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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An amazing tale, 11 Jun 2012
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Herzog's account of the first ascent of a peak over 8000 metres, in June 1950, is a true adventure. No gortex and sophisticated gear for these men: sweaters, eiderdown jackets, and an ice axe that buckled when it hit rock. Those were the days... Also amazing to think they had to find the peak before they could even start the climb. In the days without GPS - or even an accurate map - the first challenge was to locate the mountain. Incidentally, Herzog is quite scathing about the locals and their way of life. (Interesting, even if a little unfair, to compare with Thubron's 'To a Mountain in Tibet' where the writer is keen to explore the mountain people's beliefs and culture. Herzog only cares about the climb.) Herzog is, I suppose, a man of his time: the European in Asia with all his cultural assumptions. But for all that, their expertise and sheer determination at these altitudes make for a thrilling read.
The Kindle edition is annoying - there is a complete mix-up of the text in Chapter 9 and an irritating tendency for typos where 'c' is often used instead of 'e'. Rather took me aback to read "he yelled in my car" when they were high up on a rock face... If these men could scale Annapurna, surely Amazon can proof-read a book???

PS Amazon now appears to be fixing the problem. Fingers crossed.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mountaineering derring do mixed with meditation, 3 Jun 2013
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Herzog wasn't a professional writer, or one who had many literary ambitions, and in general this is a workmanlike, very factual account of the expedition in 1950 which led to a French team under his leadership becoming the first to bag an 8000m plus peak. It ends up feeling like more than the sum of its parts, though.

The first thing that strikes the reader is how much of an alien landscape the team found themselves in. Merely getting to the Himalayas took months. Once there, they had to reconnoitre the mountains they intended to climb (either Dhaulagiri or Annapurna were their pre-selected targets) in an area so remote and mountainous that for a while they couldn't even find Annapurna despite being within several miles of it. Then, they had to find routes up a mountain no one had even attempted to climb before, in conditions more extreme than they had ever expected.

The story is told with pace and directness, and the story of the eventual triumphal summit bid is told in a way which brilliantly conveys the mixture of euphoria and complete exhaustion on the summit, followed quickly by a realisation that the climbers are in a precipitous situation - suffering from frostbite and the ill effects of altitude Herzog had neglected in his thirst for victory. The descent becomes a horror story. Herzog's narration can occasionally seemed forcibly matter-of-fact earlier in the book, but he comes into his own describing the fear and suffering of a small group stranded high on the mountain, fighting to stay alive until morning, only to face a gruelling descent.

Where the story could become a sentimental story of camaraderie and heroism from this point on, the great honesty of his writing keeps it fascinating. He's honest about often wanting to just die, even when he gets down the mountain, and tells with no detail spared of wetting himself during an avalanche, trying to cling to ropes as the skin on his hands peeled away in ribbons, screaming and cursing as digits needed to be amputated without anaesthetic by the expedition doctor, and becoming entirely helpless and dependent on the Sherpas and other expedition members on the journey out of Nepal. It would be almost a misery memoir if he wasn't so relentlessly stoic in his descriptions. In the end, was it worth it? "One always talks of an ideal as a goal which one strives towards but which one never reaches. For every one of us, Annapurna was an ideal that had been realized.". As he emphasises on the final page of the book: "We were not to be pitied".

A remarkable story told by a remarkable man, and well worth a read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best climbing book ever, 3 Dec 2012
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This review is from: Annapurna: The First Conquest of an 8000-Metre Peak (Paperback)
I've read lots of climbing books over the years but this is the best by far! A must!! The retreat off the mountain is an epic story! Hurry up and buy
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Annapurna., 18 April 2013
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Forget everything that you've read to date about epic climbs.

There can be no mountaineering epic to match Herzog's first climb of Annapurna. Starting with a reconnaissance just to find the mountain(!), which in itself involved climbs that have filled lesser books, followed by an epic climb on uncharted routes, with an imminent monsoon, 1950's climbing equipment, a final push for the summit and dreadful retreat in atrocious weather. With no modern day helicopter ride away from the mountain, even the walk out is a truly awful 5 week torture. The descriptions of the frostbite treatments (I won't spoil the fun) is enough to turn your stomach.

Compare this with the exceedingly dry John Hunt story of the first Everest climb 3 years later and you will find the writing refreshingly honest, for its time. Herzog shares many feelings that lesser men would have kept bottled up is not afraid to admit to mistakes made on the way. The process of finding the mountain and exploring its weaknesses is fascinating, and a massive contrast to the modern day where we accept that you can drive to Everest base camp or plot your climb from Google Earth.

The story is marred only slightly by the post war 'we must have victory at all costs' attitude but, despite being 60+ years old, it is a great read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read, 7 Feb 2013
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Great read for a mountaineer. Really interesting to find out what was involved in an early expedition, how challenges today which would never occurred were over come. Herzog gives a touching personal account of interactions with local people and other expedition members. Great to see a book which is not about Everest!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Truly gripping adventure, 28 Dec 2013
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For anyone who loves the mountains, this is an evocative account by the guy who saw it and did it, and who paid a heavy price, but achieved his dream - properly inspiring stuff.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Stands the test of time, 10 Dec 2013
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I first read Annapurna about thirty years ago, and the harrowing account has remained with me ever since. This book stands the test of time. An epic account.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Original, 11 Sep 2013
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This is the original mountaineering book.
It has a lot of detail about the quest to locate, and then achieve the first 8000 metre summit in history. It's amazing to think when this book was actually written back in the fifties.
It is a little slow in the first half, but the description of the actual ascent of Annapurna is great.
If you are into mountains you have to check out the second half. Herzog is a great writer and this is as good as any of the Everest / K2 disaster books.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent reprint, 10 Jun 2013
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E. H. Dissen (The Netherlands) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Annapurna: The First Conquest of an 8000-Metre Peak (Paperback)
Recommended for travellers and hikers in the environment of one of the few 8000 metres mountain that you can walk around.
Recording from the early days of highest mountaineering.
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5.0 out of 5 stars brilliant, 24 May 2013
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great book. written in an old style (obviously, it's old) that's quite modest. not as melodramatic as modern books but it depends how you like a story to be told. these were really tough guys and if the same circumstances occurred today the book would be a best seller overnight with obligatory film etc.
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Annapurna: The First Conquest of an 8000-Metre Peak
Annapurna: The First Conquest of an 8000-Metre Peak by Maurice Herzog (Paperback - 3 Mar 2011)
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