Of course, it’s a bit unfair to gossip about people’s clothing, especially when it’s not even part of any of their callings. But there is a picture of Eberhard Jurgalski in which he is wearing a stone gray sweater with a kind of mountain camouflage pattern – he would make it disappear in front of any mountain range. Maybe that’s exactly what he’s wanted before: to be invisible. With his calling he makes some friends, but also many enemies. Mountaineering legend Reinhold Messner, for example, is one of them.

“I won’t let anyone tell me that such a climb isn’t valid,” complained the South Tyrolean sanctuary in a 2022 interview about the German, who judges from Lörrach when mountains have been climbed correctly. Or not. Because of Eberhard Jurgalski, Messner has now had one of his world records revoked: since 1986, he was the first person to climb all 14 eight-thousanders. As the Guinness Book of Records now reports, “It is believed that at least three of the 14 peaks have not been correctly identified for many years, which has resulted in climbers – mostly through no fault of their own – stopping short of the summit.”

Reinhold Messner is said to have missed the summit of the 8,091 meter high Annapurna by 65 meters. It doesn’t sound like much, but it can be a world of difference when it comes to mountaineering. In the case of the long ridge of the tenth highest mountain in the world, there are also several peaks. When mountain chronicler Jurgalski checked the route of Messner and his teammate Hans Kammerlander from 1985, he discovered that they had turned around at a point on the summit ridge that was five meters lower and just 65 meters from the highest point.

For more than 40 years, the Lörrach resident has been collecting data about the Himalayas, especially about the eight-thousanders, i.e. mountains over 8,000 meters high. To do this, he evaluates images and topographic maps. In 2022 he published a new list of alpinists who have undoubtedly reached the mountain peaks – and removed Messner from the category of all 14 eight-thousanders. This also affects Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner from Austria, who was previously considered the first woman to have climbed all eight-thousanders.

Messner and Kaltenbrunner are not the first to have Eberhard Jurgalski spoil their fun. In 2018, a Chinese group climbed Shishapangma. But because of the weather, no one was on the main summit that day. And so Luo Jing was not the first Chinese woman to climb 14 eight-thousanders, as Jurgalski had pointed out to her. A few days later, the mountaineer also admitted this.

Four years later, Eberhard Jurgalski caused a storm of protest in the mountaineering scene with a revised list of summiteers. Also because he has never been to the Himalayas himself. The 71-year-old actually wants to take a simple fact into account: that only the person who has reached the highest point has successfully climbed a mountain. “If someone wasn’t at the summit, then they weren’t at the top,” said Jurgalski in the “Adventure Mountain” interview last summer. “Would you say that a pop star who has had 13 number one hits and one at number two has been at the top of the charts 14 times?” said the mountain recorder.

But anyone who has ever been so high up knows that it sounds easier than it is. Not every peak is always clearly recognizable as the highest point; sometimes the routes are simply too dangerous. “You arrive at over 8,000 meters exhausted. Then at some point you stand on a cornice, look in all directions and think: There are still a few high points back there, but are they really higher? And then you leave it alone, because it would be harakiri,” says German mountaineer Ralf Dujmovits about the summit of Annapurna.

Even before Jurgalski’s list, he and other alpinists had suggested tolerance zones for confusing mountains. Anyone who had reached these zones by 2019 should be accepted as climbers. But now Jurgalski doesn’t want to know anything about it anymore: “Tolerance zones are not possible. Where do I set these zones – at five, 50 or 150 meters?” says the chronicler.

It is quite clear to Jurgalski that this pedantry is causing annoyance. But he doesn’t want to diminish the performance of the alpinists. Sometimes his findings also hurt him: with Erhard Loretan he discovered that he had missed the summit of Dhaulagiri by 140 meters. “I was completely exhausted. I’m so sorry for his case,” says Jurgalski.

In order to recognize achievements beyond just climbing the summit, he is thinking of a list of points: If things like new route, no bottled oxygen, winter ascent, Sherpa support and the like were taken into account, “the lists would look completely different. Then Messner would probably be in second place .”

Sources: Tagesanzeiger, “Badische Zeitung”, Deutsche Welle, Adventure Mountain, Südtirolnews, 8000ers.com, Guinness Book of Records