Saturday, October 3, 2009

Book Review - Free Spirit - A Climber's Life by Reinhold Messner

With my running volume close to zero, I have way too much time on my hands. To sustain my hunger for the epic, I'm on a strict diet of running books and movies but I'm running out of choices so I decided to branch out in other sport related to endurance. After re-reading "Into Thin Air" by Jon Krakauer, I came across Reinhold's Messner's name and it rang a bell. Reinhold Messner has been called by some the greatest climber of all times. After watching a movie about him on Snag, I was intriged. I'm no climber, but as an ultra runner, I understand the attraction of committing to a goal that challenges one's notion of what is possible.

Free Spirit covers Messner's life from his first climb up until his crossing of Antartica on skis in 1990. This book has chapters about climbs that had special meanings to Messner. Don't expect detailed descriptions of each ascent. This book is not "Into Thin Air". What you do get is a peek into what motivates someone like Messner. A say a peek, because ultimately, such a relentless drive cannot be explained on paper.

As the book progresses, you scarcely can believe that one person can live such an intense life and accomplish so much. He is the first to admit that he was extremely lucky to survive all those adventures, when people around (literally) him died. In climbing, you are always a falling rock, an avalanche or a storm away from death. That being said, Messner knew that and found ways to minimize those risks. He had an almost perfect measure of his own abilities and knew when to turn back.

What is amazing about Messner and makes this book interesting, is not any individual accomplishment; it is the shear number of them. Every single ascent in the book is a momentous accomplishment, like his unsupported climb of Everest without oxygen. But the book is full of them.

At time, I wished he would go into a bit more details about an expedition, but I guess I can always buy some of his other books, which are more focused on a specific ascent.

If you decide to read this book, be aware that it sometimes it feels as if it has been translated from German to English using Google Translation. But hey, who am I to judge?

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