American Alpinist Ed Viesturs Shares What He’s Learned in the Mountains

Legendary alpinist Ed Viesturs is often regarded as the dean of American mountaineers. He’s earned that spot thanks to being the first—and to date only—American to climb all 14 of the 8000-meter peaks. He is also the sixth person overall to accomplish that feat without the use of bottled oxygen, a quest that he chronicled incredibly well in his book No Shortcuts to the Top. As you can probably imagine, along the way Ed learned a thing or two that not only helped him to achieve is lofty goals, but to survive in some incredibly difficult and demanding conditions. Recently, he shared some of those lessons in an article for Rock & Ice, providing some handy insights to the rest of us mere mortals.

As Viesturs points out in the article, he began his guiding career on Mt. Rainier back in 1982. He calls that mountain “the perfect classroom” for acquiring the skills and experience he needed to expand his career into other parts of the globe, including the Himalaya, Karakoram, and the Andes. Mostly retired at this point, Ed has nevertheless summited Rainier no fewer than 200 times.

Amongst the lessons that Viesturs shares in the story is the fact that he had to famously walk away from Annapurna not once, but twice. On both occasions, conditions were too dangerous to make a summit push and at one point it seemed like he’d never be able to climb that tricky mountain. Eventually he managed to get it done on the third try, but it was important for him to learn that it is better to be safe and walk away in one piece than to push on when your instincts say it is too dangerous.

Other topics he touches on include being patient with himself and the big mountains, learning to put Everest into perspective, and knowing when to do the right thing while on an Expedition. Viesturs says that he also learned a lot from the Sherpa people. Lessons he takes with him beyond the Himalaya.

Most of these “lessons” are short and to the point, but offer insights not only into Ed’s personality and character, but how to climb successfully too. But even if you never step foot on one of the big peaks—or even a mountain at all—there is wisdom to be gained here. Read the whole story here.