Conquistadors of the Useless

From the Alps to Annapurna

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Conquistadors of the Useless is the autobiography of French Alpine guide Lionel Terray, one of the greatest alpinists of his time. Terray made first ascents in the Alps, the Andes, and the Himalaya - including the second ascent of the Eiger North Face - and was at the centre of global mountaineering at a time when Europe was emerging from WWII.

'I have given my whole life to the mountains. Born at the foot of the Alps, I have been a ski champion, a professional guide, an amateur of the greatest climbs in the Alps and a member of eight expeditions to the Andes and the Himalaya. If the word has any meaning at all, I am a mountaineer.' So Lionel Terray begins Conquistadors of the Useless - not with arrogance, but with typical commitment. One of the most colourful characters of the mountaineering world, his writing is true to his uncompromising and jubilant love for the mountains. Terray was one of the greatest alpinists of his time, and his autobiography is one of the finest and most important mountaineering books ever written. Climbing with legends Gaston Rébuffat, Maurice Herzog and Louis Lachenal, Terray made first ascents in the Alps, Alaska, the Andes and the Himalaya. He was at the centre of global mountaineering at a time when Europe was emerging from the shadow of the Second World War, and he came out a hero. Conquistadors of the Useless tells of his wartime escapades, of life as an Alpine mountain guide, and of his climbs - including the second ascent of the Eiger North Face and his involvement in the first ever ascent of an 8,000-metre peak, Annapurna. His tales capture the energy of French post-war optimism, a time when France needed to reassert herself and when climbing triumphs were more valued than at any other time in history. Terray's death, in the Vercors, robbed mountaineering of one of its most passionate and far-sighted figures. His energy, so obvious in Conquistadors of the Useless,will inspire for generations to come. A mountaineering classic.

One of the greatest mountaineers of all time, Lionel Terray was born in Grenoble in 1921. Drawn to the mountains, he was climbing by the age of twelve (against the wishes of his mother, who said ‘I shall be happy for you to go into any sport except motor-cycling and climbing.’) and competing in national skiing competitions by twenty. He would go on to climb with mountaineering legends Gaston Rébuffat, Maurice Herzog and Louis Lachenal and become involved with major first ascents across the globe. These included the of Annapurna – the first 8,000-metre peak to be climbed – and Makalu in the Himalaya, and FitzRoy and Huantsam in South America. He also spent time working in Canada and became a major pioneer in North American climbing, making the first ascent of Alaska's Mount Huntington. Closer to home, he made the second ascent of the North Face of the Eiger and was noted for the speed of his climbs, making quick ascents of some of the most notorious routes in the Alps, including the Walker Spur on the Grandes Jorasses, and the north-east face of Piz Badile. Terray died in 1965, in a climbing accident in the Vercors with his Mount Huntington partner Marc Martinetti. He is buried in Chamonix.

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