I've been impatiently waiting for this book to be written for decades and have a million thanks to offer Reinhold, for finally seeing this project through to completion. In order to understand my perspective, you should realize that once upon a time, I was an armchair mountaineer, raised on classics such as Annapurna and Nanga Parbat Pilgrimage. The latter was my introduction to the bizarre and confusing Dr. Herlingkoffer, organizer of many Himalayan expeditions, some of them among the most controversial in the history of high altitude mountaineering. Reinhold Messner became a force to be reckoned with in the world of climbing in the '60s. When I read of the disaster on Nanga Parbat, it was like deja vu all over again, with claims and counter-claims, lawsuits and feeling spoonfed with the official expedition account that obviously left out key facts.
As time passed, I didn't feel that the press treated Reinhold fairly. I wanted to know all the facts and to hear his side of the story. One could find snippets here and there, but his economical writing style has always been a bit cold and detached to say the least. But I recognized the man for what he was, followed his career and read everything he wrote. As those years passed, I kept wondering if he'd ever back up and write about the expedition that changed his life forever - with the kind of detail and insight it deserved.
Karl Herlingkoffer passed on a few years ago and maybe this book's appearance is linked to his death. Regardless, it's long overdue but in a way, it was worth the wait. Time is often required to gain insightful perspective, to dull the rough edges and to heal wounds. The loss of his brother and the resulting lies that condemned Reinhold to a life of controversy also gave him an incredible focus. Clearly, he had something to prove to the mountaineering community and he proved his points well. It's easy to point out climbers that have upped the ante after Reinhold passed his prime, but any realistic overview of the history of big, bold climbs would point to Reinhold as being a prime force in shaping the standards of today in the Himalaya and the other major ranges. It's great to now be able to read the facts, the feelings and the aftermath as he sees it. Absolute classic.