French Mountaineer Maurice Herzog Dies


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Annapurna. Photo: BrewBooks/Flickr

French mountaineer Maurice Herzog, who led the first documented summit of an 8,000-meter peak, died in his sleep early on Friday, December 14. He was 93.

On June 3, 1950, Herzog and countryman Louis Lachenal reached the top of 26,545-foot Annapurna. The team climbed the world's 10th highest mountain, located in Nepal, without supplemental oxygen. On the way down, things did not go well. There was an avalanche and the climbers suffered frostbite. Lachenal lost his toes. Herzog lost all of his fingers and some toes. He dictated a book which has been placed at the top of at least one major adventure book top 10 list. His story, Annapurna, became the most popular climbing book of all time, selling more than 11 million copies, though later his telling of the climb was criticized. Before the expedition, he barred his three climbing companions—two others did not make the summit—from publishing about the attempt for five years. After Lachenal's death, Herzog edited his companion's expedition journal so that it jived with his telling of the tale.

Herzog moved on from climbing to become a major figure in sport and politics. He was the president of the French Alpine Club, a member of the IOC, and the mayor of Chamonix.

A timeline of his life from a Le Dauphine obituary, translated by Google, is pasted below:

1919: Birth January 15 in Lyon.
1945-1958: Director Kleber Colombes
1950: Conquest of Annapurna
1952-1955: President of the French Alpine Club
1958-1966: High Commissioner and the Secretary of State for Youth and Sports
1962-1978: Member of the Rhone and of the Haute-Savoie
1966-1967: Member of the Economic and Social Council
1967-1968: Vice President of UNR group in the National Assembly
1968-1977: Mayor of Chamonix
1970: Became a member of the International Olympic Committee
1967-1984: CEO Slivafrance, one of the first Fund
1981-1984: President of the Society of the Mont-Blanc and the Association of French motorway companies
1987-1991: President of International Spie Batignolles, Spie Recreation and Tourism Spie.

—Joe Spring