In May 1978, a pair of mountain climbers, Italian Reinhold Messner and Austrian Peter Habeler, both in their 30s, claimed to have summited Mount Everest without supplemental oxygen for the first time.
Grayson Schaffer just wrote a lengthy article on the feat for Outside magazine, with both men talking on the record about the climb, as well as their falling out after it. RealClearLife has teased out some of the most incredible facts from it below.
-To show that they’d actually summited the mountain, Messner and Habeler left mementos tied to a survey tripod on the peak and took a photo. Of course, this didn’t help prove that they didn’t use oxygen to get there.
-Giving some background on the feat, Habeler told Outside: “In ’75 or ’76, if you would ask anyone who had been involved in Himalayan climbing what would be the next big thing, every second person would tell you: It’s Everest not using oxygen.”
-Originally solo climbers, Habeler and Messner teamed up to bring the sport to a new level. They became known as “the terrible twins.”
-On Messner’s first 8,000-meter climb, he lost his younger brother, Günther, who joined him on the climb, and seven toes.
-In 1977, Messner was a passenger in a single-engine plane that flew around Everest’s summit. He sat in the backseat with no oxygen, and though his lips turned a greenish-blue color, he talked throughout the flight.
-During the record-breaking climb, Habeler got violently ill from eating a can of sardines and thought he might not be able to make it to the top. Messner told a documentarian, who was there filming the feat, that he might have to find a new partner and that Habeler was having second thoughts. Those barbs ultimately compelled Habeler to go through with the climb.
-At one point during their oxygen-less feat, Messner stopped to make tea.
-After the feat, Messner became angered that Habeler published a book about it and received more press coverage than he did. They had a major falling out and barely spoke for 20 years. They have since reconciled.