- Hardcover: 240 pages
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster (June 3, 2000)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0684867575
- ISBN-13: 978-0684867571
- Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 12 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,472,742 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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True Summit: What Really Happened on the Legendary Ascent of Annapurna Hardcover – June 3, 2000
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The climax of Maurice Herzog's mountaineering classic, Annapurna, is at the moment of descent, when Herzog and Louis Lachenal tumble from the 26,493-foot frozen summit. Herzog loses his gloves and the two barely reach camp with dead hands and feet. This is also the point where Herzog's tale falls apart, writes David Roberts, and it has taken nearly 50 years to uncover the real story behind the nationalist-tinged French expedition in 1950. Roberts, himself a climber of some accomplishment who admits to worshipping the heroics of the Annapurna team as a youth, traveled around the world interviewing friends and family of the team members (all deceased, save for Herzog), and chasing down original manuscripts and diaries of the three team members to get the story straight. His findings do not reveal the fearless, selfless leader Herzog painted himself to be in his famous book and subsequent writings.
Roberts reconstructs the trip to Annapurna beginning on the Heathrow runway: as the widowed Francoise Rebuffat recalls, Herzog required his highly experienced teammates--Louis Lachenal, Lionel Terray, and Gaston Rebuffat--to sign a contract that granted him full leadership of the expedition, along with rights to publish any and all accounts of the trip for five years following their return. Conflicting stories to Herzog's "official" account begin from that moment. Herzog writes of his team's indefatigable support and loyalty to their leader, but in reality discord nearly crippled the success of the climb. In order to preserve the reputation he built for himself in Annapurna, Herzog, throughout his life, censored any account of the trip authored by the other team members, even "editing" Lachenal's posthumously published climbing memoir, Carnets de Vertige.
While the dissection of Herzog's ego here is expected, Roberts discovers that none of his heroes are what he thought they were. "More rounded," he surmises, and ultimately better for it. Equal parts memoir, climbing lore, investigative journalism, and biography, Roberts provides the missing dimensions of the climb and the three extraordinary climber's lives--Lachenal, Terray, and Rebuffat--that Herzog so tirelessly strove to conceal. --Lolly Merrell
From Publishers Weekly
First published in France in 1951, Maurice Herzog's Annapurna remains one of the canonical works in exploration literature; Roberts notes that Herzog's account of his team's harrowing, ultimately successful conquest of the Himalayan peak has been translated into 40 languages and, at sales of more than 11 million copies, is "far and away the best-selling mountaineering book ever written." Still sunk in the humiliation of World War II, the French uncritically embraced Herzog's lyricalAif somewhat self-servingAaccount of the first scaling of the 8,000-meter peak. Even years later, Annapurna sparked many a young adventurer's interest in climbing (including that of Roberts, who became a mountaineer after reading the book and has since authored numerous works of his own, including The Lost Explorer, coauthored with Conrad Anker). Herzog's teammates were limited by a preclimb contract that forbade them to write about the ascent, but in 1996, new materials came to light, including an unexpurgated diary of one of the climbers. By incorporating these new discoveries as well as insights gained in interviews with surviving climbers, Roberts presents a more complex, dissent-torn view of the climb than the one portrayed in the book that Herzog himself described recently as "a sort of novel." That the conquest of Annapurna was a troublesome enterprise filled with doubt and peevishness and not a storybook triumph by valorous Frenchmen will no doubt be disillusioning to the starry-eyed. That Herzog might have suppressed a certain amount of unpleasantness in order to tell an inspiring story may lead more worldly readers simply to shrug and say, "C'est la vie." (June)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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'True Summit' is a very interesting read in terms of its research, as well as its historical and archival detail. Its author, David Roberts, is himself a mountaineer and has an innate understanding of the subject matter of the book, which contributes to its success.
I would, however, highly recommend that one first read Maurice Herzog's "Annapurna" which is Herzog's first person, romanticized account of the expedition and the source for much of what is analyzed in this book. Reading it will ground readers of 'True Summit' in the context out of which this book arises, and will make it that much more enjoyable.
After the ostensible summit of Annapurna (more about this in 'True Summit') by Herzog and Louis Lachenal who were aided in their harrowing descent by fellow expeditioners, Lionel Terray and Gaston Rebuffat, only Maurice Herzog went on to become a national hero in France. The other three mountaineers, all of whom were more experienced and proficient, were largely ignored in what was to become a carefully orchestrated, media event around Maurice Herzog.
"True Summit" attempts to set the story straight and right past wrongs. It also helps to debunk the self-serving, though gripping, sanitized account authored by expedition leader Maurice Herzog. What emerges is a more realistic picture of what may have actually transpired during that fateful, 1950 French expedition.
This book ensures that the contributions of three of the main protagonists, Lachenal, Terray, and Rebuffat, all highly experienced mountaineers from the Chamonix region of France, will not be forgatten. It is a memorial to their efforts during that expedition and well worth reading.
Herzog became a national hero in France, while no one even remembered the name of the climber [Lachenal] who accompanied Herzog to the summit, and who sacrificed his fingers and toes to the ordeal, only to die in obscurity. Nor does anyone remember the two other climbers who forfeited their own chance to summit to save Herzog's life.
Roberts' s research sets the record straight, not only on what really occurred during the climbers' ordeal; he also meticulously researched how Herzog, the team's leader, controlled access to the press, so that only his version would be told for over 40 years.
In this new book, the other climbers, often referred to interchabably in Herzog's book, emerge as individuals, each with his own story. The real tragedy is that, other than Herzog, none of the team lived to see this book be published.
This is a must-read for fans of "climbing" literature.