; and, food for thought. It would sure seem that the Reinhold Messner’s of this world, have the four traits Logical says we need to overcome our fear of failure. But, I bet Mr. Messner would likely admit some luck along the way. V/R, RCP, www.fortunascorner.com

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