Annapurna is located on the 55 km long Annapurna massif in north-central Nepal east of a great gorge cut through the Himalaya by the Kali Gandaki river. This gorge separates it from the Dhaulagiri massif. Annapurna is the tenth highest mountain in the world. Annapurna is translated as " Goddess of the Harvests" or "the Provider". Of Annapurna's many high peaks, five are labeled using some variation of the name Annapurna. Of these, the two highest (Annapurna I and II), stand like bookends at the western and eastern ends of the massif.
The entire massif and surrounding area are protected within the Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP), the first and largest conservation area in Nepal, established in 1986 by the King Mahendra Trust for Nature Conservation. The Annapurna Convervation Area is home to several world-class treks, including the Annapurna Circuit.
Annapurna I was the first 8000 m peak to be climbed. Maurice Herzog and Louis Lachenal, of a French expedition (including Lionel Terray, Gaston Rébuffat, Marcel Ichac, Jean Couzy, Marcel Schatz, Jacques Oudot, Francis de Noyelle), reached the summit on June 3, 1950. The expedition is described in one of the most famous mountaineering books "Annapurna" by Maurice Herzog. Herzog describes his feelings standing on the summit of Annapurna: "Our mission was accomplished. But at the same time we had accomplished something infinitely greater. How wonderful life would now become ! What an inconceivable experience it is to attain one's ideal and, at the very same moment, to fulfill oneself. I was stirred to the depths of my being. Never had I felt happiness like this - so intense and yet so pure. That brown rock, the highest of them all, that ridge of ice - were these the goals of a lifetime ? Or were they, rather, the limits of man's pride ?" His thoughts were interrupted by Lachenal: "Well, what about going down ?"
The way down is a horrible ordeal. Taking pictures at the summit, Herzog looses his gloves. His hands start to freeze. As they rush to meet their expedition companions in camp IV at 25300 ft., Lachenal loose his stance and plunges 300 ft. deep. He suffers a concussion. The four spend a night in the death zone in small tends. The next day, they loose their way inthick mist and all four were forced to spend another night in 23000 ft. in a crevasse. The next day, they find that they were just a few yards awy from camp III. Desaster strikes again as they get hit by an avalanche which they all survive. By the time they reach camp II, Herzogs hands were stripped to the flesh and Lachenal was close to madness.
The south face of Annapurna was first climbed in 1970 by Don Whillans and Dougal Haston, members of a British expedition led by Chris Bonington which included the alpinist Ian Clough, who was killed by a falling ice-pillar during the descent.
In 1978, The American Women's Annapurna Expedition, a team led by Arlene Blum, became the first American team to climb Annapurna I. The expedition was also remarkable for being composed entirely of women. Sadly, Alison Chadwick-Onyszkiewicz and Vera Watson died during this climb. By proving that women had the skill, strength, and courage necessary to make this difficult and dangerous climb, the 1978 Women's Himalayan Expedition's accomplishment had a positive impact around the world, changing perceptions about women's abilities in sports and other arenas. Arlene Blum documented the personal triumphs and tragedies of these women in "Annapurna: A Woman's Place".
On 3 February 1987, Polish climbers Jerzy Kukuczka and Artur Hajzer made the first winter ascent of Annapurna I.