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Conquistadors of the Useless

4.31  ·  Rating details ·  438 Ratings  ·  30 Reviews

"If my library was to somehow catch fire and I could only save one book, the long out of print Conquistadors of the Useless, by Lionel Terray, would be it." -- Explore magazine
"The finest mountaineering narrative ever written." -- David Roberts, author of Mountain of My Fear
* One of National Geographic Adventure's "100 Greatest Adventure Books of All Time"
* The story
Paperback, 372 pages
Published August 15th 2008 by Mountaineers Books (first published May 1st 2001)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Mark Wiliamson
Feb 21, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have a soft spot for climbing books - climbers (certainly those that write books) seem to have something of the poet about them and the activity of risking life and limb and enduring great suffering in places of magnificence of beauty seems to make, to me at least, for fascinating tales.

This book is a wonderful example. Terray who seems to have been one of those people for whom life as a mountaineer was inevitable rather than a choice writes with almost unreasonable modesty about a series of
Steve Heikkila
Sep 19, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Terray is an unexpectedly excellent writer. Understood to be a much more honest and factual account of the first ascent of Annapurna than Herzog's. I enjoyed this book quite a bit.
Eugene Miya
1) If you read and liked Maurice Herzog's Annapurna: Lionel Terray is one of the other noted French climbers who did not summit with Herzog (Lawrence L. did). If you had no interest, don't waste your time reading my comment, you would be wasting your time.

2) Then I started climbing, I was aware that this book had been published and translated into English just a few years earlier and that Terray had died about that time. It shortly went out of print (a controversy). I did not make an effort to a
Jul 11, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Couldn't finish this book. This guy is sooo impressed with himself...just couldn't get past his ego and into the story
Jan 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: climbing
(If you were not a climber, this would likely only merit 4 stars). You may not have heard of Lionel Terray, but his autobiography makes you think you should have - for the number of peaks he climbed if nothing else. This is an excellently written/translated book written in a bygone era of the modern sport of mountaineering - when all protection damaged the rock, siege tactics were the norm for mountains, and climbing was a lifestyle rather than a sport. In addition to the excellent descriptions ...more
The quantity and quality of the accomplishments in mountaineering reached by Lionel Terray (and several other climbers of his generation), most of them before he was not even 40 years old, is really hard to take in. Especially keeping in mind that all this was also accomplished when mountaineering was in its infancy regarding technique, equipment, clothing, cartography, technology, and almost any other aspect of the sport.

I really admire this guy. Unfortunately he died too young, but he enjoyed,
Mar 23, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I decided on a three-star review because I really did enjoy so much of the first part of the book. The problem is, the book should have ended about 3/4 of the way in. Not only does it just get old and start to drag, but it even feels like Terray starts to lose interest in writing it. It begins to feel much more like a personal log of accomplishments rather than a story.

I did enjoy the insight into how modern mountaineering and climbing came to be. There were plenty of entertaining stories about
Jan 30, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
Lionel Terray makes solid work of describing his experiences mountaineering. I particularly enjoyed the depth in which he described his and the role of the French mountaineers in World War II and the historical and cultural additions throughout the book. At times it felt both long and drawn out and rushed and underdeveloped; the end in particular, so much so that Terray leaves an afterward to explain to readers why it reads so rushed. Overall-- enjoyed the read.
Kyle Tucker
Aug 24, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: climbing
It seems to be a good read for those interested in the history of climbing up till the late 50s and little in the early 60s. The writing style didn't make me want to read the whole book in one sitting but I have to say the section on Annapurna was my favorite part. The large majority seems to be more distant or similar to reporting facts interspersed with insight into the life/mind of a mountaineer. As a climber, I'm glad I read it, but not necessarily written well in my opinion.
Jan 14, 2011 rated it liked it
Good book about the early mountaineering exploits of French pioneer Lionel Terray. As I don't know much about mountaineering I found some of his descriptions of events a little opaque, but still, this is an entertaining book.
Mauro Bonino
the story of their beatiful life, with gaston rebuffat
Nov 21, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A great book to read by those driven by a passion for alpinism. Lionel Terray is a phenomenal writer who know about what he writes!
Rob Neyer
Considered a true, essential classic of mountaineering literature; as David Roberts writes in TRUE SUMMIT, "more than a few aficionados of mountain literature regard [Conquistadors of the Useless] as the finest climbing autobiography ever written."

