“Our nation will miss Maurice Herzog,” said French President Francois Hollande, evoking the historic climb “that is engraved enduringly in our collective memory.”
Hollande also praised Herzog’s wartime engagement in the French resistance and his second career in public life.
Herzog was “a great figure of the mountains, Haute Savoie and France,” said Sophie Dion, a deputy in the French parliament from Herzog’s much-loved home region in the Alps.
As a symbol of the place he occupied in collective French hearts, Herzog was decorated with the Grand Cross in France’s Legion of Honor last year, the country’s highest civilian honor.
Annapurna is ranked the 10th highest peak in the world and has been described as the “world’s deadliest peak.” Up to 2009, 60 climbers had died on Annapurna, according to climbing statistics website 8000ers.com, for a fatality rate of around 40 percent.
Herzog, who was born on Jan. 15, 1919, parlayed his post-Annapurna fame into a career in French 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 famous mountaineering town in the French Alps.
He also helped France obtain the 1992 Winter Olympics for Albertville.
Still, later in life, Herzog’s legend was tarnished when it came out that he sought to diminish the role of his climbing companion Louis Lachenal — who died in 1955 — by editing his memoirs, which were published after his death. Lachenal reached the summit of Annapurna with Herzog and also lost all his toes to frostbite.
There was no immediate information on survivors or funeral arrangements.