Born September 17, 1944, Reinhold Messner is an Italian adventurer and mountaineer, often cited  as the greatest mountain climber of all time, noted for making the first solo ascents of Mount Everest without supplemental oxygen and for being the first climber to ascend all fourteen "eight-thousanders" (peaks over 8,000 metres above sea level).
Born in Brixen-Bressanone, South Tyrol (Italy) and a native speaker of German, Messner was introduced to climbing by his father at the age of thirteen. He spent his early years climbing in the Alps, and fell in love with the Dolomites. Messner attended University of Padua.
Since the sixties and inspired by Hermann Buhl, he was one of the first and more enthusiastic supporters of alpine style climbing. This new approach to mountaineering consisted in climbing with very light equipment and minimum external help. Messner indeed considered the traditional expedition style as unrespectful of nature and mountains.
His first major Himalaya climb in 1970, Nanga Parbat, turned out to be a tragic success. Both he and his brother, Günther Messner, reached the summit, but Günther died two days later on the descent. Reinhold lost seven of his toes which had become badly frostbitten during the climb.
In 1980, Messner was the first person to ascend Mount Everest alone without supplementary oxygen. (Messner had done this earlier as part of a two-man team with Peter Habeler in 1978). He was also the first to climb all fourteen "eight-thousanders" (peaks over 8,000 metres above sea level, sometimes referred to as "Crown of the Himalayas"), winning a duel with Jerzy Kukuczka. He has also made a solo ascent of the technically difficult Nanga Parbat. Messner has crossed Antarctica on skis with Arved Fuchs. He has written a number of books about his experiences, many available translated into English, and other languages. He was featured in the 1984 film The Dark Glow of the Mountains by Werner Herzog.
His solo ascent of Everest, when no other climber was on the mountain, is regarded as a singular achievement unlikely to be duplicated since the mountain today is often climbed in groups, and is relatively crowded with other aspiring climbers ascending simultaneously.
Messner today carries on a diversified business related to his mountaineering skills. From 1999 to 2004, he held political office as a member of the European Parliament for the Italian Green Party (Federazione dei Verdi).
In 2004 he walked 2000 kilometres through the Gobi desert.
The fourteen 8,000+ peaks
- The Crystal Horizon: Everest - The First Solo Ascent (an account of his solo climb of Everest)
- All Fourteen 8,000ers (an account of all his 8,000 meter mountain ascents)
- The Naked Mountain (an account of his first major Himalaya climb and the death of his brother)
- The Big Walls: From the North Face of the Eiger to the South Face of Dhaulagirl (a list and discussion of the major wall climbs in the world)
- Free Spirit : A Climber's Life ISBN 0-89886-573-5
- My Quest for the Yeti: Confronting the Himalayas' Deepest Mystery, ISBN 0-312-20394-2
- The Second Death of George Mallory: The Enigma and Spirit of Mount Everest ISBN 0-312-27075-5
Source : Answers.com