CHAPTER ONE: June 3
In the first light of dawn, at 6:00 A.M., the two men left their tent at 24,600 feet and headed up the broad, glaciated slope, their crampons biting crisply into the hard snow underfoot. The summit of Annapurna gleamed in the morning sun, only 1,900 feet above them. The wind that had raged all night had died with the dawn, leaving a piercing cold to rule the stillness.
For Louis Lachenal, a brilliant, impetuous mountaineer of twenty-eight, and Maurice Herzog, three years older and the expedition leader, it had required a long struggle that morning simply to jam their feet into frozen boots. Herzog had managed to...