Jim Whittaker

Last updated
James Whittaker
Jim Whittaker 1.jpg
Whittaker speaking at the Computer
History Museum
in 2005
BornFebruary 10, 1929 (1929-02-10) (age 90)
Education Seattle University
West Seattle High School
Occupation Mountaineer
Relatives Lou Whittaker (twin brother)

James W. Whittaker (born February 10, 1929), also known as Jim Whittaker, is an American mountaineer from Seattle, Washington. [1] [2]

United States federal republic in North America

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country composed of 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe's 3.9 million square miles. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the largest city by population is New York. Forty-eight states and the capital's federal district are contiguous in North America between Canada and Mexico. The State of Alaska is in the northwest corner of North America, bordered by Canada to the east and across the Bering Strait from Russia to the west. The State of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific Ocean. The U.S. territories are scattered about the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, stretching across nine official time zones. The extremely diverse geography, climate, and wildlife of the United States make it one of the world's 17 megadiverse countries.

Mountaineering sport of mountain climbing

Mountaineering is the set of activities that involves ascending mountains. Mountaineering-related activities include traditional outdoor climbing, hiking, skiing, and traversing via ferratas. Indoor climbing, sport climbing and bouldering are usually considered mountaineering as well.

Seattle City in Washington, United States

Seattle is a seaport city on the West Coast of the United States. It is the seat of King County, Washington. With an estimated 730,000 residents as of 2018, Seattle is the largest city in both the state of Washington and the Pacific Northwest region of North America. According to U.S. Census data released in 2018, the Seattle metropolitan area’s population stands at 3.87 million, and ranks as the 15th largest in the United States. In July 2013, it was the fastest-growing major city in the United States and remained in the Top 5 in May 2015 with an annual growth rate of 2.1%. In July 2016, Seattle was again the fastest-growing major U.S. city, with a 3.1% annual growth rate. Seattle is the northernmost large city in the United States.


As a member of the American Mount Everest Expedition led by Norman Dyhrenfurth in 1963, he was the first American to reach the summit of Mount Everest. He summited on May 1, 1963, with the Sherpa Nawang Gombu (a nephew of Tenzing Norgay). They ran out of oxygen but managed to reach the summit. Once there, Whittaker planted a US flag at the top. [3]

Norman Gunther Dyhrenfurth was a German-Swiss-American mountaineer and filmmaker. He was the leader of the successful American Mount Everest Expedition of 1963, which placed six climbers on the summit.

Mount Everest Earths highest mountain, part of the Himalaya between Nepal and China

Mount Everest, known in Nepali as Sagarmatha (सगरमाथा) and in Tibetan as Chomolungma (ཇོ་མོ་གླང་མ), is Earth's highest mountain above sea level, located in the Mahalangur Himal sub-range of the Himalayas. The international border between Nepal and China runs across its summit point.

Sherpa people ethnic group from the most mountainous region of Nepal

Sherpa is one of the major ethnic groups native to the most mountainous regions of Nepal, as well as certain areas of China, Bhutan, India, and the Himalayas. The term sherpa or sherwa derives from the Sherpa language words Shar ("east") and Wa ("people"), which refer to their geographical origin in Tibet.


He is the twin brother of Lou Whittaker, a mountain guide who is often mistakenly credited with that achievement. The twins started climbing in their teens in the 1940s while in the Boy Scouts. [2]

Lou Whittaker American mountaineer

Lou Whittaker is a mountaineer and glacier-travel guide. Whittaker and his twin brother, Jim, were born and raised in Seattle.

Boy Scouts of America Scouting organization in the United States

The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) is one of the largest Scouting organizations and youth organizations in the United States, with more than 2.4 million youth participants and nearly one million adult volunteers. The BSA was founded in 1910, and since then, more than 110 million Americans have been participants in BSA programs at some time. The BSA is part of the international Scout Movement and became a founding member organization of the World Organization of the Scout Movement in 1922.

Whittaker graduated from West Seattle High School and Seattle University.

