Legendary climber stripped of Guinness World Records after map enthusiast claims he stopped 5m short of real summit

26 September 2023, 19:04

Reinhold Messner has been stripped of his Guinness World Records
Reinhold Messner has been stripped of his Guinness World Records. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

A famed mountaineer who believed he had scaled the 14 highest peaks on the planet is furious after he was stripped of his Guinness World Records when a map enthusiast said he stopped five metres short of the true summit on one climb.

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Reinhold Messner was recognised as having been the first man to climb the world's 8,000m summits.

But Eberhard Jurgalski, after using German space agency imagery, has said he fell just short of reaching the actual peak of Annapurna in the Himalayas when he climbed it in 1985.

After a decade of work, Jurgalski believes he stopped five metres away, and that mountaineers failed to properly complete the summits on three different peaks.

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Messner, of South Tyrol in Italy, said Jurgalski is "clueless" after Guinness World Records said it was taking his award away in light of the data.

The Guinness World Records editor in chief Craig Glenday compared the awards' insistence on making the true summit to how marathons only count if the full course is completed.

Reinhold Messner believed he had summited Annapurna
Reinhold Messner believed he had summited Annapurna. Picture: Alamy

Glenday said that "for a mountain climb to qualify for a Guinness World Record title, we must insist on a base-camp-to-true-summit ascent".

Messner, whose summits naturally include Everest, is now listed simply as a "legacy" holder of the honour.

He had believed he completed the feat in 1986, but the record now belongs to Edmund Viesturs, an American who finished the challenge in 2005.

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He is also no longer recognised as the only climber to make all 14 8,000m summits without oxygen.

Jurgalski, who lives in Lörrach, southern Germany, concluded Messner stopped short of the summit when he was five metres below it.

He read Messner's report that he could see the base camp from the top of the mountain, but Jurgalski believed that would be impossible from the true height.

Just four people have scaled all 14 peaks by his calculations, instead of the 44 who believe they have the accolade.

Messner said Jurgalski is not an expert and insisted "of course we reached the summit".

He accused his detractor of mixing up the mountains and, in an Instagram post, said his name was being used by others to "make themselves important" because they "achieved nothing".

Such fury will only be worsened by Jurgalski's comments last year, in which he said: "If someone didn’t reach the top, then they didn't reach the top.

"If a pop star has 13 number-one hits and one at number two, would you say he's been at the top of the charts 14 times?"

The women's title for climbing all 8,000m mountains has also been taken away from Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner, who thought she had achieved the feat in 2011.

A Chinese climber, Dong Hong-Jua, is now recognised as the first woman to achieve the milestone after she managed her final climb in April.