Since lockdown gives most of us a bit more time to indulge in a spot of armchair mountaineering, I thought I'd attempt at all the 8000 metre peaks from the comfort of my sofa. I know I have books that cover some of them (Everest, K2, Kangchenjunga all exist on my bookshelf) but I'm equally sure I don't have some others (Nanga Parbat and Sishapangma are definitely absent).
So I thought I'd ask the hive mind, since you'll be able to point me at some reading I might not otherwise come across. Two criteria to make things a little easier: the book must describe an attempt, but it need not be a successful attempt; and the attempt need not be the only thing in the book. Obviously, I'd prefer to avoid a single book about attempting all 14, should such a thing exist; that would be a bit reductionist. And where there are a number of books about a peak, I'd like to know which one you'd recommend.
The 8000 metre peaks are: Everest; K2; Kangchenjunga; Lhotse; Makalu; Cho Oyu; Dhaulagiri I; Manaslu; Nanga Parbat; Annapurna I; Gasherbrum I; Broad Peak; Gasherbrum II; Sishapangma.
Right, I'm off to the local market to stock up on dhal baht and other essentials. It might be an arduous spring!
Best me to it! Possibly the best expedition book of the lot.
I can suggest some,
Everest - Tom Hornbein, "Everest The West Ridge"
K2 - Jim Curran, "K2, Triumph and Tragedy"
Nanga Parbat - maybe "Nanga Parbat Pilgrimage", Hermann Buhl --- BUT I HAVEN'T READ IT
Annapurna - "Annapurna", Maurice Herzog
Well Messner's "All 14 Eight-thousanders" does the lot if required.
Others I would recommend in no particular order:
Wanda Rutkiewicz - A Caravan of dreams by Gertrude Reinisch deals with her eight successes and some failures
Everest The West Ridge Thomas Hornbein - a classic
Everest Alone at the Summit - Stephen Venables - a must read (also called Everest Kangshung face in 1st ed)
Postcards from the Ledge - Greg Child - good stuff about Everest and K2
Thin Air - Greg Child - Broad Peak etc.
Shisha Pangma - Doug Scott & Alex MacIntyre - early BT joint winner
In the Throne Room of the Mountain Gods - Galen Rowell - lavish K2 book about US expedition
K2 The Price of Conquest - Lino Lacedelli - Finally the truth behind the first ascent
Broad Peak - Richard Sale - The first ascent demolishing some myths along the way
K2 Triumph and Tragedy - Jim Curran - the 1986 disaster
K2 the story of the savage mountain - Jim Curran - an overall history of ascents/attempts
The Last Steps Rick Ridgeway - American ascent of K2 - warts and all including love affairs etc.
K2 The Savage Mountain - Houston & Bates - the classic American attempt and heroic failure
Art of Freedom - Bernadette McDonald - The climbs of Voytek Kurtyka. include Gasherbrum 1, Cho Oyu, Broad Peak & Shisha Pangma - highly recommended
Freedom Climbers - Bernadette McDonald - Numerous Polish successes - a must read, unputdownable
Sorry a bit K2 heavy but plenty to go at.
Nanga Parbat: In Some Lost Place, by Sandy Allan.
> Nanga Parbat - maybe "Nanga Parbat Pilgrimage", Hermann Buhl --- BUT I HAVEN'T READ IT
I have. Mostly about his early life, but the chapters on NP gripping.
> Annapurna - "Annapurna", Maurice Herzog
Remarkable account, especially relating to the provisions an expedition in that era took...
Bull's Nanga Parbat is certainly in my best ever climbing books top 10. The chapter on him crawling towards the summit had me exhausted as well, and that was 50 years ago!
> Remarkable account, especially relating to the provisions an expedition in that era took...
Re Annurpurna - True Summit by Dave Roberts gives a more balanced account than Herzog's rather grandiose account. Herzog suppressed all other written accounts by the other members IIRC. Good to read them in tandem.
