The Right Coast

June 20, 2005
Ed Viesturs retires
By Tom Smith

American's leading mountaineer is calling it a day. He's a climer's climber in my book. Accomplished (the only American to have climbed the world's 14 highest mountains), extremely strong, and sane, he's the model. You don't hear any of Mark Twight's I'm not afraid to die alone in a blue hole rubbish out of him. If Twight's still alive at 45 it will be a miracle, and he does not have anything like Viesturs's high altitude resume. One thing the article does not stress is that Viesturs was amazingly strong at high altitude. He did all his peaks alpine style, and without oxygen. He was conservative about risk by modern standards (hence his not being dead) but he was a machine going up steep ice and snow. If you watch him climb in the Everest IMAX movie, at 26,000 feet or so he looks like he's on the stairmaster at the gym. In terms of cardiovascular capacity, he must be something of a mutant, like Lance Armstrong. Anyway, good on him for setting a positive example for a change in the world of adventure sports.

Here's what I mean.