Lost in a blinding storm on Manaslu, Reinhold Messner is led towards the tent and safety by the voice of a vanished partner – only to find the man is not there.

One of the most accomplished and successful climbers ever, especially among the high Himalayan peaks, is Reinhold Messner, born in the Tyrol in 1944. Messner climbed extensively in the Alps before he became the first person to climb all fourteen eight-thousand-meter peaks; he completed the roster with Lhotse in 1986. It was inevitable that, in amassing this record, Messner would encounter his share of disaster and sorrow at the deaths of climbers near to him. One of the most tragic events was the death of his brother Gunter on Nanga Parbat, in 1970, after the two had reached the summit and were descending.

All of the eight-thousand-meter peaks had been conquered by the “easiest” routes between 1950 and 1964. So when Messner and his young fellow climbers looked toward the Himalaya in the 1970s, they took as their mission a different approach to these peaks: the hardest routes on the biggest unclimbed faces. Thus 1972 found Messner and a small South Tyrol team on the South Face of Manaslu, number eight in the list of highest peaks.

Once again, the almost magically fit Messner reaches the summit of Manaslu, alone, after his exhausted climbing partner, Franz Jager, turns around and vows to return directly to their last camp and wait. A sudden storm turns Messner’s descent into a race against death. Wandering, lost, despairing, he is finally led towards the tent and safety by a voice he is sure is that of Jager, only to find the man isn’t there. Two other members of the party come up from a lower camp; they too hear the voice of the missing climber and spend the night searching for him. But in the morning, only one of the searchers returns, alone.

Manaslu is the eighth highest mountain in the world