Everest - the account by Peter Habeler about the first supplemental O2 free ascent. Much better than Messner's book. No idea about the English title, unfortunately.
Blimey! Loads of stuff, thank you all. It'll keep me out of mischief while my wife does the decorating (and long after, I suspect).
I haven't read the Herzog book about Annapurna, though a friend once dismissed it saying that the last few chapters were mostly about amputations, which put me off bothering; I shall try and seek it out. Greg Child's Thin Air is on my bookshelf already and is a fine book indeed, though I remembered it mostly for G4 rather than Broad Peak.
But lots to go at, thank you (no Bonington suggestions, which says something; I'm not sure what though). I shall try and parcel them all up in a list to share at some point, which may highlight some omissions too, Manaslu seems distinctly unfashionable for example.
Lockdown may have to continue for quite a while if I'm to make a dent in my new reading list.
> Everest - the account by Peter Habeler about the first supplemental O2 free ascent. Much better than Messner's book. No idea about the English title, unfortunately.
Everest Impossible Victory. Not brilliant I thought but worthwhile.
> Nanga Parbat: In Some Lost Place, by Sandy Allan.
I had the fortune to hear Sandy Allan talk about his NP expedition. Considering the state of SA and RA on the descent, he was remarkably matter-of-fact about how close they came to death. A remarkable pair of men, and a remarkable tale.
My favourite K2 books are Rick Ridgeway's The Last Step, for a truly hideous dysfunctional trip, and Houston and Bates' Five Miles High, an account of their pioneering 1938 expedition.
And on the subject of K2, Bonatti's account of the Italian expedition in his memoirs is essential reading.
> I haven't read the Herzog book about Annapurna, though a friend once dismissed it saying that the last few chapters were mostly about amputations, which put me off bothering; I shall try and seek it out.
Please read it. I'm notably squeamish - well, until the claret's flowing freely and you can't be - and yes, I found it distinctly harrowing. But it's really about humanity and love and the (rarely stated) costs of so many radical ascents.
As mentioned about, 'True Summit' gives a rather different view of things. I suspect the real truth is somewhere else. I can see why Herzog did what he did but the result was to invoke tragedy.
Nanga Parbat Pilgrimage is another brilliant tale - again ultimately tragic. It's the age-old question: is it worth it?
Jerzy Kukuczka, My Vertical World.
More or less a chapter per peak. It's not a literary classic, but a good read nevertheless.
Everest. Into the silence by Wade Davis
Everest. The mountaineering history by Walt Unsworth.
K2. The endless knot by Kurt Diembrger.
Kanchenjunga. Savage Arena by Joe Tasker
Annapurana by Maurice Herzog.
Nanga Parbat. The naked mountain by Reinhold Messner.
Wade Davis’s book is a wonderful read. Likewise Sandy Allan’s “in Some Lost Place”. I also enjoyed Frank Smythe’s Himalayan books which have been collected into “Six Alpine/ Himalayan Books”. It’s of its time but not badly written and very interesting in its unconscious historical detail.
i also enjoyed Alan Hinkes’s 8000 Metres which has a bonus of excellent photography throughout.
I enjoyed the alternative version of the first ascent of Nanga Parbat by the expedition leader. I'll have to find it to tell you the title etc.
I read "in some lost place" in the last couple of weeks and thought it was really good. And available direct from vertebrate publishing to support an independent book publisher.
I thought 'Living on the Edge' by Cherie Bremer-Kamp was amazing. Shocking and enthralling. Winter ascent of the north face of Kanchenjunga.
Annapurna - Hertzog
In some lost Place - Sandy Allan
> I thought 'Living on the Edge' by Cherie Bremer-Kamp was amazing. Shocking and enthralling. Winter ascent of the north face of Kanchenjunga.
Yes completely agree, Americans do seem to wear their hearts on their sleeves as opposed to the Brit stiff upper lip.
