"Everybody was caught up high on the mountain, running out of oxygen, then darkness and the storm came in. Up there, things fall apart quickly in subzero temperatures and zero visibility," says Viesturs, who assisted in search-and-rescue efforts.
Thirteen days later, after much discussion with his teammates and his wife and basecamp manager, Paula, the IMAX expedition made its way to the summit and finished its filming project.
"I wanted to show people that climbing is not a death wish, you can live to talk about it," Viesturs says. "If we ran away at that point, we would have left this gloom and pall hanging over the mountain. I wanted to turn that into something positive."
Life After 8,000-Meter Mountains
A couple months shy of 44 years, Viesturs feels he's as strong and smart a climber as he's ever been. He knows the completion of his ongoing quest to summit all 14 of the world's highest peaks remains to be seen, but hopes to accomplish it in the coming years.
Viesturs won't stop there, though. He still has more mountains to climb and says he might even see a future for himself outside the Himalayan region he's come to know so well over the past decade and a half. Canada, Alaska, Antarctica: A realm of endless opportunities for the veteran climber.
"Just because I've climbed the highest peaks doesn't mean the other mountains aren't as challenging or interesting," Viesturs says. "There are thousands of mountains on this planet I would love to go climb."
In climbing he claims to have found his fountain of youth, and he says if things go his way, he'll still be feeding his desire to scale mountains in his fifties, sixties, and seventies.
"I guess the hardest thing is to try to explain to people why we climb mountains," Viesturs says. "We seek to challenge ourselves, we love the companionship, we love the environment we're in.…These feelings are so rewarding that I want to experience them time and time again."