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TRUE SUMMIT: WHAT REALLY HAPPENED ON THE ASCENT OF ANNAPURNA David Roberts 2000 1st ed Hardcover DJ Near Fine-Fine Multiple Copies Available
By Roberts, David
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New York, 2000, 1st edition. 239 pp, photos. Hardcover with dust jacket. Near Fine to Fine.

We all know the story of the first ascent of Annapurna... or do we? The conflicts of the team, the sacrifices of the unsung heroes: Terray, Lachenal and Rebuffat, finally have their true story told.

The first conquest ever made of an 8,000-meter peak occurred in June 1950, when a French team reached the summit of Annapurna in the Himalaya. The achievement was a source of great pride in postwar France, and the expedition leader, Maurice Herzog, became a national hero. His account of the expedition, Annapurna, remains to this day the best-selling mountaineering book ever. But there is more to this story than Herzog's book reveals.

Annapurna is one man's version of a triumph that came at a tragic cost, as Herzog lost all his fingers and toes to frostbite, his partner Louis Lachenal all his toes. The book describes a valiant effort by a unified, self-sacrificing team. The reality, however, was otherwise. The expedition was torn by dissent. The honors heaped on Herzog were not shared by the other climbers, some of whom deserved them as much as their leader. In truth, the triumph of the expedition was all the more remarkable, and the story of what really happened is far richer than Annapurna suggests.

In place of Maurice Herzog's idealized version of the conquest, David Roberts offers in True Summit the real story of the Annapurna expedition. Drawing on original manuscripts and letters, some of them unpublished, as well as books recently published in France, he gives the three superb climbers who accompanied Herzog -- Lachenal, Lionel Terray, and Gaston Rébuffat -- long overdue recognition for their achievement. At the same time, he has interviewed Herzog, the lone survivor among the climbers, and puts his account of the climb in proper perspective.

Annapurna fired the imaginations of millions of readers, including thousands of young climbers, the author among them. Roberts writes about the effect that the book had on him and other climbers he knew. He explains why it has taken nearly fifty years for the full story of this famous expedition to emerge and how the revelations will change forever the way we think about this victory in the mountains and the climbers who achieved it. The climax of Maurice Herzog's mountaineering classic, Annapurna, is at the moment of descent, when Herzog and Louis Lachenal tumble from the 26,493-foot frozen summit. Herzog loses his gloves and the two barely reach camp with dead hands and feet.

This is also the point where Herzog's tale falls apart, writes David Roberts, and it has taken nearly 50 years to uncover the real story behind the nationalist-tinged French expedition in 1950. Roberts, himself a climber of some accomplishment who admits to worshipping the heroics of the Annapurna team as a youth, traveled around the world interviewing friends and family of the team members (all deceased, save for Herzog), and chasing down original manuscripts and diaries of the three team members to get the story straight. His findings do not reveal the fearless, selfless leader Herzog painted himself to be in his famous book and subsequent writings.

Roberts reconstructs the trip to Annapurna beginning on the Heathrow runway: as the widowed Francoise Rebuffat recalls, Herzog required his highly experienced teammates--Louis Lachenal, Lionel Terray, and Gaston Rebuffat--to sign a contract that granted him full leadership of the expedition, along with rights to publish any and all accounts of the trip for five years following their return. Conflicting stories to Herzog's 'official' account begin from that moment. Herzog writes of his team's indefatigable support and loyalty to their leader, but in reality discord nearly crippled the success of the climb. In order to preserve the reputation he built for himself in Annapurna, Herzog, throughout his life, censored any account of the trip authored by the other team members, even 'editing' Lachenal's posthumously published climbing memoir, Carnets de Vertige.

While the dissection of Herzog's ego here is expected, Roberts discovers that none of his heroes are what he thought they were. 'More rounded,' he surmises, and ultimately better for it. Equal parts memoir, climbing lore, investigative journalism, and biography, Roberts provides the missing dimensions of the climb and the three extraordinary climber's lives--Lachenal, Terray, and Rebuffat--that Herzog so tirelessly strove to conceal.

David Roberts continues to write award-winning books and articles that are published worldwide. He made several pioneering, significent first ascents in Alaska including the Wickersham Wall on Mt McKinley, Kachatna Spire, East Face of Mt Dickey, etc. He co-authored with Bradford Washburn the magnificent book, Mount McKinley, The Conquest of Denali and is in 2006 ghost writing Ed Viesturs story of his 8000 meter climbs.


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