Jim Whittaker

Internationally famous mountaineer, adventurer, speaker and environmentalist, best known as the first American to climb Mt. Everest; May 1, 1963.

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Visionary business and community leader; Past President and CEO of one of the country’s largest outdoor retailers, Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI)

Accomplished and inspirational public speaker; has given presentations to hundreds of corporations and organizations over more than thirty years.

Author of an award-winning memoir, A Life on the Edge: Memoirs of Everest and Beyond.

Former guide and climbing instructor on Mt. Rainier; as member of the National Ski Patrol, Mountain Rescue, and the Mountaineers, led life-saving rescues of skiers, climbers and aircraft.

Drafted into the US Army; taught mountaineering and skiing to Tenth Special Forces and Green Berets during Korean War.

Involved in climbing accident on Mt. McKinley that led to the biggest mountain rescue effort in U.S. history, including a treacherous helicopter liftoff from 17,300’ by legendary pilot Link Luckett.

Led Senator Robert Kennedy on first ascent of Mt. Kennedy, a peak in the Canadian Yukon named for his slain brother; became close friends with Bobby and the Kennedy family, joining them often at Hyannis Port, Hickory Hill (RFK’s home in Virginia) and on skiing, river rafting, sailing and other adventures; Washington State campaign chairman for Senator Kennedy in 1968; was at the Senator’s bedside when he died and served as a pallbearer at Arlington.

In 1978, organized and led the first American ascent of K2, world’s second highest—and many say most dangerous—peak, after five American failures spanning 40 years.

Against formidable political and logistical odds, organized and led the spectacularly successful 1990 Mt. Everest Peace Climb, which put twenty men and women from three superpowers—the US, China and the Soviet Union—on the summit of Everest; to help focus world attention on environmental issues, removed two tons of garbage left on the mountain by previous expeditions.

Certified scuba diver and former member of the Northwest Underwater Research Group; has descended to a depth of 185’.

With his wife, photographer Dianne Roberts, designed and built a stunning log home—dubbed by their friends, the “Taj Macabin”—overlooking the Strait of Juan de Fuca in Port Townsend, Washington.

Accomplished bluewater sailor; twice skippered his own boats on the 2,400-mile Victoria, Canada to Maui, Hawaii sailing race; raced and cruised extensively in the Pacific Northwest and inside passage for twenty years; over the past four years, sailed his 54’ steel pilothouse ketch, Impossible, with his wife and two sons, Joss (19) and Leif (17), from Port Townsend, Washington to Mexico, the Marquesas Islands, the Tuamotus, Society Islands (Tahiti, Moorea, Bora Bora), Cook Islands, American Samoa, Fiji, Vanuatu, New Caledonia, Australia and back to the United States—a journey of more than 20,000 miles.

In September 1999, Jim’s autobiography, A Life on the Edge: Memoirs of Everest and Beyond, was published by The Mountaineers Books in Seattle, Washington. He has traveled throughout the USA on a book promotion tour, appeared on countless television programs and in other media, and personally autographed thousands of copies of his book. It was awarded the year 2000 Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Award for literary excellence in the category of Memoir, and was released in soft cover in September 2000.


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