Mountaineer Ed Viesturs visits University for E-Week

The only American of five total people who have climbed Mount Everest, the world’s highest peak at 29,035 feet, without supplemental oxygen was at the University on Monday.

Ed Viesturs, high-altitude mountain climber, spoke about his 27 years worth of expeditions at Foellinger Auditorium as part of E-Week, or Engineers Week, sponsored by the College of Engineering.

The presentation was organized by Anando Naqui, vice president of the Engineering Council, in honor of National Engineering Week, which takes place from Feb. 19 to 25.

Naqui became fascinated in Viesturs and his expeditions after viewing the film “Everest.” After climbing the mountain for the first time, Viesturs was featured in the film. In order to capture the entire trip, he and his crew carried over 40 pounds worth of camera equipment.

Viesturs climbed Mount Everest a total of seven times and climbed Mount Rainier in Washington 208 times. Viestur’s most recent climb was Annapurna, a section of the Himalaya Mountains, in 2005, after three failed attempts.

Prior to discovering his passion for outdoor climbing, Viesturs applied to the University and other institutions to pursue his goal of becoming a veterinarian. He achieved that goal when he received a bachelor’s degree in zoology from the University of Washington and a veterinary medicine degree from Washington State University; however, Viesturs never pursued the field professionally and instead chose to stick to climbing.

“(At the time), it was a hobby,” he said. “To keep doing what I wanted to do (mountain climbing), I had to make it into a career.”

Viesturs said he is often questioned about how he could decide as a child that he wanted to climb mountains. His response was that he read adventure books. When Viesturs was younger, he was inspired by the book “Annapurna” by Maurice Herzog.

“We all have our own Annapurnas,” he said. “If you look at a horizon of your life, you’re climbing mountain after mountain. I think they’re there for a reason: to test ourselves.”

Through his reading and also from being an international guide, Viesturs has learned that a lot of the risks from climbing are based on judgment.

“For me, the art of mounting is to manage the risk, to be well prepared, conservative (and) knowing when to turn around at the face of uncontrolled risk.”

Out of the three books Viesturs has written about his adventures, “No Shortcuts to the Top” became a national bestseller.