While looking at prototypes for his long-promised border wall on Tuesday, President Trump said that “getting over the top is easy” and that refugees from Mexico are like “professional mountain climbers,” statements that one of the world’s most pre-eminent mountain climbers took issue with.
In an interview with Esquire.co.uk, Ed Viesturs — who has climbed all 14 of the world’s tallest mountains and rescued people from K2 — tried to evaluate the president’s assessment for accuracy. “There’s a difference between professional and experienced,” he said. “When you become a professional, you make a living at it, so is this person getting paid to climb the wall? It’s amazing. It’s just another one of those stupid things that this guy says. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about. He doesn’t have a clue.”
The prototypes Trump examined on a trip to San Diego are about 30 feet tall. A professional mountain climber could summit that “in a few hours,” said Viesturs, the star of IMAX’s “Everest Expedition” documentary. “You could put a whole bunch of ladder sections together, flop it up and over and put down a rope and drop down to the other side. You could back a fire truck up to the wall and raise the ladder over the top.”
During his inspection, Trump seemed to indicate that some of the walls would or would not do, because refugees “are incredible climbers,” he repeated. “They can’t climb some of these walls. Some of them they can. Those are the walls we’re not using.”
Viesturs said that if “unclimbable” is the criteria, the government should pretty much junk the whole thing. Mountains are, after all, rather high. “If there’s a mountain or wall, somebody will climb it, eventually,” he said. “Do we need a new wall? I don’t think so. There’s plenty of work, in my opinion, for immigrants, and the money could be used for so many things—schools, education, health care. It seems like a huge waste.”