Go Away With ... Ed Viesturs

By Jae-Ha Kim, Tribune Content Agency

Celebrity Travel by Jae-Ha Kim

November 26, 2013


Ed Viesturs is regarded by many as America's foremost high-altitude mountaineer. His feats have been featured in the top-grossing IMAX documentary "Everest," which he first climbed at the age of 27. Now 54, Viesturs has written "The Mountain: My Time on Everest" (Touchstone, $27). He resides in Ketchum, Idaho, which he describes as a "great mountain town. There are tons of activities for us: skiing, hiking, climbing, mountain and road biking, fly-fishing."

Q. What is on your travel bucket list?

A. The one thing on my bucket list is to do a ski traverse of Antarctica, unsupported. Just one partner and myself, pulling sleds loaded with all of our supplies, starting from the coast, and skiing all the way to the South Pole. It's been done, but I think it would be an amazing physical adventure. My wife and I have always wanted to go to Italy. I'd also love to go to Fiji and do some scuba diving there.

Q. Have you ever felt that you were in danger during any of your climbing expeditions?

A. I have been on several climbing expeditions where the dangers and risks were so great that I turned around and went home. My number one priority on my climbing expeditions is to come back alive. I'll not be tempted to reach a summit "at all costs." On my first attempt of Everest in 1987, my partner and I turned around just 300 vertical feet from the summit. Of 29 Himalayan climbing expeditions that I've been on, I turned around nine times because of uncontrollable risk. I discuss these expeditions and others in my book.

Q. What have you learned from your travels?

A. I've learned that it's more interesting to experience the everyday lifestyle and foods of the locals, than to try and maintain a Western lifestyle and diet, for the sake of comfort and familiarity. By integrating into the local culture, I think you have a greater travel experience and richer memories.

Q. How has travel impacted your life?

A. My travels have made me a more worldly and informed person. To have been able to see how people live in other parts of the world, in different climates, and in various terrains, has opened my eyes to other lifestyles. Traveling in Third World countries has enlightened me to how most of the world's population exists.

Q. What type of vacations do you enjoy the most?

A. We live in a mountain town and our favorite vacation destinations are usually tropical where there are water and beaches nearby. Our kids can spend endless hours swimming and playing in the sand. Packing is also easier and lighter since you don't need too many articles of clothing. We ski all winter, and that has to be one of the most gear-intense sports around. For the tropics you just need a swimsuit and goggles! The island of Kauai has become one of our favorites.

Q. What was the first trip you took?

A. When I was three years old, we took an ocean liner across the Atlantic Ocean to Germany to visit my mom's relatives. I vaguely remember the seven-day crossing. I recall that my sister and I had a blast being on such a huge boat for such a long journey. That style of travel was more common then and less costly, than transatlantic flights.

Q. What are some weekend destinations for your family?

A. In Idaho, we typically head up to one of the beautiful mountain lakes nearby, such as Redfish or Alturas. During the hot summers, the water is perfect for swimming and paddle-boarding.

Q. When you're traveling, what kind of restaurants do you enjoy?

A. My favorite restaurants tend to be more casual and pub style. I like smaller plates, where I can sample a few items or share with others. Having nice, cold locally brewed beer on tap is also a bonus.

Q. What's your guilty pleasure when you're on the road?

A. Letting emails and bills pile up. Just letting go of work-related issues lets me relax.

Q. How much research do you do before a trip?

A. Prior to a trip I'll research the climate, terrain and also some of the history of the places that I'll be visiting. Collecting some maps and having a travel guide always helps as well. It's also nice to hire a local as a guide while visiting a new place; not a tour guide per se, just someone that might have been recommended by a friend or someone that you met while traveling.

(Jae-Ha Kim is a New York Times bestselling author and travel writer. You can respond to this column by visiting her website at http://www.jaehakim.com. You may also follow "Go Away With..." on Twitter at @GoAwayWithJae where Jae-Ha Kim welcomes your questions and comments.)