Maurice Herzog on Annapurna (8091m), Nepal. Herzog, who recently passed away at the age of 93, made the first ascent in 1950 with Louis Lachenal and seven others. They completed the route in adverse conditions, ultimately losing several limbs.
Maurice Herzog passed away at the age of 93 on December 13. The French climber is best known for his bold ascent of Annapurna along with Louis Lachenal in 1950–both of whom suffered extreme frostbite and lost limbs. Their climb marked the first ascent of an 8000-meter peak. Although other expeditions had reached higher elevations on Mt. Everest, no summits had been reached. Written while in the hospital after the climb, Herzog’s book, Annapurna, was published only a year later and details the hardship the two climbers endured on the mountain.
Ed Douglas writes in Herzog’s obituary for guardian.co.uk, “He spent months in [the] hospital recovering from his injuries, plunged in a deep depression. Writing his book was not only cathartic but also sealed his reputation as a dynamic and courageous leader, and helped restore self-respect to postwar France.”
Herzog recovered from the depths of his injuries and became one of France’s most prolific mountaineers, politicians and businessmen. His success in the mountains transcended through his work with French Olympic athletes, helping the nation recover from poor results in the 1960 Games in Rome. He served as mayor of Chamonix from 1966 to 1977 and was a member of the International Olympic Committee for 25 years.
Herzog’s success on Annapurna did not come without controversy. Some viewed the account in his book as serious exaggeration. Claude Gardien, chief editor of Vertical Magazine, writes, “It appears that the story, if embellished, is true. Anyway, if Herzog had told a fairy tale, he would not be the only one to be suspected: the whole team should have lied together with him. Hard to believe from such men.”
Regardless of the subsequent controversy, Maurice Herzog and his eight team members completed a major feat on June 3, 1950. Summiting Annapurna would prove to be an influential accomplishment to the world of alpinism. “The difficulties which the party encountered were extreme; it probably did the most difficult climbing ever carried out above 16,000 ft.,” Adams Carter wrote in the 1951 American Alpine Journal. The mountain wouldn’t see a second ascent until 1970 by Capt. Henry Day and Major Jerry Owens.
Herzog lived his later years in the Paris suburb of Neuilly but will be buried in Chamonix.