Befitting celebration on the mountain: Legendary Brocken-Benno turns 90

December 3, 1989 was the happiest day of his life: that was when GDR citizen Benno Schmidt was allowed to climb the Brocken for the first time.

Befitting celebration on the mountain: Legendary Brocken-Benno turns 90

December 3, 1989 was the happiest day of his life: that was when GDR citizen Benno Schmidt was allowed to climb the Brocken for the first time. In the years that followed, thousands more tours to the summit followed. Now the record hiker is celebrating his 90th birthday - albeit with restrictions.

One man, one mountain - and the place for the birthday party is clear. Benno Schmidt, widely known as Brocken-Benno, turns 90 this Sunday. He has already climbed the Brocken - the highest mountain in northern Germany - 9,000 times. Because he has cancer, he cannot do this on his birthday. Instead, the jubilee will be brought to the Brocken summit in a car, said Gunter Karste, who oversees the Brocken garden in the Harz National Park. Around 11 a.m. there will be a toast to Brocken-Benno. His hiking-loving family also wants to be there: his wife Helga and their daughters Annette and Susanne.

Brocken-Benno, who made it into the Guinness Book of Records, has climbed 120,000 kilometers - and worn out more than 40 pairs of hiking boots, as he himself said. However, the ex-GDR citizen was not allowed to climb the mountain for many decades of his life: "Although the mountain seems close enough to touch from my house, it remained inaccessible for me, it was in the restricted area," he reported. The 89-year-old from Wernigerode calls December 3, 1989 the most beautiful day of his life. On that day, the GDR border fortifications fell on the Harz summit.

Whether the weather was nice or bad, whether it was icy or heavy snow, Benno climbed the mountain almost every day for a long time. The sociable hiker has fond memories of conversations with friendly people who asked him for information or advice along the way. He gave far more than 1,500 autographs a year during his climbs, the record hiker is immortalized in countless photos of visitors to the Brocken, and a number of school classes only came because of him. Benno Schmidt also likes to think back to encounters with mountaineering legend Reinhold Messner and wildlife filmmaker and adventurer Andreas Kieling.


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