West Seattle High School public high school in Seattle

West Seattle High School is a comprehensive public high school in Seattle's West Seattle neighborhood that serves grades nine through twelve as part of the Seattle School District.

Seattle University Jesuit university in Seattle

Seattle University (SU) is a Jesuit Catholic university in the northwestern United States, located in the First Hill neighborhood of Seattle, Washington.

On July 25, 1955, Whittaker became the first full-time employee of Recreational Equipment Inc. and was the company's CEO in the 1960s [4] as well as an early board member with American Alpine Club president Nicholas Clinch. [5] When Whittaker climbed Mount Everest, it provided REI with so much free advertising that the following year, 1964, its gross income topped $1mil for the first time. [6]

The American Alpine Club (AAC) is a non-profit member organization whose goal is "a united community of competent climbers and healthy climbing landscapes." The Club is housed in the American Mountaineering Center (AMC) in Golden, Colorado.

Nicholas Bayard Clinch III was an American mountain climber, lawyer and author.

In 1965, with Dee Molenaar and others, he guided Robert Kennedy up the newly named Mount Kennedy. Kennedy and Whittaker became fast friends and spent multiple vacations together. In 1968, he became Kennedy’s state campaign chairman. When Kennedy had been shot in Los Angeles, Whittaker immediately flew over to comfort RFK's wife when her brother in law had to shut off life-support. [7]

Dee Molenaar is an American mountaineer, author and artist from Tacoma, Washington. He is best known as the author of The Challenge of Rainier, first published in 1971 and considered the definitive work on the climbing history of Mount Rainier.

Mount Kennedy mountain in Canada

Mount Kennedy is a peak in the Saint Elias Mountains within Kluane National Park, in Yukon, Canada. Its 4250-m to 4300-m (14000-foot) summit lies within 10 km of the Alaska Panhandle. Dusty Glacier lies against it to the north.

Ethel Kennedy American human-rights campaigner

Ethel Skakel Kennedy is an American human-rights campaigner and widow of Senator Robert F. Kennedy.

In 1990, he led the Earth Day 20 International Peace Climb that brought together climbers from the United States, USSR, and China to summit Mount Everest. In addition to putting more than a dozen climbers on the summit, the expedition hauled off a large amount of trash left on the mountain by previous expeditions.

Currently, Whittaker is chairman of the Board of Magellan Navigation, a company that produces handheld global positioning system (GPS) units.

In 1999 Whittaker released his autobiography, A Life on the Edge: Memoirs of Everest and Beyond. His younger son, Leif Whittaker, published My Old Man and the Mountain: A Memoir in 2016, which relates the story of his own summit of Mount Everest, with his parents accompanying him on part of the journey, and with comparisons to his father's Mount Everest experiences.

Whittaker and his wife, Dianne Roberts, live in Port Townsend, Washington. Their children are Joss and Leif Whittaker.

Awards and honors

If you aren't living on the edge, you are taking up too much space.

You never conquer a mountain. Mountains can't be conquered; you conquer yourself.

See also

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  1. EverestHistory.com: Jim Whittaker
  2. 1 2 "Brothers synonymous with mountain climbing in Northwest". Reading Eagle. (Pennsylvania). Associated Press. March 13, 1983. p. 43.
  3. Shnayerson, Michael (May 2003). "Jim Whittaker, Back on Earth". National Geographic Adventure Magazine. Retrieved 2007-05-07.
  4. Martinez, Amy. "Eddie Bauer looks to mountaineer Jim Whittaker for turnaround help". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 22 November 2013.
  5. "American Alpine Club Past President Nick Clinch Passes Away". American Alpine Club. 15 June 2016. Retrieved 12 April 2018.
  6. Kjeldsen, Jim (1998). The Mountaineers: A History. Seattle, WA: Mountaineers Books. pp. 108–113.
  7. Ron Judd, Robert F. Kennedy and Jim Whittaker’s lofty friendship recounted in SIFF film, The Seattle Times, June 6, 2018