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Conquistadors of the Useless

From the Alps to Annapurna

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New Paperback Edition available spring 2019

'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 Himalayas. If the word has any meaning at all, I am a mountaineer.’

So Lionel Terray begins Conquistadors of the Useless, his autobiography – 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 jubilantly passionate 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 mountaineering 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 World War II, and he surfaced as a hero. Conquistadors of the Useless tells of his war-time escapades, his climbs – including the second ascent of the Eiger North Face – and of life as an Alpine mountain guide. His tales of adventure capture the energy of French post-war optimism, a time when France needed to re-assert 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 generations of climbers for years to come. A mountaineering classic.

Also available as an ebook:

Kindle (Amazon UK site)
Kindle (Amazon US site)
Google Play

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.

  • Title: Conquistadors of the Useless
  • Sub-title: From the Alps to Annapurna
  • Author: Lionel Terray
  • Translated by: Geoffrey Sutton
  • Foreword by: David Roberts
  • Imprint: Vertebrate Publishing
  • ISBN: 978-1-912560-21-9
  • Publication date: 2 May 2019 (first published 1961)
  • Edition: Second
  • Format: Paperback
  • Size: 198mm x 129mm
  • Extent: 384 pages; B&W text and photos
  • Weight: 300g
  • Retail price: £8.99

Also available as an ebook:

  • Title: Conquistadors of the Useless
  • Sub-title: From the Alps to Annapurna
  • Author: Lionel Terray
  • Imprint: Vertebrate Digital
  • ISBN: 978-1-910240-17-5
  • Publication Date: 1 October 2014
  • Price: £4.99

‘Little compromise and total commitment are features common in both Terray’s writing and his climbing, the lines of his autobiography are every bit as powerful as the lines he followed in the mountains.’ – John Baker, Climbers' Club Journal

‘Conquistadors of the Useless captures the energy of an optimistic world shaking off the restraints of war and austerity, and is sure to inspire today’s climbers with the irresistible passion of his mountaineering.’– Scottish Mountaineering Club Journal

‘Conquistadors of the Useless is like catnip to the male adolescent mind.’ – Ed Douglas, Climber Magazine

‘Conquistadors is one of the great books, hardly perfect but with bursts of powerful writing, especially about climbing. It is irresistible, even to those grown up enough to know better. There’s a Gallic cynicism, a dismissive brilliance that is achingly cool, and which Sutton does capture in his translation. And of course it is an outstanding account of arguably the greatest Alpine career of the 20th century.’ – Ed Douglas, Climber Magazine

Frank, witty, clean, often controversial, Terray irresistibly conveys his lifelong passion for the mountains’ – Lara Dunn, Adventure Travel Magazine

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