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Originally published in French in 1951 and translated into English in 1952, Annapurna: First Conquest of an 8000-meter Peak, is an account by French climber Maurice Herzog of his climb of the Himalayan peak Annapurna. With sales of over 11 million, this is the most popular climbing book of all time, and records one of the landmarks in climbing history.
The book itself recounts a single Himalayan climbing season in which Herzog and three other climbers, aided by local Nepalese sherpas and sponsored by the French Alpine Club, attempted to become the first men ever to summit an 8,000 meter peak. They spent several months in Nepal scouting first Dhaulagiri, where they did not find what seemed a usable route, and then Annapurna, first exploring a northern route which they deemed unfeasible and then the southern route, which they decided to attempt.
They used a strategy that has become standard in big Himalayan expeditions, of establishing a succession camps, each higher on the mountain to allow climbers to acclimate, and then, from the final camp, making a "dash for the top", moving extremely quickly with little equipment and no supplemental oxygen, to minimize time spent in the "death zone" over 8,000 meters. Herzog and Louis Lachenal, reached the summit with June 3, 1950, although both suffered bad frostbite, with Herzog losing fingers and toes and ending his climbing career.
The novelistic style of writing makes the account especially gripping. Although subsequent writers have accused Herzog of self-aggrandizement and whitewashing both conflicts among members of the climbing team and some technical misjudgments in the climb, the book remains an enthralling account of an epic climbing adventure.
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