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Maurice Herzog

Climber;

Born: January 15, 1919; Died: December 13, 2012

Maurice Herzog, who has died aged 93, was the first man to climb the 26,545ft Himalayan peak of Annapurna, an achievement which made him an iconic figure among climbers and a hero at home in France.

A famous photograph of Herzog waving a French tricolor on the peak in Nepal captured a seminal moment before the gruelling descent, during which subzero conditions led to the amputation of all his fingers and toes.

Although the 1953 ascent of Mount Everest by Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay somewhat eclipsed Herzog's achievement three years later, Annapurna was not scaled again for some 20 years. Although Everest was the highest mountain in the world, Annapurna, the 10th highest, was said to be the most dangerous. Up to 2009, 60 climbers had died on Annapurna, a fatality rate of around 40%.

Herzog's book about the epic expedition, Annapurna: The First Conquest of an 8000-Metre Peak, was the most popular mountaineering book of all time and made Sports Illustrated's list of the top 100 sports books. It has sold millions of copies and has been translated into dozens of languages.

"In overstepping our limitations, in touching the extreme boundaries of man's world, we have come to know something of its true splendour," Herzog said in the best-seller

He was born in Lyon, the oldest of eight children; his father was an engineer and former member of the French Foreign Legion. During the Second World War, he was a member of the resistance and after his famous climb, entered politics, first as a minister for sport under President Charles de Gaulle and later as a national lawmaker and long-time mayor of Chamonix, a mountaineering town in the French Alps.

Later, Herzog played a leading role in Olympic politics. He helped France obtain the 1992 Winter Olympics for Albertville and was a member of the International Olympic Committee for 25 years.

Later in life, the Herzog legend was somewhat tarnished when it emerged he sought to diminish the role of his climbing companion Louis Lachenal, who died in 1955, in the public account of the climb. Lachenal reached the summit of Annapurna with Herzog and also lost all his toes to frostbite.

However, as a symbol of the place Herzog occupied in collective French hearts, he was decorated with the Grand Cross in France's Legion of Honour last year, the country's highest civilian honour. French President Francois Hollande said the nation would miss Herzog and that his historic climb was engraved in the collective memory.

He is survived by his daughter from his first marriage, his second wife and two sons.

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