Farewell to Maurice Herzog

Last Friday, while waiting for my bus to start my morning commute, a new acquaintance sent an email to many of his contacts to share a news story from Le Monde: Maurice Herzog passed away. In Herzog’s 93 years of adventure, he is remembered for being the first person, along with Louis Lachenal, to stand atop an 8,000-meter peak, Annapurna.

I read the story of that 1950 first ascent written by Herzog the first time when I was a teenager and again late in college. Herzog lost cache with me sometime after the second reading when I learned more about the disputed elements of the story. Herzog may not have been so galante or brave so much as an egomaniac.

Regardless, I can’t deny the effect that the ascent and his book had on me and countless climbers. I read the book a third time on a recent vacation for just what it was and for the simple pleasure of an journey into the unknown. I’m grateful to him.

One thing I’d like to point out, is that Annapurna was the alternative objective of that 1950 expedition. A neighboring 8,000-meter peak, Dhaulagiri, was the primary target for the French that year. However, the mountainous terrain was virtually unknown and the maps were poor and often wrong. The exploration and the climbing that they accomplished was remarkable, especially in a mere few months. Herzog deserves credit for leading and managing his team through such a risky enterprise and for making the decision to shift objectives in a timely manner.

Thanks for dropping by again. If you enjoyed this post, please consider following the Suburban Mountaineer on Facebook or Twitter, because like you I believe climbing matters, even though we work nine to five.


5 thoughts on “Farewell to Maurice Herzog

  1. Even when he may have been flexible with the truth the book indeed is well worth re-reading. With the classic quote at the end he showed that there’s more to life than climbing [though not much, I will add ;-)] and that deep wisdom can be had from extreme loss; “Il y a d’autres Annapurna dans la vie des hommes” [i.e. “There are other Annapurnas in the lives of men”.]

  2. Like what Ed Viesturs said somewhere,I cannot help feeling nostalgic reading Herzog’s Annapurna saga. Spending 3 months just to find the
    mountain, seeing people and villages in almost leisurely pace, etc. It’s the
    only climbing book I own…the rest I check out from library. Of course
    David Robert’s expose makes me a bit suspicious about climbing memoirs in general. But the power of the book is undeniable. Right now I am reading a tome called “Into the silence” about George Mallory. A quarter into this exhaustive work and no climbing is to be had yet. I will reserve my judgement until after I complete the book.

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