Into Thin Error: Mountaineer Ed Viesturs on Being Wrong

There's a select number of places on earth where you really, really don't want to make a mistake.  High on the list, in every sense, are the planet's tallest mountains: the 14 peaks in the world that are over 8,000 meters (26,247 feet).

Widely acknowledged as one of the world's greatest mountaineers, Ed Viesturs is one of fewer than 20 people and the only American to have climbed all of those peaksand one of only five to have climbed them without supplemental oxygen. Nonclimbers probably know him best as the star of the 1996 IMAX movie about Mount Everest, which he has climbed seven times.

I sought Viesturs out because I was curious about the kind of attitude you develop toward error when a single mistake can easily cost you your life. You can read his thoughts on being wrong over at Slate, temporary home to this blog.

Okay, maybe you don’t have strong beliefs about the “right” way to load a dishwasher, or about your sweetheart’s propensity to do it “wrong.” In that case, either you are unusually saintly or (like me) you don’t own a dishwasher. But you almost certainly get involved in domestic disputes about who’s right and who’s wrong all the time; we all do. Although interpersonal arguments can have a number of causes – from serious and painful breaches in trust to the fact that we haven’t had our coffee yet – an impressive number of them amount to a tug-of-war over who possesses the truth. We fight over the right to be right.