Maurice Herzog: French Mountaineer That First Climbed Over 8000m

Maurice Herzog is one of the most influential people in the mountaineering world. The late alpinist shocked the community with his skills to ascend what is considered to be a dangerous mountain in Nepal, Mount Annapurna, in a single go. It is almost impossible for people to ascend the mountain in a single try as not only is the eight thousander dangerous, the height is just as tough to reach. He became the first person in France to ever climb a mountain of about 8000m with this feat.

Though in a hospital bed, Herzog devoted himself to a book that would be one of the bestsellers after he was gone. It seemed impossible for the mountaineer to get over his scars emotionally as well as physically as after his return from Annapurna, he had to get his hands and feet amputated. He suffered from severe depression as well as an inability to do anything at all as he spent numerous days in a hospital bed after he summited the mountain. However, it was his book that helped him revive both his self-respect as well as his capability in front of the world. What Maurice thought would be the end of his life became what brought him forth to everyone as one of the most courageous and respectable figures of all time.

If you want to know more about Maurice Herzog and his life, stay tuned till the end of this article!

Who is Maurice Herzog?

Who is Maurice Herzog

Maurice André Raymond Herzog was born on 15 January 1919 in Lyon, France. He is best known as the French mountain hero who first climbed over 8000m. It was he who led the first French expedition of Mount Annapurna in 1950. No French alpinist had ever been to a mountain as tall as this one before him. His ascent of Annapurna was not meant to be off the mountain itself but its neighboring peak, Mount Dhaulagiri. However, his final push proved to the world that what was thought of as the most dangerous mountain that was almost impossible to summit could be made possible with his level of determination and courage.

He is also popular for the book that he came up with during his time on a hospital bed called Annapurna. The book tells the story of his time in the mountains. One of the main reasons why his climb remains legendary is that he did not use any supplemental oxygen when he climbed the peak.

Maurice Herzog Annapurna I

Maurice Herzog Annapurna I

Herzog made the first French expedition of Annapurna I in 1950. The mountain is the 10th tallest mountain in the world. He also won the 1950 Gold Medal of the Société de Géographie after his climb. The climb was so sensational at that time that Maurice’s record only broke after the climb of Mount Everest, which was done by Tenzing Norgay Sherpa and Sir Edmund Hilary three years later in 1953.

The two-week retreat to Annapurna was not an easy one. Since the climbers did not have plentiful sleeping bags and had on light boots, frostbite took over their hands and feet. Almost all of Maurice’s teammates had to get their fingers from both hands and feet amputated on the spot. The team also had to spend a night at a crevasse with only a sleeping bag for all.

After the news of Herzog’s climb was out, Paris Match put a picture of the mountaineer holding the country’s flag in their magazine, which was sold out and brought about great hype in no time post-publication. The Parisian community honored the alpinist as their number one hero. The person who had gone to Annapurna with an empty hand became their treasure that they ought to live by keeping him treasured forever.

Maurice Herzog’s Book Annapurna

Maurice Herzog’s Book Annapurna

Maurice became a number one bestseller with his Annapurna, which was published in French in the year 1951, one year after his expedition to Annapurna, and in English the very next year in 1952. The book was sold worldwide, with over 11 million copies in the hands of his followers and mountain enthusiasts by the year 2000. The book was sold better than any other mountaineering book at the time. Even today, the book has managed to generate several people’s interest in mountaineering while remaining one of the most prominent books in mountain climbing.

A famous line from the book has to be the one it ends with, “there are other Annapurnas in the lives of men,” denoting the challenges that are thrown in the lives of men.

Why was Maurice Herzog’s climb so controversial?

Why was Maurice Herzog’s climb so controversial

While it was Maurice whose name was brought up primarily in the successful ascent of Annapurna in 1950, there were several skeptics who fails to prove the genuine experience of the climb as told in his book Annapurna. From the accounts of his other team members during the same expedition, including a biography of Gaston Rébuffat and the posthumous publication, in 1996, of Lachenal’s contemporaneous journals, it had come out that Maurice had altered much of what happened during their climb.

Likewise, David Roberts has also managed to give his point of view on the controversy through his book True Summit: What Really Happened on the Legendary Ascent of Annapurna, which was published in 2000.

‘This diaphanous landscape, this quintessence of purity – these were not the mountains I knew; they were the mountains of my dreams’
– Maurice Herzog

Maurice Herzog’s Personal Life and Death

Shree 3 Maharaj Mohan Shamsher honored Maurice Herzog at the palace, presenting him with the Nepali medal Cr: French Embassy in Nepal
Shree 3 Maharaj Mohan Shamsher honored Maurice Herzog at the palace, presenting him with the Nepali medal Cr: French Embassy in Nepal

Besides the mountains, Herzog had a normal life with his family. He was married to Marie-Pierre de Cossé-Brissac in 1962. The pair gave birth to two children, Laurent and Felicité. Maurice and Marie divorced a little more than a decade later, in 1976. He remarried the same year to Elisabeth Gamper. He has two children, Sébastien and Mathias, from his second marriage. He was also elected the mayor in 1968.

The mountaineer’s life was cut short at the age of 92 on 14 December 2012.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about maurice herzog

Who is the first climber of Annapurna?

A group of French alpinists in the expedition of 1950 became the first climbers of Annapurna.

What genre is the book Annapurna?

The book is from the mountaineering genre.

What is the first ascent of Annapurna’s book?

The first ascent of the Annapurna book is Annapurna: First Conquest of an 8000-meter Peak (1951).

What is the summary of Annapurna?

The book talks about the first expedition of Annapurna I.

Who climbed Annapurna without oxygen?

Maurice Herzog went to Annapurna without supplemental oxygen.

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