Reinhold Messner was twenty-five when he climbed to the top of Sassolungo, the highest peak in the massif of the same name, in the Gardena Valley, facing Sasso Piatto – which closes a one-kilometer-long series of mountains from north-west to south-east (Cinque Dita, Sasso Levante, Dente di Mezdì, Dente).
It was 1969, and Messner was the first climber in history to reach the summit – at 3,181 meters of altitude – alone.
“That was exactly what I wanted,” Messner wrote of his early experiences climbing with his father and brothers: “Climbing without even looking around, following my instinct and nothing else, finding my way on my own.”
He also described how his passion for solo climbing began:
“At noon, the four of us were on the top of Mount Secéda in the Odle: my father, my two brothers and me. Above us was the Piccola Fermeda. Under the blinding sunlight, the south wall seemed very steep but articulated, and the route up looked straightforward. […] My father did not object, so I started alone and with no rope.”
“[…] Once I found a series of holds for hands and feet, I started to climb. I removed everything: the only concepts that mattered to me were hold, pace and movement – I didn’t think of anything else. In a few spots I may have hesitated and looked down into the void that ended three hundred meters down, on green pastures.”
“After a few meters, climbing got easier and I soon reached the south top. Crossing the friable rock, I then got to the main peak: looking north, I could see the Gschmagenhart-Alm, from where we had started that morning. To the south, I could see all the most important mountains in the Dolomites: from Sassolungo to Sass Songher, and further away, on the background, the Marmolada, Mount Pelmo and the Civetta…” (translated from R. Messner-Th.Hütlin, “La mia vita al limite”, Corbaccio, Milan 2006).
Enjoy the view of Sassolungo in these wonderful images, and imagine climbing up with Messner.