OVIEDO, Spain – Italian climber Reinhold Messner, who achieved an unchallenged number of mountaineering firsts including being the first person to make a solo ascent of Mount Everest and also the first to do so without supplemental oxygen, and the Polish Krzysztof Wielicki, the first to crown Everest in winter, were awarded Spain’s prestigious Princess of Asturias Award for Sports on Wednesday.
Messner, who was born in Brixen-Bressanone in the Italian province of South Tyrol in 1944, is a living legend of mountaineering, having been the first climber to crown the world’s 14 highest mountains.
“Reinhold Messner and Krzysztof Wielicki, 2018 Princess of Asturias Award for Sports,” the Princess of Asturias Foundation announced on its official Twitter account.
Messner entered the record books in 1970 when he topped the then-unclimbed Rupal face of Nanga Parbat in an expedition which cost the life of his brother Günter.
Eight years later he made the first Everest ascent without oxygen – something considered to be impossible at the time – before completing the conquest of the 14 highest peaks on earth in 1986.
Messner favored an Alpine style of climbing, relying only on light equipment and a minimum of help, a philosophy contrary to the expedition style, which he regarded as being disrespectful toward nature and the mountains.
In 1988, Messner rejected a medal from the International Olympic Committee because he considered that mountaineering was not a competitive sport.
For his part, Wielicki (Szklarka Przygodzica, Poland, 1950) was the fifth man to ascend the 14 peaks over 8,000 meters and the first to crown Everest, Kangchenjunga and Lhotse in winter.
Wielicki has upheld the highest values of mountaineering and taken part in rescue operations that saved the life of Elisabeth Revol on Nanga Parbat but failed to find Tomek Mackiewicz, who disappeared on the same mountain.
Each award is endowed with a sculpture designed by Joan Miro and 50,000 euros ($59,000).