My first one was Mount St. Helens, in 1977. I didn't really know what I was doing, so I climbed with more experienced partners. When we got to the summit, I looked around and said, "Yup, this is it. This is what I've been looking for." I don't want to die climbing mountains, I really don't. It's not worth it. People make rules for themselves at base camp, but as soon as the summit is close, the rules go out the window. They think, Well, I'll get away with it. Sometimes they do and sometimes they don't. I like the whole process of planning, training, organizing, logistics. It's methodical, long-term, but I get a thrill at the end. My goal was to climb the world's 14 highest peaks without supplemental oxygen. It took me three tries to climb Annapurna at the end. When I walked off it, I was elated. But when I got home I lost a little of my sense of purpose. People were saying, "Well, I guess you're done, Ed." And I said, "No. I'm still going to do adventures and climb. I'll look for new challenges."
Viesturs, 49, was the first American to summit all 14 of the world's 8,000-meter peaks. This spring, he'll attempt to summit Everest a seventh time.