Born in 1990, accomplished athlete Simon Messner, son of mountaineer Reinhold Messner, who crossed the South Pole in the same year, is now taking part in the Antarctic Ice Marathon. Montblanc’s Alpine ambassador embarked on the expedition on December 13 this year, with the brand as a partner. With a Montblanc 1858 Geosphere 0 Oxygen South Pole Exploration Limited Edition on his wrist, Simon Messner is braving challenging conditions just a few hundred miles from the South Pole, at the foot of Ellsworth mountains and at an altitude of 700 metres, where snow and ice cover the terrain, and temperatures linger around -20°C. The area is also notorious for strong katabatic winds.
Simon, a molecular biology graduate and passionate alpinist, discovered his love for the mountains at the age of 15 in the classic rock and ice routes of the Dolomites. Climbing numerous routes and making first ascents in various locations, including Oman, Jordan, Pakistan, the Alps, and the Dolomites, Simon emphasises the importance of the style of opening a route; he sees mountains as a space of experience that must be preserved.
In the midst of his extensive climbing career, Simon has chosen to test Montblanc’s limited-edition 1858 Geosphere 0 Oxygen South Pole Exploration watch. Ahead of the marathon, GMT India had the opportunity to speak to Simon about the challenges he anticipated, his experiences with the Montblanc watch, and more. Excerpts from the interview:
GMT India: What was it like growing up with a legendary father? How did he inspire you to pursue mountaineering?
Simon Messner (SM): My father was very inspiring for all of us, primarily because he was, and still remains, a master storyteller. He is an excellent alpinist, but the way in which he narrated these compelling stories to us as children before bedtime left such a profound impact on me. I have two sisters, so I can speak for them as well. Even as a child, I would want to explore and experience them myself. As I started developing a passion for mountaineering, I found myself captivated. Now, I believe that mountains are a part of who I am.
GMT India: Do you recall your father's Montblanc watch? What were your impressions of it?
SM: I was somehow fascinated by this watch that he always wore. It looked so worn out and old because he was using it during his mountaineering expeditions. What I find truly captivating is that, over time, your watch becomes part of your life. It serves as a repository of all experiences you accumulate. It evolves into more than just a timepiece, gaining importance as you get older – a quality I truly appreciate.
GMT India: Are you into watches? If so, what do you look for in a watch?
SM: Watches are something I take great pride in. I see watches in the same light as mountaineering. I am convinced that the highest art lies in producing something that will endure for a long time, maybe forever — let's say, something that is simple and that, to me, is where beauty lies. What I appreciate the most about watches is that they don't require electricity for recharging. The movement alone is sufficient to keep them running. This aspect aligns with mountaineering. In mountaineering, the highest art is reaching a summit with the strength of your will power, without the aid of helicopters, artificial oxygen or fixed ropes.
GMT India: What inspired you to take on the challenge of participating in the Antarctic Ice Marathon?
SM: It's a difficult question, coming from a background of mountaineering and climbing since I was 16. I had a fear of heights initially, making it challenging for me to start climbing. However, as I began, I realised that this was exactly what I wanted—to become better and to experience myself more deeply. Now, the marathon is a natural next step, something entirely new for me. I've never run a marathon before. This poses a huge challenge that I can't wait to encounter.
GMT India: Considering the challenging conditions of the marathon, could you please highlight the specific features of the 1858 Geosphere 0 Oxygen watch that you find particularly beneficial for your expedition?
SM: Certainly. You're correct about the harsh temperatures, ranging from -30°C to -40°C. I have experience in mountaineering, but this is the lowest temperature I'd be encountering so far. Thus, it will be a new experience for me. One crucial functionality for these temperatures is that Montblanc doesn’t use oxygen inside the case, protecting it from clogging and fogging. This feature is not only impressive but also essential. In extremely cold conditions, having fogged lenses makes reading impossible. This is truly something remarkable that I was not aware of, and I really love it.
GMT India: Given your family's history of groundbreaking adventures, how does wearing this watch add a meaningful layer to your personal journey?
SM: This is something beautiful too. When you wear the watch on your adventures, it takes in all the things you see and experience. And after years of wearing it, you notice your experiences captured within this timepiece. This is what I seek and really love. When a thing you possess reflects the narrative of your experiences, it becomes a cherished reminder. Looking at this watch in the future, I am confident I will remember this incredible experience I had in Antarctica. It's a way to preserve stories and pass them on.
GMT India: Montblanc has continued to show its support to mountaineering and makes timepieces that pushes the boundaries in innovation. Did this influence you to choose this watch?
SM: It was a pleasure to summit Mont Blanc last year with the company. The name Montblanc itself is deeply rooted in the history of climbing. This connection makes it the ideal choice not only for marathon pursuits but also for mountaineering adventures. Having Montblanc as a partner is simply fantastic and I feel fortunate to be associated with such a high-quality product that aligns perfectly with my passion for both running and mountain exploration.