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Ed Viesturs is America's leading high-altitude mountaineer, and has climbed many of the world's most challenging summits. In May of 2004, Ed Viesturs became one of only two non-Sherpa to summit Mount Everest for the sixth time. He is the only American and one of only five people to climb the six highest peaks in the world without supplemental oxygen. Ed Viesturs is currently on a quest to climb the world's fourteen highest mountains without the use of supplemental oxygen, and has successfully climbed thirteen to date.
Ed Viesturs was born in 1959 and grew up in the flatlands of Rockford, Illinois, where the highest objects on the horizon were water towers. In high school, he read and was captivated by Annapurna, the French climber Maurice Herzog's famous and grisly account of the first ascent of an 8,000-meter peak in 1950.
Ed Viesturs left the Midwest for the University of Washington in 1977 and inaugurated a long-running obsession with Mount Rainier. He eventually landed a job as a guide with Rainier Mountaineering Inc., and then began a four-year period combining veterinary studies with guiding during the summer. After becoming a veterinarian in 1987, Ed Viesturs practiced in two clinics that reluctantly gave him months off at a time to climb in the Himalayas. Finally, his absences were too long and too frequent, and he was forced to make the choice between being a veterinarian or be a climber. He chose the mountains.
Known for his technical skill and shrewd judgment, Ed Viesturs became a recognized mountaineer when he won the 1992 American Alpine Club/Sowles Memorial Award. This award is "conferred from time to time on mountaineers for their unselfish devotion at personal risk to themselves, or at sacrifice of a major objective, in going to the assistance of fellow climbers imperiled in the mountains." It was given to him for his involvement in two separate rescues in 1992 on K-2, the second highest mountain in the world.
Ed Viesturs became world renowned because of David Breashears' seminal IMAX film, Everest, and the PBS NOVA film project, Into the Death Zone. As the climbing leader of the 1996 Everest IMAX Filming Expedition, which entailed the first-ever filmed ascent to the summit of Everest with a large-format IMAX camera, Ed Viesturs put his successful Everest summits count at five.
In the spring of 1999, Ed Viesturs completed the ascents of Manaslu and Dhaulagiri. The expedition, which was sponsored by National Geographic, was featured as a part of their "Quest for Adventure" spring 2000 lecture series, "Pushing the Limits." Ed Viesturs appeared in the Sony Pictures film The Vertical Limit, about a fictional climb of K-2. Ed Viesturs plays himself in the film, which was a major blockbuster for the summer 2000. The Explorers Club, a multidisciplinary, not-for-profit organization dedicated to the ideal that it is vital to preserve the instinct to explore and to the advancement of field and scientific research, honored Ed Viesturs with the "Lowell Thomas Award." Ed Viesturs is the author of Himalayan Quest, which features photographs and images from 12 of the highest points on the planet.
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