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Annapurna Paperback – June 1, 1997
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In 1950, no mountain higher than 8,000 meters had ever been climbed. Maurice Herzog and other members of the French Alpine Club had resolved to try. Their goal was a 26,493-foot Himalayan peak called Annapurna. But unlike other climbs, which draw on the experience of prior reconnaissance, the routes up Annapurna had never been analyzed before. Herzog and his team had to locate the mountain using sketchy, crude maps, pick out a single, untried route, and go for the summit. Annapurna is the unforgettable account of this dramatic and heroic climb, and of its harrowing aftermath. Although Herzog and his comrade Louis Lachenal reached the mountain's summit, their descent was a nightmare of frostbite, snow blindness, and near death. With grit and courage manifest on every page, Herzog's narrative is one of the great mountain-adventure stories of all time.
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The book became long and wordy in places but these were no doubt hardy, tough and smart men, with courage to spare. It's not my favorite climbing book but it's worth reading.
This book is a good glimpse of all the stuff that can go wrong, and how a self-reportedly conservative risk-taker nearly got his entire team killed, and lost major chunks of his body in the process. Well worth the read, even with the creepy voyeurism described in the villages.
This is not a perfect book. As I said, it's slow to get started, and the trip out of the mountains drags a bit, too. Of course, Herzog's account has subsequently been challenged by some of the others on his team and other authors (David Roberts' "True Summit"), as well. While I haven't yet picked up any of the other books on the subject, I have done more research, and if nothing else, I would have appreciated it if Herzog had added an afterwards telling what subsequently happened to him and his companions.
Obviously, Herzog knew he had to move quickly to cash in on his moment of fame, and he did. Considering that it took another 20 years for a second conquest of Annapurna, it's a feat to be proud of, and a book worth reading.