Latitude: 27° 51' 42” N, Longitude: 86° 51’ 50” E
The Annapurna range is a series of peaks stretching 55 km with the highest point, Mt. Annapurna I, being the tenth highest summit in the world. It lies east of a great gorge cut through the Himalaya by the Kali Gandaki River, which separates it from the other large massif, the Dhaulagiri. Dhaulagiri I is 34 km west of Annapurna I. In Sanskrit Annapurna literally means “full of grains” but is normally taken to mean “Goddess of Harvests”. The Hindu Goddess of fertility is also known as Annapurna. The entire massif lies within the Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP).Mt Annapurna I is the main peak of this chain of mountains which includes three other peaks that share its name. They are Annapurna II (7.937m), Annapurna III (7,555m) and Annapurna South (7,219m). Unlike other giants, the Annapurna I barely stands out, most of it hidden by other peaks in front of it.
The conquest of Annapurna I was remarkable in many ways. For a start, the French climbers spent weeks just trying to locate the mountain as it was still unexplored. It was the first eight-thousander to be climbed and even more remarkable was the fact that they did it on their first attempt. This was highly unusual as on most mountains of this size, many exploratory teams went up to study the possible routes up to the summit. Only after several expeditions had tried and failed would one eventually succeed. When Annapurna I was climbed, Nepal was still under Rana rule and the country was strictly closed to outsiders. The climb made Maurice Herzog, the expedition leader very famous, this being the first eight-thousander to be climbed. No expeditions had taken to the mountains from Nepal before this team and so sherpas had to be hired from Darjeeling from where many expeditions were launched via Tibet. Even before the team arrived in Nepal, they had given themselves two options: Climb Dhaulagiri or Annapurna. Finding the former too difficult to climb, they turned their attention to the latter. As we have seen over the years of climbing history, the best time to climb in the Himalaya is May. However, by the time Herzog and his team were heading up to the summit it was the beginning of June. Having received news that the monsoon was to begin from 5th June, they were racing against time and made the summit just two days before the weather changed for the worse. Herzog and Louis Lachenal reached the top on 3rd June via the north face. The two summiteers paid a heavy price for the climb, losing their toes and some fingers to frostbite. Herzog would not climb any major peak following this historic climb. The first Nepali climber to summit this peak was Sonam Wolang Sherpa on 13th October 1977.