Viesturs Makes it 14

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Ed Viesturs has completed his 16-year quest to be the first American to climb all 14 of the world’s 8,000-meter peaks. Viesturs summited 26,545-foot Annapurna, the world’s 10th-highest peak, via the North Face, the route followed by the French when they made the first ascent in 1950. Viesturs climbed his first 8,000-meter peak, Kangchenjunga, in 1989, three years after Reinhold Messner became the first man to climb all 14. Altogether, Viesturs has reached 20 8,000-meter summits (including six trips up Mount Everest), but Annapurna, statistically among the most dangerous of the Himalayan giants, had eluded him on two previous expeditions, in 2000 and 2002. This season, Viesturs and his long-time climbing partner, Veikka Gustafsson from Finland, once again adopted the approach favored by many elite peak baggers. They warmed up in April on Cho Oyu, where Gustafsson reached the 26,750-foot summit but Viesturs turned back to assist photographer Jimmy Chin, who was stricken with altitude sickness. (Viesturs had already climbed Cho Oyu twice, the first time in 1994.) Viesturs and Gustafasson rested briefly in Kathmandu and then helicoptered to Annapurna basecamp. Fully acclimatized by their time on Cho Oyu, the two climbed to Camp 3 on Annapurna just a week after arriving at the base. High winds pinned them there, at around 23,000 feet, for three long nights, but finally a break in the worst wind allowed them to plod to the top along with several Italian climbers, who had earlier prepared much of the route. Viesturs is often faulted by elite alpinists for choosing the easiest routes on 8,000-meter peaks and for not advancing climbing style. The 45-year-old from Seattle, who is married with three children, has steadfastly stuck to his mantra that, “Getting up is optional; getting down is not.” Still, although Viesturs is the 12th man to climb all of the 8,000-meter giants, according to www.adventurestats.com, he is only the fifth man to climb all of them without supplemental oxygen. And he has answered the charge that dogs some 8,000-meter peak baggers by refusing to count secondary summits; he returned to both Broad Peak and Shishapangma after previously climbing to the summit area of each in order to ensure that he reached the true highest point.