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May 12, 2005 9:36 AM   Subscribe

Ed Viesturs summits all 14 mountains over 8000m After 16 years of trying, Ed Viesturs has become the first American to summit all mountains over 8000m (the "Eight-thousanders"). This, in itself, is an amazing achievement; however, even more remarkably, all of Viesturs climbs were done without supplemental oxygen (facilitated, in part, by his genetic abnormalities).

The Eight-thousanders were first climbed in 1986 by Reinhold Messner. Since then, only 12 other people have accomplished the same.
posted by Elpoca (27 comments total)

 
I also contributed to the Wikipedia article on him. I hope this isn't considered a self-link!
posted by Elpoca at 9:37 AM on May 12, 2005


I've read a lot about high altitude mountaineering. I used to want to do it, but it is dangerous, expensive, and insanely difficult. So I stick with "safe" rock climbing at more normal altitudes.

But reading what the last couple thousand feet are like, from say 26K or 27K feet, it's astounding what these folks do. Waking up in the morning and putting on shoes will make you feel like you just ran a marathon at that altitude. At the higher altitudes, you're literally dying without oxygen—just sitting still and doing nothing will kill you in a few days, for lack of oxygen and its side effects (like your inability to hydrate or eat because you are too tired).

These guys climb things that average folks would give up on at sea level; they are amazing athletes, that literally put everything on the line for the love of mountaineering.

Good job, Ed! We don't need no stinkin' oxygen.
posted by teece at 9:53 AM on May 12, 2005


I am disappointed to learn that this post has nothing to do with Ben Folds.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 10:12 AM on May 12, 2005


teece you underestimate the challenge of running a marathon. in my (not so humble) opinion, having once watched a very large and rather elderly woman crawl on her bloody hands and knees to cross the finish line of a marathon after 8 hours was by far the most impressive athletic achievement i have ever witnessed.

the killer: she told me she had to finish to collect 100 dollars someone had pledged to the charity she was representing. now THAT was a far greater demonstration of human spirit and endurance than anything achieved by a professional hill climber.
posted by three blind mice at 10:13 AM on May 12, 2005


A less admiring label has been affixed to Viesturs, too: that of “peak bagger,” a man so intent on climbing all 14 of the 8,000-meter [26,248-foot] Himalayan peaks that he chooses the safest routes, and in so doing shirks the toughest technical challenges.
It pisses me off that mountain climbers actually invented a term for this. "Oh, you're taking the easy route up Mount Fucking Everest"

They're clearly jealous of his V02 max.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:31 AM on May 12, 2005


Welcome to sfy.ru, famous selected collection of hundreds free movie scripts and screenplays!
posted by Schroder at 10:42 AM on May 12, 2005


Wrong thread, Schroder?
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 10:50 AM on May 12, 2005


IANAMC, but as I understand it, Everest is actually considered a relatively technically easy climb (assuming you do the sane thing and use bottled oxygen). Lots of the other eight-thousanders aren't.
posted by neckro23 at 10:52 AM on May 12, 2005


I wonder what sort of kids this guy would have with Tanya Streeter (who has a very nice set of lungs)?
posted by pracowity at 11:41 AM on May 12, 2005


Civil_Diobedient beat me to it. I can't believe people who climb mountains professionally would undermine this accomplishment by in essence calling him a pussy. For being SAFE. You would think they'd be all about safety.

Plus, if your goal is just to reach all these peaks, what does it matter that what route you take (as long as it's not helicopter)?
posted by ArsncHeart at 11:42 AM on May 12, 2005


Me too: I read that peak bagger comment and thought, what a pansy! Imagine, taking the easy route up Everest. Pfft.

Related: cleaning up the litter on Mt. Everest.
posted by Specklet at 12:02 PM on May 12, 2005


Everest is actually considered a relatively technically easy climb

Ok, relatively speaking, sure. But what about K2?
"This year, another 262 climbers have reached the highest point on the planet as of press time. And in 2008, the Chinese intend to carry the Olympic torch to the top on their way to Beijing.

By comparison, in the last 50 years, only 196 climbers have made it to the top of K2. This past summer, another 55 gave it a shot as six expeditions—from Kazakhstan, Romania, Spain, Switzerland, and the Czech Republic, plus one international group—converged on the south side of the mountain. Among them were some of the strongest mountaineers in the world, including the Czech climbers Radek Jaros and Martin Minarik, as well as Segarra and Ponce de Leon, who returned for another try. None of them reached the summit."
I bet that pussy took the easy way up K2 as well.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 12:20 PM on May 12, 2005


Pfft. Stupid climber, thinks he's all that. Pussy, takin' the easy routes.

*sits at computer*
*sips 48 oz. Coke*
posted by graventy at 12:31 PM on May 12, 2005


People levelled the same criticism at Messner (i.e., peak-bagger). Many considered Jerzy Kukuczka's (the second person to climb the 8000ers, a year after Messner) achievement more notable, as he used more technically demanding routes, many for the first time. Not to detract from either Viesturs or Messner's accomplishments, but there is something to be said for quality over quantity...

