Annapurna – The First Conquest of an 8000-Meter Peak by Maurice Herzog was first published(English) in the year 1952.
For an awe-inspiring account of the first ever climb of any eight thousand meter peak across the world. Herzog’s Annapurna surely delivers a gripping read.The expedition was initially set for climbing the Dhaulagiri Mountain (8167 m) but after reconnaissance that lasted for weeks, the team decided to scale the heights of Annapurna.
Although the book has twenty chapters, it can broadly be termed as a recollection of three major events throughout the expedition; Planning the Route, the Final Attack, and Retreat from the Summit.
Other than rectifying the maps and providing insightful information about the world of climbing, this book also provides a rare look into the Nepal of 1950. From skills of meticulously planning a route, to the agonizing details of retreat from the summit; this book has it all.
The charms and hidden challenges that plagued the mind of mountaineers headed towards a mountain hitherto unknown are denied to the modern breed of mountaineers. And its only such opportunities that give birth to legends and heroic stories.
And that’s what makes this book an unputdownable read .That’s what puts Herzog’s account in a league of its own.
It took the experienced Frenchmen and local sherpas 40 days just to find the real Annapurna Mountain. Imagine the perseverance and dedication of those mountaineers who spent 40 days climbing up and down on untrodden grounds just to identify that one mountain, which would be worth all the effort.
That’s precisely why these first explorations should be cherished forever, because they pave way for the next breed of mountaineers and climbers.
If deciding upon which mountain to climb was a task, finding the safest and shortest route to the top was another exercise. What followed next was superhuman efforts by Noyelle, Schatz, and Couzy to haul the supplies over a period of days from one camp to another.
Although only Herzog and Lachenal could make it to the top, Herzog describes the summit as a team victory because without self sacrificing approach of his team-mates, he wouldn’t even be alive.
The real ascent was not just a fight against an unknown route but also against the Indian monsoons. And because of an untimely onslaught of the monsoon, only two out ten could reach the top. Nobody died but Herzog lost his toes and Louis Lachenal was being crippled at an age of just 28.
All in the name of climbing partnership. Everything and anything for the brotherhood of the rope.
“If I go back, what will you?”, asked Lachenal
“I should go on by myself”, said Herzog
“Then I’ll follow you.”
And the die was cast.
Unsurprisingly, this book had its fair share of controversy, which surfaced not before 2000, fifty years after the first copy was published. It is said that Herzog made his team members sign a contract that forbade them from publishing anything about the climb.
And that meant one and only account of the book.
But that doesn’t take away a thing from this outstanding expedition.Till date it remains a brilliant account of account of great courage and self-sacrifice.
Suggested Reading: Other Annapurnas