Ed Viesturs

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Ed Viesturs
Ed Viesturs, 2008
Personal information
Birth nameEdmund Viesturs
Born (1959-06-22) June 22, 1959 (age 64)
Fort Wayne, Indiana, U.S.
Climbing career
Type of climberMountaineer
Known forFirst American to climb all 14 eight-thousanders; 5th person to do so without Oxygen.

Edmund Viesturs (born June 22, 1959) is an American high-altitude mountaineer, corporate speaker, and well known author in the mountain climbing community. He was the first American climber to ascend all 14 of the eight-thousander mountains, and the 5th person to do so without supplemental oxygen.[1] Along with Apa Sherpa, he has summitted eight-thousanders on 21 occasions, including Mount Everest seven times.

Viesturs took part in the 1996 IMAX filming of Everest shortly after the 1996 Mount Everest disaster, which became the highest grossing documentary up to that time.[2] Thirteen days after the disaster, his team summited Everest accompanied by a film crew.[3] He also had a cameo in the year 2000 Hollywood blockbuster Vertical Limit.[2] Clive Standen plays Viesturs in the 2015 remake of Everest telling of the 1996 Mount Everest disaster.[4]

Early life[edit]

Viesturs was born in Fort Wayne, Indiana, of Latvian and German descent. He was raised in Rockford, Illinois, Viesturs moved to Seattle, Washington in 1977 to attend the University of Washington. It was here that he began his mountaineering career on the slopes of Mount Rainier.[5] Viesturs graduated from the University of Washington in 1981 with a BS in zoology[6] and worked as a guide for Rainier Mountaineering. He later obtained a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from Washington State University.

Climbing career[edit]

His interest in mountaineering was sparked in high school by reading Maurice Herzog's account of the first climb of Annapurna, titled Annapurna. After climbing Kangchenjunga in 1989, Mount Everest in 1990 and K2 in 1992, Viesturs became an international mountain guide and was sponsored for full-time mountaineering. He served as a guide for Rob Hall's Adventure Consultants company during their 1995 Everest expedition.[7] Viesturs climbs with Finnish partner Veikka Gustafsson.[8]

In 1992, he and fellow American Scott Fischer brought down French climber Chantal Mauduit, suffering from exhaustion, after her summit of K2.[9] Viesturs was in the IMAX climbing team during the 1996 Everest Disaster.[10] He was featured in David Breashears' documentary film Everest (1998), and filming was delayed as a blizzard struck. The IMAX team postponed shooting and followed Viesturs up the mountain to aid the stranded climbers. The team ultimately decided to keep going, and summitted Everest on May 23, 1996. Viesturs was also featured in the Nova television documentary, Everest: The Death Zone (1998), in which he and Breashears climbed Everest to the summit, while undergoing physical and mental tests to record the effects of altitude on humans.[11]

In July 2003, Viesturs and a Kazakh team, headed by Denis Urubko, were instrumental in the rescue of French climber Jean-Christophe Lafaille from Broad Peak. Lafaille had developed high-altitude pulmonary edema and was unable to complete his descent. They coordinated a rescue attempt in the dark, and were able to get Lafaille safely off the mountain and helicoptered out for medical help.[12]

In 2005, Viesturs became the first American, and 12th climber in history, to summit all 14 mountains over 8,000 meters (collectively known as the eight-thousanders). He is the 5th climber in history to do it without using supplemental oxygen.[13] Viesturs has summitted Mount Everest seven times.[14] Research published in 2022 estimated that Viesturs was one of only three climbers in history to have stood on the "true" geographical summit of all the eight-thousanders and that Viesturs was the first to do so.[15]

Viesturs' more recent climbs have included Broad Peak (the world's 12th highest mountain) and Nanga Parbat (the world's ninth highest mountain) in 2003, Annapurna (the world's 10th highest mountain) in 2005, and Mount Everest (for the seventh time) in 2009.[16] On July 8, 2009 he led an expedition to Mount Rainier as part of the United Way Climb for the Community effort. UCLA coach Jim Mora, Seahawks CEO Tod Leiweke, and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell took part in this charitable enterprise, summiting the 14,410 ft peak. Viesturs led an expedition to Antarctica, in January 2011, to climb its highest peak, Vinson Massif. In May 2021, he summitted Mount Rainier for the 216th time.[17] Viesturs now acts as a guide for RMI Expeditions.[18]

Other work[edit]

Viesturs was a cinematographer for the film Trio for One (2003), which told the story of French alpinist Jean-Christophe Lafaille's mission to climb Dhaulagiri, Nanga Parbat, and Broad Peak in a period of two months.[19] He acts as a design consultant for manufacturers of outdoor equipment, and is a representative of his adopted hometown's football team, the Seattle Seahawks. He is a member of the board of directors for Big City Mountaineers, an urban youth organization that offers wilderness experiences. Viesturs has also found a niche as a corporate motivational speaker.[17]


Viesturs is a recipient of the David A. Sowles Memorial Award (1992) [20] from the American Alpine Club. He is also the recipient of the Explorers Club Lowell Thomas Award (2001)[21] He was named National Geographic's Adventurer of the Year (2005).[22]



