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First American climbs world's highest peaks

Climber Ed Viesturs becomes first American to climb the planet's tallest mountains.
/ Source: TODAY

It has taken him 15 years, but Ed Viesturs has now done what no American has ever done before — climb, to the top of the world's 14 tallest mountains.

Recently, he reached the peak of his latest challenge — the majestic Annapurna mountain in the Himalayas.

On his way up, Viesturs told “Today” that Annapurna is both daunting and deadly.

“It tends to be the trickiest, the most dangerous,” he said. “There is no simple way to climb it. There are threatening avalanches and ice falls that protect the mountain."

Viesturs didn't just scale Annapurna’s 26,545 feet — and Everest, six times — he's done it all without using bottled oxygen.

That’s the equivalent, some say, to deep sea diving without oxygen tanks.

“I always told myself, I want to climb those mountains for what they are and how they can challenge me,” he said. “For me it is just more of a challenge."

What he's done — and how he's done it — wows expert climbers.

“It's a big deal. I can't think of many endeavors in sports that really demand that kind of commitment over time and excellence over time," said Phil Powers of the American Alpine Club.

For Viesturs, a big part of this sport is spiritual. Each climb is unique, and each requires humility, not arrogance, said the 45-year-old professional climber.

"In the end, ultimately, I believe they allow us to go up," said Viesturs. "If we have the patience and reverence, and if we're here at the right time, under the right circumstances, they allow us to go up and allow us to come down."