DNA testing has shown that a corpse discovered at the base of Nanga Parbat this summer almost certainly was the body of Günther Messner. Reinhold Messner, Günther’s brother, carried a bone fragment from the body home to Italy from Pakistan and had it tested at a laboratory in Austria.
The Messner brothers pioneered the Rupal Face of 26,657-foot Nanga Parbat in 1970. Exhausted by the difficult ascent, Reinhold says the two elected to descend the lower-angled Diamir Face on the other side of the mountain. Partway down they were separated and Günther disappeared, presumably in an avalanche. Frostbite from the epic climb and descent cost Reinhold the majority of his toes and several fingertips. Teammates from the expedition later accused Reinhold of leaving his brother to return down the Rupal Face alone, while Reinhold sought the glory of the peak’s first traverse.
This summer, villagers discovered a body below the Diamir Face. Messner reached the mountain in late August and confirmed the body was Günther’s, based on the boots and other evidence. The remains were cremated on the site. On September 4, Messner held a press conference in Islamabad, at which he displayed an aged leather boot and said it was indisputably Günther’s. He then smuggled several pieces of bone out of the country for DNA testing at Innsbruck’s Medical Institute.
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