Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Hear real tales from the Himalayas

Climber Ed Viesturs aims to inspire students to the outdoors

Express Staff Writer

Mountaineer Ed Viesturs will discuss his new book, “The Mountain: My Time on Everest,” this week as a fundraiser for the Community School’s Outdoor Program.
Courtesy photo

    World-class mountaineer and bestselling author Ed Viesturs—the only American to have climbed all of the world’s 8,000-meter peaks without the use of supplemental oxygen—will discuss his seven summits of Everest in a presentation Monday, Nov. 4, to benefit the Community School’s Outdoor Program. Viesturs will discuss his new book, “The Mountain: My Time on Everest,” at 6:30 p.m. at the Sun Valley Opera House.
    The famous climber has published three bestselling books and is a guide for Eddie Bauer, promoting their First Ascent series of technical outerwear and gear. He is also a corporate motivational speaker, discussing topics such as risk management, leadership, teamwork, overcoming obstacles and making decisions under pressure.
    Eddie Bauer will raffle off backpacks and gift cards. Iconoclast Books will sell pre-signed copies of “The Mountain” prior to the presentation. An intimate VIP meet-and-greet with Viesturs will follow in the Sun Room at the Sun Valley Lodge.
    Ticket prices are $25 for adults, $15 for students and $75 for the VIP reception. All proceeds benefit the Community School Outdoor Program. To register, visit
    The Community School’s Outdoor Program is one of the largest in the Northwest and has been an integral part of the Sun Valley private school since its inception. Students climb mountains and cliffs, run river rapids, explore wild coasts and deserts and live in snow shelters. Through these adventures, students develop leadership skills and the confidence to take risks and overcome challenges and adversity.
    Viesturs took a breath to answer a few questions from the Express last week.
IME: So, all of those high places without oxygen. Do you worry about effects on your brain? Did you ever think, ‘Hey, I am crazy to be doing this?’
    I never thought of any long-term consequences about climbing so high without supplemental oxygen. There have not been any studies in regards to this and only a handful of people could be subjects anyway—the first two having climbed Everest without oxygen in 1978.
    My reasons for doing so was to really test myself physically and mentally, and to see if I could push myself beyond normal limits. In the end I knew it would be more rewarding as well. I also felt that I wanted to climb these high mountains at their level, instead of reducing them to mine. Many people simply want to climb Everest, but for me, how I did it was more important. Deprivation was not what I sought per se, but just happened to be part of the deal.

If you choose a path that you are passionate about, anything is possible.”

It’s gotta be an immense physical toll on the body to complete the endeavors you do. How long does it take to recover between expeditions?
    Some of these expeditions last three months. Preparing your body prior to that with hard physical training, for a long endurance fest, is critical to success and for recovery afterwards. I’m usually a bit tired (and rather skinny) for a few days after an Everest climb, but not completely debilitated. On several occasions, I’ve actually climbed another 8,000 meter peak within a week of summiting Everest. I figured that as long as I’m already in Nepal, why not climb something else!

And then, how soon until you write about it, or are you writing the whole time?
    I’ve always kept journals on all of my expeditions, never thinking that sometime in the future I would start writing books about my adventures. The journals were for me to be able to remember these great adventures and the details and emotions therein. I also kept copious notes at the end of each journal about equipment, food and logistics, so that I could use this information for future trips to refine my packing lists and strategy. In the end, these journals became a bounty of information that helped in writing my books.

What is the message you are hoping to convey with your life and why do the kids need to hear it?
    The basic message is that if you choose a path that you are passionate about, anything is possible, no matter how long it takes. My goal of climbing all 14 of the world’s 8000 meter peaks took me 18 years to complete. This project became part of the fabric of my life and I loved every minute of it, no matter how tough it got. If you love what you do, the journey becomes the goal.

Outdoor programs are pivotal in therapeutic settings. Are schools late to the campout? Do you see that changing in the mainstream?
    We are so fortunate that outdoor programs are part of the curriculum at the Community School. The experiences that the kids get from these outings are life-changing. They learn about self-reliance, team work, and perhaps most importantly that being slightly uncomfortable is OK. We’re so used to immediate gratification in our everyday lives and not really used to any sort of long-term discomfort. Whereas outside, in the backcountry, you’ve got to work a bit harder to accomplish a task, and you learn that there’s a certain currency of toil that needs to be paid be along the way. That builds character and grit, and I believe sets young people up for dealing with any situation in real life. It would certainly be nice to see outdoor programs become a part of the mainstream curriculum in all schools because the benefits are huge.

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