In his latest White Wilderness search, Reinhold Messner found Antarctica. Only this spring, Messner became the first adventurer to cross the Antarctic on foot via the South Pole without the support of dogs, tractors or planes.
Messner's summary: "It's not easy."Then again, nothing Messner undertakes is easy, which is why he's the most celebrated mountaineer in the
world. For a third straight year, Messner is visiting Utah this weekend to participate in the Mountain Summit - a forum of the world's top outdoor/wildnerness proponents and adventurers.
Messner also told of his Antarctic experience in a public presentation at the University of Utah Saturday night.
An Italy native who lives in Munich, Messner is known as the only climber to scale all 14 of the world's 8,000-meter peaks. In Antarctica, Messner and partner Arved Fuchs used the wind to power the sails on their sledges and completed the 1,550-mile journey in 91 days.
"The strongest experience was the freedom to think in this huge place," Messner said in an interview. "I was forced like never before in my life to think about my life. If you're climbing, you're concentrating on the holds, but this was different."
At a previous Mountain Summit, Messner coined the phrase "White Wilderness," defined as untouched areas of the world. His focus is preserving the White Wilderness, limiting access and preaching a clean-climbing ethic.
Antarctica is suddenly high on his list of valuable areas.
"Most people think Antarctica is the worst place in the world," he noted. "If you see it from another direction, it is exactly the opposite. I enjoyed Antarctica because I could walk for (miles) without finding anything."
Although Sundance host Robert Redford was not available for the Summit as hoped, the panelists took up his crusade for protecting the environment. Messner, among others, continues to campaign against development in wildnerness areas. Recently, he led a group that stopped construction of a ski area on Mt. Olympus in Greece. "I had the feeling we had to do something," he said.
Messner also supports expeditions for the purpose of cleaning up famous routes like those on K2 and Mt. Everest in the Himalayas. He also speaks only of "inner experiences" from his treks, not revealing his methods or exact routes, hoping to prevent overuse of those areas.
Of course, that's not likely, considering Messner's level of mountaineering achievement. Of the Antarctica trip, he observed, "We never knew if we were on the right road - it made it the adventure I was looking for."
Photojournalist Gaylen Rowell spoke of the dilemma of publicizing wildnerness areas, leading to overexposure. "When you write about and photograph an area, you impact it," he noted. Frequently, Rowell will only generally identify the areas where he took his photos.
John Chapman of the National Park Service agreed with Rowell's philosophy. "We have some ruins in Canyonlands and Mesa Verde that we're not going to show on maps and tell you where they are," he noted.
Other Summit subjects included the role of the National Park Service, risks and liabilities for guide services, sport climbing and the outdoor environment of Japan, where the 1991 Mountain Summit is scheduled.
Snowbird, the site of the last two Summits, also hosted the '89 International Sport Climbing chapionships, a World Cup event. The only World Cup stop in America on the '90 schedule will be in August in Berkeley, Calif. Snowbird will have the U.S. Climbing championships July 7-8.