Oh, don't spoil the outcome!
I thought Cherie was an Aussie, but was married to an American. She certainly wore her heart on her sleeve.
> Oh, don't spoil the outcome!
> I thought Cherie was an Aussie, but was married to an American. She certainly wore her heart on her sleeve.
Post edited to remove spoilers
It's a good sequel to read after the shenanigans of Rick Ridgeway's K2 The Last Steps
And yes you are correct she is Australian
Conquistadors of the Useless by Lionel Terray is also an excellent book, dealing with the Herzog Annapurna expedition from a different perspective and also dealing with many other escapades. Recommended.
> Conquistadors of the Useless by Lionel Terray is also an excellent book, dealing with the Herzog Annapurna expedition from a different perspective and also dealing with many other escapades. Recommended.
Republished in the next week by Vertebrate I believe. One book I have never read so will be getting that ordered.
Continued thanks, all. A small spreadsheet beckons to keep tabs on who attempts what in each book, to make sure I don't miss any peaks out.
> Republished in the next week by Vertebrate I believe. One book I have never read so will be getting that ordered.
Interestingly in True Summit by David Roberts, it is alleged by some including Madame Rebuffat that Conquistadors was ghost written, as Terray "was a country bumpkin". Roberts was actually present when he and Michel Guerin discovered, in Terray's abandoned family home, the original manuscript in Terray's own handwriting.
I would recommend that anyone who reads or has enjoyed Herzog's version should read the excellent Roberts book.
Nanga Parbat: Beyond the Mountain by Steve House is great, with Barry Blanchards account of his epic in The Calling well worth a read, as is Mark Twights version of this in Extreme Alpinism
Annapurna: Another vote for Terray's Conquistadors... a brilliant read
Freedom Warriors by Bernadette Macdonald about the Polish Himalayan scene is a total must-read, as is her Voytek Kurtyka Bio.
I found the Chris Bonnington Annapurna book gripping as a school boy, but haven't read it for 20 years so can't say how good it'll be now.
Is Louis Lachenal's Carnets du vertige available in English ?
> Is Louis Lachenal's Carnets du vertige available in English ?
I can't find any reference to an English version, damn I want to read it now.
Blog by Roberts here however: https://www.liberation.fr/sports/2000/05/24/annapurna-a-fait-maurice-herzog-et-oublie-louis-lachenal_325099
its a good read, surprised no one has translated it
> its a good read, surprised no one has translated it
Well you are retired. And locked down. And know about climbing.....
you've reminded me that a friend who is a translator (French to English) & a climber is looking for ideas
> I can't find any reference to an English version, damn I want to read it now.
> Blog by Roberts here however: https://www.liberation.fr/sports/2000/05/24/annapurna-a-fait-maurice-herzog-et-oublie-louis-lachenal_325099
Here is a quick translation
Annapurna "made" Maurice Herzog forget Louis Lachenal.
Big angle. June 3, 1950, Louis Lachenal is at the top of the first 8,000. With Maurice Herzog, who gets all the glory. Until his death in 1955, he suffered from his amputated feet and was enraged to see the legend written without him. Fifty years later, Maurice Herzog is still trying to close the myth.
