The Legends of Climbing
Lou Whittaker, John Roskelley, Stacy Allison, Greg Child, Jim Wickwire & Ed Viesturs  
Mountain Zone Editor Peter Potterfield was asked by the Outside Radio Network to moderate the Climbing Legends symposium, which featured a panel of America's best known high altitude climbers. Sponsored by The North Face and Chevy Trucks, the event was held at REI's Flagship Store in Seattle on November 15, 1997. Here is Potterfield's report:

The Climbing Legends forum had long ago sold out, and in mere days, at $7 per head, so it was a packed house at Seattle's REI store when Ed Viesturs, Jim Wickwire, Stacy Allison, John Roskelley, Greg Child and Lou Whittaker climbed up on the dais for two hours of questions and answers. Steven Bezruchka, a physician with extensive Himalayan experience, was also on hand.

The unprecedented gathering of American climbers resulted in a surprisingly candid discussion of experiences, motivations and sore subjects raised by the 1996 Everest tragedy. But best of all was the honesty and forthrightness with which the climbers recalled their most memorable mountain moments, and even their reasons for climbing — and for not climbing. That was the case with Stacy Allison, the first American woman to climb Mount Everest, whose young children have given her reason to take a break from high altitude climbing. From exploding tents on K2 to angst over the death of friends and partners, the evening had a breadth of conversation.

"From exploding tents on K2 to angst over the death of friends... It was a lot like being at a climber party — without the beer and slides..."

Peter Potterfield
As moderator, I was committed to not make the mistake so many moderators do: interfere with an interesting discussion. So my role was a subtle one: for two hours I simply asked questions, and let the climbers interact among themselves with only a gentle nudge here and there to keep things lively. The result was nothing if not lively, and wide ranging, and fascinating to boot. It was a lot like being at a climber party — without the beer and slides. The audience of more than 350 people in that packed auditorium was positively rapt, so engaged you could have heard a pin drop as Ed Viesturs recounted events on Everest.

Greg Child shared what it's like to be on the North Face Climbing Team; we learned of the only instance in Ed Viestur's remarkably safe climbing career when he thought he had pushed his luck too far; we heard John Roskelley's most memorable moment in the mountains (it's not even about climbing); and, a dozen other cool details you'd never learn if you weren't just sitting around shooting the breeze.

The entire program is to be broadcast on the Outside Magazine's fledgling Outside Radio Network at a date to be announced later. In the meantime, here are some of the things America's best-known climbers had to say.

Greg Child & Stacy Allison | Jim Wickwire & Ed Viesturs