But Roberts also points out, correctly, that Terray's book "has its faults. From the outset, Terray set too leisurely a pace, so that halfway through the book he was only on the north face of the Eiger in 1947, with all his greatest climbs ahead. Recog
May 18, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you have an interest in mountaineering and it's history this book will certainly engage you. Climbing many of the difficult classics of the Alps, Terray was a very accomplished climber and guide, especially considering the equipment that was used at the time. His later ascents in South America and Asia cement him as one of the great explorers of history.
Nov 08, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nolimits, waites
Interesting account of a professional mountain guide and amateur climber at the peak of his powers during a classic era of climbing. Well worth the read. Solid 4 stars!!
Ryan Spooner
Terray's autobiography really shines in the first half, particularly in his descriptions of the mountaineer's mindset and his relationship with his numerous climbing partners. In addition, his descriptions of his first several big ascents in the Alps and the chapter on Annapurna are particularly riveting. He comes across as very down to earth and a bit of a salt of the earth personality, which gives his reflections on interactions with different cultures around the world a charming character.

Ioana Jitaru
Jun 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Amazing psychological insight over the birth of a mountaineering addicted soul.

Why we love and climb the highest and the hardest peaks? Why do we play on death playground? Is it a choice or a destiny?
Lionel Terray described not only the beauty of the untouched territory, but also the historical frame of these conquests with delightful irony and humor.
For the reader who never had a mountaineering experience on mixed terrain, the description of routes and climbing technicalities may be a bit ha
Anthony Meaney
This is one of those books that shows up on all top adventure books lists. It is considered a classic of mountaineering literature - and it is.

However if you've never climbed a mountain or even tried rock climbing there are parts of this book that will be a little "too technical" as Lionel describes certain parts of ascents which are really hard for an average reader to picture in their mind if they've never attempted a steep pitch before.

Still a very worthwhile read - his life overall was qui
Alex Rogers
Aug 31, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Perhaps the best book on mountaineering I've read - certainly up there with the very best. Exceptional translating bring's Terray's writing alive in English, while still conveying a fantastic impression of his personal insights, ethics and French perspective. Beautifully written, insightful and thoughtful, it makes me wish I could pay him to guide me up a few of his humbler routes, and get to know him a little. While he is writing covers his climbing about mid-1940's to about 1960, it feels fres ...more
Gareth Senior
Apr 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
best book I've read on climbing. terray avoids the repetition that blights most mountaineering memoirs. he has a
lovely, poetic turn of phrase too. the early chapters are full of the breathless, adrenaline fuelled enthusiasm of youth, his accounts of WW2 cynical and drenched in frustration whilst the later chapters are more philosophical.
Terray is also able to offer an insight into the odd combination of allure and futility that mountains climb in my holds for him. recommended!
Alex Strick van Linschoten
DNF. This is the wrong book for me at the wrong time. I hope to return to it, but for now, the style is a bit too ornate and I'm not learning enough or enjoying the author's personality enough to really push through / onwards.
Tyson Titensor
I picked this up specifically to learn about the first ascent of Mount Fitz Roy. That specific ascent actually occupies a relatively small part of the book but it's a great read nonetheless. Probably only recommended for climbing-literature-aficionados.
Sep 13, 2008 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
title says it all....
Oct 22, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mountains
Tremendous account of climbing all over the world. Has to be one of the premier mountaineering memoirs.
Carlos Javier
Obra fundamental para comprender la evolución del alpinismo de dificultad. El libro es la autobiografía de uno de los mejores alpinistas que ha nacido en territorio francés.
Jan 04, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Also called "Borders of the Impossible" (first US edition). Interesting reminiscences of many mountains.
Mar 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The best autobiography I've ever read. Perfectly written and full of adventure.
Beautiful book.
Stuart Colvin
May 20, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-and-enjoyed
Simply the best mountaineering book ever written
John Vanek
Feb 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A classic. It is hard to call yourself a mountaineer (armchair or otherwise) if you have not read this book.
rated it really liked it
Aug 15, 2017
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