Maurice Herzog and the first ascent of Annapurna – a tarnished legacy ?

The first ascent of Annapurna, on June 3 1950, was a major mountaineering accomplishment that added to the recovery of a post-war France. The French climber Maurice Herzog made sure he was the sole creator of this legacy when he climbed the first 8,000m peak with French compatriot Louis Lachenal. This feat undoubtedly allowed Herzog to forge a successful political career, working in many high ranking roles, including member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for 24 years as a devout promoter of the sport. Sacrifices were made, including the loss of all his fingers. But conquering this mountain was key to the power that he would later hold in life. In light of differing accounts of his accomplishments, career and what really happened on the mountain, there is a fine line between hero and villain when discussing the legacy of one of the most important French alpinists of the 20th century.


Maurice Herzog did not solo climb the first 8000m peak, like Hermann Buhl, but rather climbed the first ever 8000m peak with Louis Lachenal, a mismatch partnership in a story of survival. Herzog and Lachenal’s ascent of Annapurna made the French two climbers national heroes. It was a symbolic first 8000m peak after attempts to climb Everest had failed 30 years before. Maurice Herzog, who died in 2012, earned his fame as the man who brought France out of the shadows after the war by conquering the first 8000m summit. Above all, it was a