In a startling look at the classic Annapurna -- the most famous book about mountaineering -- David Roberts discloses what really happened on the legendary expedition to the Himalayan peak.
In June 1950, a team of mountaineers was the first to conquer an 8,000-meter peak. Maurice Herzog, the leader of the expedition, became a national hero in France, and Annapurna, his account of the historic ascent, has long been regarded as the ultimate tale of courage and cooperation under the harshest of conditions.
In True Summit, David Roberts presents a fascinating revision of this classic tale. Using newly available documents and information gleaned from a rare interview with Herzog (the only climber on the team still living), Roberts shows that the expedition was torn by dissent. As he re-creates the actual events, Roberts lays bare Herzog's self-serving determination and bestows long-delayed credit to the most accomplished and unsung heroes.
These new revelations will inspire young adventurers and change forever the way we think about this victory in the mountains and the climbers who achieved it.
First published in France in 1951, Maurice Herzog's Annapurna remains one of the canonical works in exploration literature; Roberts notes that Herzog's account of his team's harrowing, ultimately successful conquest of the Himalayan peak has been translated into 40 languages and, at sales of more than 11 million copies, is "far and away the best-selling mountaineering book ever written." Still sunk in the humiliation of World War II, the French uncritically embraced Herzog's lyrical--if somewhat self-serving--account of the first scaling of the 8,000-meter peak. Even years later, Annapurna sparked many a young adventurer's interest in climbing (including that of Roberts, who became a mountaineer after reading the book and has since authored numerous works of his own, including The Lost Explorer, coauthored with Conrad Anker). Herzog's teammates were limited by a preclimb contract that forbade them to write about the ascent, but in 1996, new materials came to light, including an unexpurgated diary of one of the climbers. By incorporating these new discoveries as well as insights gained in interviews with surviving climbers, Roberts presents a more complex, dissent-torn view of the climb than the one portrayed in the book that Herzog himself described recently as "a sort of novel." That the conquest of Annapurna was a troublesome enterprise filled with doubt and peevishness and not a storybook triumph by valorous Frenchmen will no doubt be disillusioning to the starry-eyed. That Herzog might have suppressed a certain amount of unpleasantness in order to tell an inspiring story may lead more worldly readers simply to shrug and say, "C'est la vie."