  • Peter Potterfield wrote Himalayan Quest: Ed Viesturs on the 8,000-Meter Giants (February 2003), chronicling Viesturs' climbing career to that point. Viesturs contributed photographs for the book and David Breashears wrote the introduction.[23]
  • Viesturs has published his autobiography, No Shortcuts to the Top: Climbing the World's 14 Highest Peaks (October 2006), documenting his 16-year journey summitting all 14 eight-thousanders, and his strategies to manage risk in extreme mountain environments.[24]
  • Viesturs and David Roberts published the book K2: Life and Death on the World's Most Dangerous Mountain, (October 2009) which tells the story of six expeditions to the world's second tallest mountain.[25]
  • Viesturs published The Will to Climb: Obsession and Commitment and the Quest to Climb Annapurna--the World's Deadliest Peak (October 2011), which he describes his own experiences on Annapurna as well as those of others who have attempted to climb the most dangerous (statistically) 8000 meter peak.[26]
  • Viesturs and David Roberts published The Mountain: Epic Adventures on Everest (October 8, 2013), which both surveys Viesturs' personal ascents and recounts other historical ascents of Mount Everest.[27]





  • He was a guest on The Daily Show on December 7, 2006.
  • He was a guest on Charlie Rose on January 16, 2007.
  • He appeared on The Colbert Report on March 14, 2007, where he agreed to plant a Colbert Report flag atop Mount Everest the next time he went;[29][33] on July 2, 2009, he brought the Colbert Nation flag back from Everest's summit to the show.[34]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Table with list of climbers who have reached 10 or more "eight-thousanders", including repetitions, by Eberhard Jurgalski (PDF download)
  2. ^ a b Survivors Look Back – April 2003 Archived 2016-01-15 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ As Climbers Die, The Allure of Everest Keeps on Growing By TIMOTHY EGAN Published: March 11, 1998
  4. ^ Krool, Justin (4 February 2014). "'Vikings' Actor Clive Standen Joins Working Title's 'Everest". variety.com. Retrieved 11 October 2017.
  5. ^ "RMI Guide Staff". Archived from the original on 2009-02-28. Retrieved 2009-05-14.
  6. ^ "Ed Viesturs: From Lander Hall to Annapurna". Autumn 2005. Archived from the original on 2010-08-23.
  7. ^ "History". Retrieved 2009-05-13.
  8. ^ "EverestHistory.com: Veikka Gustafsson". Retrieved 2009-05-13.
  9. ^ "Tragedy of Chantal Mauduit shocks climbers". Retrieved May 6, 2013.
  10. ^ "Everest (1998)". IMDb. Retrieved 2009-05-13.
  11. ^ Everest: The Death Zone. IMDb. 1998.
  12. ^ "Nanga Parbat, Broad Peak and K2 Kazakhstan Expedition". Retrieved May 6, 2013.
  13. ^ "How Mountaineer Ed Viesturs First Summited Everest Without Oxygen". The Atlantic. Retrieved May 5, 2013.
  14. ^ FirstAscent; Ed Viesturs summit #7. "Viesturs, Whittaker and Team – 29,035 ft.". Born Out There. May 18, 2008
  15. ^ Franz, Derek (20 July 2022). "Researchers challenge historical records for 8000-meter peaks". Alpinist. Retrieved 3 August 2022.
  16. ^ "Ed Viesturs group reaches summit of Mount Everest:Trip is the seventh to the top of Everest for Viesturs". Retrieved May 6, 2013.
  17. ^ a b "Ed's Bio". Retrieved Dec 30, 2022.
  18. ^ "Ed Viesturs, Mountain Guide, RMI Expeditions". Retrieved May 6, 2003.
  19. ^ "Trio for One (2003)". IMDb. Retrieved 2009-05-13.
  20. ^ "The David A. Sowles Memorial Award". Archived from the original on 2009-07-14. Retrieved 2009-05-13.
  21. ^ "The Lowell Thomas Award". Archived from the original on November 13, 2011. Retrieved May 6, 2013.
  22. ^ "Ed Viesturs: Adventurer of the Year". National Geographic Society. Archived from the original on December 4, 2005. Retrieved May 6, 2013.
  23. ^ Potterfield, Peter (2003). Himalayan Quest: Ed Viesturs on the 8,000-Meter Giants. National Geographic. ISBN 978-0-7922-6884-0.
  24. ^ Viesturs, Ed; David Roberts (2007). No Shortcuts to the Top: Climbing the Worlds 14 Highest Peaks. Broadway. ISBN 978-0-7679-2471-9.
  25. ^ Viesturs, Ed; David Roberts (2009). K2: Life and Death on the World's Most Dangerous Mountain. Broadway. ISBN 978-0-7679-3250-9.
  26. ^ Viesturs, Ed (2011). The Will to Climb: Obsession and Commitment and the Quest to Climb Annapurna--the World's Deadliest Peak. Crown. ISBN 978-0307720429.
  27. ^ "Ed Viesturs Books".
  28. ^ Viesturs, Ed; David Roberts (2007). No Shortcuts to the Top: Climbing the World's 14 Highest Peaks. Random House, Inc. p. 225. ISBN 978-0-7679-2471-9.
  29. ^ a b "Ed Viesturs". IMDb. Retrieved 2009-05-13.
  30. ^ "Everest for Windows". Retrieved 5 June 2019.
  31. ^ "Hidden Expedition: Everest". Retrieved 2013-05-01.
  32. ^ "Outside Online". Retrieved 2009-05-13.
  33. ^ "Ed Viesturs on the Colbert Report, March 14, 2007". 15 March 2007. Retrieved 2019-12-05.
  34. ^ "Ed Viesturs on the Colbert Report, July 2, 2009". 3 July 2009. Retrieved 2019-12-05.

External links[edit]