One of the biggest films that screened at the 2012 Banff Mountain Film Competition was Messner, a 108-minute German documentary with English subtitles directed by Andreas Nickel. In late September, before the European premiere of the film, journalist Johanna Stoeckl interviewed the famous German mountaineer about everything from his childhood to the evolution of alpinism. Two of Messner's most interesting answers came in the middle of the interview, when Stoeckler asked about his favorite athletes and the state of alpinism today.
Are there mountain climbers at present to whose achievements you tip your hat?
There are many I appreciate. If I’m supposed to give the absolute highlights at this point, I would mention the American Steve House and the Slovenian Marko Prezelj. I will also be following closely Denis Urubko. Someone like Ueli Steck, a very sympathetic and cultured fellow, after his ascent of Everest on usual routes, however, has to prove that he wants to do real alpinism, not only speed climbing. There are still are a lot of good alpinists. But today they have a hard time even to be noticed by the media. Because all those charlatans, fixed-route alpinists, and the so-called skyrunners absorb a lot of media attention, and the media reporting is off the mark. I don’t want to talk about competitive athletes in this context. Climbing on plastic holds is a separate, brilliant discipline, but it has nothing to do with alpinism.
Is it still possible to find real alpine adventures?
Fortunately, it is again. Recently I went with my son on a well-known, classic route in the Dolomites, with a face height of 600 meters. In the past, for decades such a route counted about 60 ascents a year. This year, we were the second rope team on this face. That means nobody’s going anymore on classic routes. Climbing gardens and halls are the real hype now. Everyone’s going there. The possibility of living an adventure, exposing yourself to great difficulties, being on your own, today is possible more than ever. Ralf Dujmovits recently captured on camera a queue of over 300 climbers in tailback on the Lhotse Face. Finally we have excellent photographic proof that what I have been denouncing for 20 years is a reality. I have been criticized for it, but it’s even worse than I had pictured. If everyone goes there, there will be no more real adventures on Everest.
To read the full interview, published this past Monday by the Banff Centre, go to "Messner: I'm Obsessed by My Visions."
Unfortunately, the trailer below is in German. I searched and emailed others to try and find a version with subtitles, but came up empty. I will update it with a new trailer in English if I can find one.