The truth, of course, is that anyone who makes a career out of high-altitude mountaineering is a truly great athelete.
posted by Elpoca at 12:39 PM on May 12, 2005


*sits at computer*
*sips 48 oz. Coke*


graventy, ya great wuss! Real men drink bigger cokes than that -- shit, mine have tides -- and don't so much sit at the computer as lie down on the couch with the laptop while watching Star Wars, Star Trek, Doctor Who, and Manimal on separate monitors. Sound off, of course, because everybody who's worth mentioning knows the dialogue by heart anyway.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:55 PM on May 12, 2005


Just four monitors (five, with the laptop)? When I said computer, I meant 7 different systems and monitors tied to one keyboard/mouse. Three of the systems are devoted to playing back trilogies--LOTR, star wars, indiana jones, etc. simultaneously and continuously. The pop is only 48 oz, but I have my R.O.B. programmed to bring me more 48 oz-ers when I run low.

Manimal?
*bows before geek god*
posted by graventy at 1:56 PM on May 12, 2005


Viesturs is a peak bagger, there's nothing cutting edge about the climbing he does. The standard routes on Everest are "climbed" by many people with little to no real climbing experience every season. You want cutting edge try Steve House.
posted by alpinist at 6:12 PM on May 12, 2005


The "cutting edge" part is where he "bags" fourteen 8000+ peaks and doesn't die. Take K2, for example. He probably took the Southeast Ridge ascent, along with 90% of the rest of K2 peakers. Doesn't change the fact that the summit:death ratio is the highest of any 8000+ peak (1:3.38). Mr. Alpinist, did you know that no route on K2 has less than a 47 percent gradient? That 22 of the "successful" peakers died after reaching the summit? That all five of the women who reached the top did not survive to tell of the experience?

Tell you what, Mr. Alpinist. When you come back from your extraordinarily innovative and dangerous ascent of K2, you can tell us all about what a boring, standard guy Ed Viesturs is.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 12:01 AM on May 13, 2005


Oh yes, I did know all those things. Did you know that the technical crux on the Abruzzi Spur goes at one pitch of 5.6 (very easy rock climbing)? Did you know that a 47 degree slope isn't very steep at all, people routinely ski slopes up to 55+ degrees? Did you know that the first ascent of the Abruzzi Spur was in 1954? Yes, 1954. That was a long time ago and climbing standards have increased quite a bit since then. An ascent of K2 in 1954 was extremely innovative, not so much in 1992. Did you know that the vast majority of climbing accidents happen on descent? I've been to over 6,000m and I have a healthy respect for Viesturs lungs, just not for his technical climbing ability. Oh yeah. a few years ago I took a clinic from him and found him to be quite boring.
posted by alpinist at 9:02 AM on May 13, 2005


Alpinist: Huh? Comparing Viesturs to other climbers simply because they follow the same route is nonsense. That's like saying that Michael Johnson's world records are meaningless simply because a lot of other people run the 200m and 400m as well.
posted by Elpoca at 9:05 AM on May 13, 2005


Oh yeah, This was an innovative ascent of K2.
posted by alpinist at 9:06 AM on May 13, 2005


I've been to over 6,000m and I have a healthy respect for Viesturs lungs, just not for his technical climbing ability.

Because he plays it safe? Look, he goes up the mountain, he comes down the mountain. Just because he doesn't do it hopping on a pogo stick shouldn't negate his accomplishments. I understand what you're saying about technical prowess, but in a sport as dangerous as mountain climbing, sometimes tried-and-true is better than innovative-and-dead.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 9:47 AM on May 13, 2005


It's really difficult to explain to non-climbers what "style" means. Modern alpinism has transcended the siege mentality of years past: months on the mountain, fixed camps, sherpas climbing for you, it's all obsolete. Modern alpinism is about small teams traveling over technical terrain, carrying minimum amounts of gear and going as fast as possible. Ed Viesturs does not do these things. Is he a skilled climber? Sure. Is he on the cutting edge of the sport? Absolutely not.

Due to ridiculous movies like Vertical Limit and Cliffhanger, the general public tends to believe that climbing is this ultra-dangerous endeavor and whenever a climber comes back alive they're lucky. That's simply not true. Climbing is about assessing risks and deciding if you are willing to take those risks.
posted by alpinist at 10:39 AM on May 13, 2005


Because it's all about the machismo.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:58 AM on May 13, 2005


I don't know alpinist it would seem that if your in a club with only 12 other people your way of doing things might just have been the correct way if your goal was to join that club. To argue otherwise, especially if your not in that club, would seem a little disparaging of the unattainable.
posted by Mitheral at 12:42 PM on May 13, 2005


Those who can't sprint up a dozen of the world's tallest mountains, content themselves with doing only a few of them in the most difficult manner possible. :-)
posted by five fresh fish at 9:31 PM on May 13, 2005


Not to diminish Viesturs' achievement, but it's worth noting that while he's the first American to climb all Eight-thousanders, that had already been done by two Italians, two Poles, one Swiss, one Mexican, two Spaniards and three Koreans.

It's just that I'm a bit peeved about Viesturs being in www.firstandbest.msn.com, that's all. (Juanito Oiarzabal is a star in Spain. Reinhold Messner, of course, pretty fucking much everywhere else).
posted by Skeptic at 2:45 AM on May 14, 2005


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