Viesturs: ‘No more 8,000-meter peaks’ |

Viesturs: ‘No more 8,000-meter peaks’

Binaj Gurubacharya
The Associated Press

KATMANDU, Nepal ” One of the United States’ most accomplished climbers is coming down from the death zone.

After Ed Viesturs last week became the first American to climb the world’s tallest 14 peaks ” all above the benchmark of 8,000 meters, or 26,240 feet ” the 45-year-old said he is retiring from high-altitude climbing.

Viesturs summitted Nepal’s 26,540-foot Mount Annapurna on Thursday, his final goal in the 16-year odyssey that has taken him to the world’s most spectacular heights.

“It is a dream come true for me. I have thought about this for so long,” Viesturs told The Associated Press in Katmandu after returning safely from the mountain.

He began his long journey in 1989 by climbing Mount Kanchenjunga, the world’s third tallest mountain at 28,200-feet. Since then he has added one peak after another.

He’s climbed the world’s tallest mountain ” the 29,035-foot Mount Everest ” six times. During one Everest climb, in 1996, he encountered the bodies of two climbers who had died just days before.

The first person to scale all 14 peaks was Italian Reinhold Messner, who completed the task in 1986 at age 42. Viesturs is the 12th.

“I am retiring from climbing high mountains. It has been great but no more 8,000-meter peaks for me,” Viesturs said.

Viesturs had been thwarted in his attempts to climb Annapurna for years. His first expedition in 2000 was aborted due to bad weather and another in 2002 because of avalanches.

Annapurna, the 10th highest peak in the world, is prone to avalanches and considered among the most difficult to climb. It was also the first of the highest mountains to be conquered ” by French climber Maurice Herzog in 1950.

“Annapurna was like the thorn on my back, but it is removed,” said Viesturs, who is from Bainbridge Island, Wash. “I saved the most difficult for the last.”

The trip to the summit took longer than expected because windy conditions slowed him on the last leg of his journey.

Like many of his previous climbs elsewhere, the American scaled Annapurna without using bottled oxygen, a typical aid for most climbers at higher altitudes ” where the air is thin and breathing can be difficult.

Viesturs reached the summit Thursday afternoon with the Finnish climber Veikka Gustafsson.

One of America’s leading high altitude mountaineers, Viesturs was on Everest on May 10, 1996, when eight people died in the deadliest single tragedy in the mountain’s climbing history, an event chronicled in Jon Krakauer best seller “Into Thin Air.”

He also was involved in the making of the IMAX film “Everest.”

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