In the weeks before an expedition, Viesturs is preoccupied with making final arrangements, packing, and taking care of things around the house to make his weeks away easier on his wife and three young children. Once on the mountain, Viesturs relies on the following proven strategies.
RISE EARLY On Annapurna, Viesturs and Gustafsson hit the trail before dawn, finishing by early afternoon. “That gave us the rest of the day to melt snow, rehydrate, and plan. And to look around and enjoy how cool it was to be in the mountains,” says Viesturs. Finishing early also helped them avoid the weather and avalanche dangers that often crop up in the afternoons–concerns that apply to mountain ranges abroad and in the United States.
FIX IT YOURSELF Despite carrying the latest and greatest gear, Viesturs says something always breaks, so hike prepared. His repair kit includes duct tape (wrapped around one of his climbing poles), electrical tape, wire, a sewing kit with floss, ripstop tape for down clothing, and a small length of cord.
EAT WHAT YOU LIKE At altitude, a climber’s appetite quickly disappears. Viesturs and Gustafsson eat foods they know work for them, which helps them get the calories they need. For breakfast, they have granola with powdered milk and coffee in tea-bag form with sweetened condensed milk in tubes. “Sometimes we add a chocolate energy gel to the coffee,” Viesturs says. While climbing, the two men suck down gels and eat energy or semisweet chocolate bars. They also fill their insulated water bottles with warm tea and sugar and drink it throughout the day.