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Conquistadors of the Useless  By  cover art

Conquistadors of the Useless

By: Lionel Terray,David Roberts - foreword
Narrated by: Nigel Patterson
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Publisher's Summary

Frenchman Lionel Terray is one of mountaineering history's greatest alpinists, and his autobiography, Conquistadors of the Useless, stands among the "100 Greatest Adventure Books of All Time", according to National Geographic Adventure magazine. Following World War II, when France desperately needed successes to heal its wounds, Terray emerged as a national hero, conquering summits atop the planet's highest mountains.

This biography of Lionel Terry is filled with first-time feats and acts of bravery in the face of unspeakable odds. He climbed with legends such as Maurice Herzog, Gaston Rebuffat, and Louis Lachenal. He made first ascents in the Alps, Alaska, the Andes, and the Himalaya. Terray's gripping story captures the energy of an optimistic world shaking off the restraints of war and austerity. It's a mountaineering classic.

©1961 Editions Gallimard (P)2021 Tantor

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Conquistadors of the Useless

This is something of a cult classic. First published in French in 1961, it was for a long time not available in English, and then after translation it went out of print and copies were going for over $1000. Helped by the fact it was included in the National Geographic Outdoor list. Not too long after 1961, he died on a climbing trip. The book then is a sort of scope into the mind of a soon to be dead man who struggled with why he climbed, saw so many others die, almost died many times. But it is not morbid, Terray is full of life, such are the sharp contrasts of this sport, or a way of life.

Terray came of age when climbing transitioned from fragile hemp rope and clod-hopper nail boots to modern technology and techniques, as such, he was first ascent to many climbs or nearly so. They were superstars in the days after the war doing things people thought insane and impossible, the book gives a sense of the fraternity of climbers in the Alps during the 40s and 50s. Remember 'The Eiger Sanction'? Well that sort of time period and place is what this concerns but for real. This is a long book and the early sections are not so great, but once he started on the Big Walls it takes off. The interlude of WWII is interesting as he sneaks up on Germans from mountain tops they didn't think anyone could climb, only to have his gun freeze! So many stories. This is a must read for climbers, NatGeo completionists, or really anyone who likes good stories, Terray is a likeable, down to earth character,

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Awe Inspiring masterpiece. Brilliant Reading.

If you only read one mountaineering book in a lifetime, this is the the one.

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Adventure and history perfectly united

This book has a legendary reputation, and after listening to this version, I truly understand why. The account of Terray and Lachenal making the second accent of the Eigerwand is beyond epic; I was on the edge of my seat. Highly recommended.

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  • Tobias
  • 04-18-22

A well supplied story of a remarkable life

Lionel lived a truly remarkable life and this book spares no details. You get to go on some of the most groundbreaking adventures that laid the path for modern alpinism. A must grab for all who consider themselves possessed by the mountains.