Jean-Pierre Payot, 71, has had snow-white hair for forty-five years. Since November 25, 1955, when his best friend, Louis Lachenal, disappeared before his eyes in a crevasse. He forgot nothing of that day: "We got out of the cable car, up there at the Aiguille du Midi, there was maybe 100 km / h of wind" and that made him happy! Shouted, "This is the cushion, it whips blood. I tried to tell him that we would be warmer in Chamonix, but it was a donkey, Lachenal. When he had something in his head, there was no way to get it out. With the wind in our mouths, we barely advanced. He said to me again: "There's the fart, I like that.” These were his last words. I heard a noise, I turned around, no one left. By the time I went up two meters, until on the edge of the crevasse, I could still hear the sound of his new metal skis slamming on the ice walls. I called. Nothing. He was dead instantly, neck broken. "
Louis Lachenal died at 34, the same year as James Dean, who would not have driven faster than him on the roads of the Alps. Glory had grazed this meteor climber, balding forehead, wick in the wind and lit gaze. On June 3, 1950, he and Maurice Herzog were the first to set foot on a summit of over 8,000 meters, the Annapurna. Post-war France held its revenge; for several months, she got carried away in a whirlwind of "Annapurnamania". We needed heroes? Maurice Herzog, who put forward his titles as a resistance fighter and sported his severed fingers like a war wound, was very timely. In the photograph of the summit, published in one of Paris-Match, he brandishes a tricolor pennant. From Louis Lachenal, there was only a blurry picture, where sitting, leaning against a rock, he seemed to sulk victory. An unpublishable photo, which no one, not even Lachenal, will see during his lifetime. In the Annapurna legend, Lachenal, the guide chosen because he and Lionel Terray formed the most brilliant team of the post-war period, was to remain the supporting role, the stooge of Herzog.
Expedition leader, Maurice Herzog, with a thin mustache and an eternal smile, "the poor man's Clark Gable" said the wicked languages, had given this feat a warlike and mystical dimension within everyone's reach. Dictated from her hospital bed, Annapurna Premier 8000, the “lived novel” of the expedition, had sold several million copies (nearly 15 million to date). Of his companion at the top, he gave an image close to dementia and locked him forever in this sentence: "Lachenal appears to me like a ghost." Refusing this role, Louis Lachenal spent the last months of his life trying to tell his truth: if he had thought of giving up, on summit day, it was to save his feet. If he had continued, it was to save "Momo", convinced that, alone, he would not return. Nobody wanted to hear it, especially Maurice Herzog. Better still: when Lachenal died, his own brother, Gérard Herzog, undertook to write his "autobiography". The myth was locked.
In Chamonix, from June 3 to 5, Maurice Herzog will preside over the Annapurna fiftieth anniversary ceremonies, the only survivor of the six mountaineers on the expedition (the diplomat Francis de Noyelle, who will be present, did not go beyond the base camp). But the ghost of Lachenal, who reappeared in 1996, risks spoiling his apotheosis.
"Furax against Herzog"
A little over a year before his death, Lachenal returned to the big races. On his short feet, he almost found his star climber grace, his touch, his pleasure. Forgotten the sufferings, the sixteen operations in five years "There remains black humor: to those who inquire about his feet, he shows his toes in a jar of formalin; when we want to see his Legion of Honor, he takes out his guide diploma. The black needle of Peuterey is the scene of this reunion. Gaston Rebuffat, companion of Annapurna, is there. In the evening, at the refuge, the languages heat up. Jean-Pierre Payot says: "Gaston and they were quite mad at Herzog. They were fed up with this Annapurna legend whose ears were beaten back, everything for the chef, nothing for them. James Coutet, who didn't like Herzog either, threw "Oil on fire. It was snoring! When they returned, they were determined to do something." Louis Lachenal.
Thanks, very interesting and très poetic. There are several sides to this story.
I think that one of the best books on mid 20th century expedition climbing is "The Ascent of Rum Doodle" by WE Bowman.
An update on my slow progress.
I've had a quick warm-up with Chris Bonington's 'The Everest Years'. Just a training climb, that one.
I'm now starting my quest in earnest with Greg Child's 'Thin Air', which gets me up Broad Peak. I intend to end the quest with Steven Venables' account of his Kangshung face climb on Everest. I have definitebdefinite in mind for K2, Kangchenjunga, Shishapagma, Annapurna I and Nanga Parbat, and can probably find ones for the others without too much difficulty (going back and reading all the responses again will help).
Manaslu though, that seems less well written about. Any suggestions, or is that the peak I have to buy Alan Hinkes' book about all 14 to get?
Has 'Savage Arena' been mentioned yet?
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