Annapurna: The First Conquest Of An 8,000-Meter Peak

by Maurice Herzog

Hardcover, 1952

Call number




E. P. Dutton & Co. Inc. (1952), Edition: First Edition, 208 pages


The enthralling account, by the leader of the French expedition, of the first conquest of Annapurna - at that time, and at more than 8000 metres, the highest mountain ever climbed.It is a story of breathtaking courage and determination against appalling odds. In records of mountaineering, in tales of human endeavour, there is nothing so unforgettable as the account of the descent by the triumphant but frost-bitten men, after the monsoon had broken, through the flooded valleys of Nepal.As well as an introduction by Joe Simpson, this new edition includes 16 pages of photographs, which provide a remarkable visual record of this legendary expedition.

User reviews

LibraryThing member Stbalbach
Annapurna: Conquest of the First 8000-metre Peak (1951) is a famous and important book in the Outdoor literature genre. It recounts the first successful climb of a mountain greater than 8,000 meters. There are only 14 such mountains in the world, all in the Himalayas, and they represent the super bowl of climbing. When a French team led by Maurice Herzog climbed Annapurna in 1950, no one was sure these mountains could be climbed and survived. After he was done and famously wrote "There are other Annapurna's in the lives of men", it started the race for the ultimate prize: Mount Everest (first peaked in 1953 by Hillary). Himalayan mountaineering has never been the same since.

Why is the book so famous? Maurice Herzog became the first living mountaineer to attain global celebrity status. National Geographic calls it the most influential mountaineering book ever written, as of 2000 it has sold over 11 million copies. I think a number of factors are at work. It was written in 1951 soon after WWII when millions of veterans accustomed to the adrenalin and danger of war were left with comparatively boring lives and looking for thrills to fill a void, not to mention a generation of young men who were too young to fight finding ways to prove themselves during peacetime. The idea of exploration caught the worlds attention, in particular climbing the worlds highest mountains was in the early 1950s the moon-shot of its time. The cover shows Herzog in a space-age like suit, straight out of a 1950s sci-fi movie. Finally, the book is written with novelistic techniques, what we today call "creative nonfiction", although in some ways its firmly rooted in the 19th century traditions. The book itself I found to be a slog. The last 60 pages or so are fantastic, but the first two-thirds of the book are really boring and tiring. There is even a parody novel The Ascent of Rum Doodle (1956) which pokes gentle but pointed fun at Herzog's sometimes pompous writing style. I'm glad to have finally read it since it is so historically important and impossible to avoid in mountaineering and outdoor literature, but it's reputation has probably exceeded its aesthetic qualities compared to more modern works.
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LibraryThing member Daniel.Estes
The tale of the first ascent of Annapurna in the Himalayan mountains is as classic as it is fraught with problems. The journey took place in mid-1950 by a team of skilled Frenchmen led by Maurice Herzog who was the expedition leader, and climbing Annapurna would be the first 8,000 meter summit in history and therefore the highest peak reached to date. (Note: Mount Everest would not be summited until 1953 - three years later.)

The account is told from the perspective of the leader and the book's author, Herzog, and details the often routine and dangerous life of mountaineering pioneers in the mid-20th century. Their first objective was to scout out and attempt to scale another eight-thousander, Dhaulagiri, which stood at 8,167 meters. When that mountain proved too difficult and their time running out ahead of the monsoon season, they chose Annapurna, which stood equally formidable at 8,091 meters. Once the team located the best path up the mountain they hurriedly set about establishing the camps and making progress. The summit would be theirs, but not without considerable cost to their health and parts of their bodies succumbing to frostbite. The journey down would be agonizing for those in dire need and most affected by the elements.

My first problem with this book is the writing. Part of that is probably because it's been translated from French fifty years ago and part is probably because I am not a mountaineer and Annapurna was written by one. This story is for those who understand the heart of a climber; others will find it particularly self-absorbed. Another problem with this account, according to other reviewers, is that it is somewhat propaganda and not a true telling of what really happened. Herzog and Lachenal did reach the summit, but not necessarily in the heroic manner depicted in this book.

Annapurna is classic reading in the mountaineering genre, but that's probably because it was one of the first of its kind. It's status represents what it stands for and not what it says.
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LibraryThing member RoaldEuller
Utterly riveted, I stayed up until the wee hours reading this when I was about 15 years old. It sparked a lifelong interest in mountaineering books.
LibraryThing member ianw
A well told story of Herzog's epic ascent of Annapurna (and his even more epic descent).
LibraryThing member cwflatt
One of the greatest early mountaineering adventures. Wonderful to story of brave and accomplishment at the top of the world
LibraryThing member krazy4katz
Although not terribly well-written (or translated?), this is an absorbing account of trying to climb an 8,000 meter mountain with poor maps and uncertain provisions. First they had to decide which mountain to climb! Eventually, after much scouting, they selected Annapurna, but they really had no idea what would happen once they came nearer to their goal. They could only guess. Herzog makes it sound like they had a very well organized group with different skills (including a physician), which probably saved them from death. The rapid approach of monsoon season was also a great concern. Overall, an exciting account of an amazing adventure.… (more)
LibraryThing member encephalical
Coming down was a more interesting story than going up.
LibraryThing member TinaKady
Illustrations in color and monochrome-gravure; foldout map at end


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