Ed Viesturs Slideshow Tour

at the Somerville Theater

Thursday September 29th, 2005

reviewed by Amanda Lee

Ed Viesturs' autographed postcard

On a cold, fall evening, Rachel Shmookler and I raced from the train station to the Somerville Theater where world class mountaineer, Ed Viesturs, was giving a slideshow presentation on summiting all 14 of the world's 8,000m peaks. We managed to nab nosebleed seats although the screen at the stage of the 900-seat theater was sufficiently large enough for us to see the photographs clearly.

To first give a little background history, Ed Viesturs became interested in climbing after reading Maurice Herzog's Annapurna at the age of 16. He started guiding in the United States up peaks like McKinley while struggling to make climbing into a profession. After 15 years of experience and a growing list of summited peaks, he was sponsored by a new company called Mountain Hardware. From thereon, his adventures began.

Viesturs mainly talked about Everest, since that is the mountain he has summited the most times, and Annapurna, the last peak he climbed, although he did briefly go over his other peak ascents. In 1994, his journey to summit all 8,000m peaks began when he was on Everest, looking over at Lhotse with his buddy Rob Hall. He then had the idea of summiting Lhotse after he and Hall were done guiding folks up Everest since their bodies were already acclimated. Thus, the two mountaineers completed ascending Lhotse within days, adopting an alpine style of climbing (quick climbing with the lightest packs possible). Afterwards, Viesturs made his way about the Himalayas.

Viesturs also touched upon the 1996 IMAX filming of Everest with cameraman Dave Breshears. Breshears had reduced the normal IMAX camera down to about forty-two pounds and had to carry that along with his pack, which weighed another forty-five pounds at the least, up the mountain. Now, based on Viesturs' word, sometimes taking one step while high up on mountain would require one to pause and breathe for a few minutes, not to mention taking a step and filming at the same time. In addition, each IMAX roll of film would only last 90 seconds at a time. Breshears was also particular and would, as Viesturs joked, demand to redo a scene like having a climber go back down a ladder placed over a crevasse if he did not like the angle or the way the climber went up the ladder.

When Viesturs and his team were ready to summit Everest, they felt that the weather was not appropriate. Rob Hall and Scott Fischer, two friends of Viesturs, were guiding expeditions and decided to go on ahead while Viesturs' team descended back down to a previous camp. Unfortunately, the two guides and a few others died while Viesturs' and his crew were sent on a rescue mission to retrieve the survivors. A month afterwards, the IMAX crew decided to pursue Everest again and Viesturs summated the peak to overcome the tragedy and show people that climbing can be done safely with the right decisions and judgment. The accident, however, was no one's fault but was due to a series of mistakes, usually the reason for why tragic events such as this one occur.

Annapurna was Viesturs' last 8,000m peak. He teamed up with Finnish climber, Veikka Gustafsson, whom he had ascended Everest, Broad Peak, Manaslu, Dhualagiri, Shishapangma, Nanga Parbat with already as well as attempted Annapurna with twice before. This was their third and last attempt, and fortunately, the conditions were right. Following the original French route up Annapurna, the two successfully summited the elusive peak.

The slideshow itself was packed with incredible pictures of views from the tops of peaks, of the purest blue skies and the Himalayas, and of course climbers en route either up a vertical wall of ice or kick stepping up a steep snowy slope. Viesturs was a great speaker, often adding in jokes (especially when it came to advertising sponsors atop peaks via holding up banners - he joked about Photoshopping in the brand names and simply holding a blank sign in his hands on each peak) and keeping the audience interested in each of his summits. He clearly showed great respect for his fellow climbers and for nature and the mountains themselves. He also made clear that the bottom line, for any climber, is that even though one may have a lot of experience, the most important thing is to make safe decisions and have good judgment; losing one's life over a peak ascent is not worth the risk.

When asked what he plans to do next, he expressed interest in climbing a few lower peaks he had not climbed yet and that he has no desire to climb the highest peak of every continent, as is labeled "The Seven Summits." Now, he explained, there are more risks in store for him, including a family of a very supportive wife and two children. Well, at 46 years of age, I say he's lived quite the adventurous life and that I hope he will continue climbing and being an inspiration for all aspiring mountaineers and alpinists alike.

More information and pictures can be found at:

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