Jim Whittaker

Jim Whittaker

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This article is about the mountaineer. For the politician
A politician, political leader, or political figure is an individual who is involved in influencing public policy and decision making...

, see Jim Whitaker
Jim whitaker
Norris J. "Jim" Whitaker is an American politician of the Republican Party who served as mayor of Fairbanks North Star Borough, Alaska, from 2003 to 2009. Prior to his mayoral term, Whitaker served in the Alaska House of Representatives from 1999 to 2003. In October 2003 he was elected borough...


James W. Whittaker, also known as Jim Whittaker (born in Seattle, Washington on February 10, 1929 ) is an American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

Mountaineering or mountain climbing is the sport, hobby or profession of hiking, skiing, and climbing mountains. While mountaineering began as attempts to reach the highest point of unclimbed mountains it has branched into specialisations that address different aspects of the mountain and consists...


As a member of the American Mount Everest Expedition 1963 led by Norman Dyhrenfurth, he was the first American to reach the summit of Mount Everest
Mount Everest
Mount Everest is the world's highest mountain, with a peak at above sea level. It is located in the Mahalangur section of the Himalayas. The international boundary runs across the precise summit point...

. He summited on May 1, 1963 with the Sherpa
Sherpa people
The Sherpa are an ethnic group from the most mountainous region of Nepal, high in the Himalayas. Sherpas migrated from the Kham region in eastern Tibet to Nepal within the last 300–400 years.The initial mountainous migration from Tibet was a search for beyul...

 Nawang Gombu
Nawang Gombu
Nawang Gombu was a Sherpa mountaineer.Gombu was born in Minzu, Tibet. He was the youngest Sherpa to reach 26,000 ft. In 1964, he became the first Indian and the third man in the world to summit Nanda Devi...

 (a nephew of Tenzing Norgay
Tenzing Norgay
Padma Bhushan, Supradipta-Manyabara-Nepal-Tara Tenzing Norgay, GM born Namgyal Wangdi and often referred to as Sherpa Tenzing, was a Nepalese Sherpa mountaineer...

). They ran out of oxygen but managed to reach the summit. Once there, Whittaker planted a US flag
Flag of the United States
The national flag of the United States of America consists of thirteen equal horizontal stripes of red alternating with white, with a blue rectangle in the canton bearing fifty small, white, five-pointed stars arranged in nine offset horizontal rows of six stars alternating with rows...

 at the top.

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

, a mountain guide who is often mistakenly credited with that achievement.

Whittaker graduated from West Seattle High School
West Seattle High School
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.-History and Facilities:...

 and Seattle University
Seattle University
Seattle University is a Jesuit Catholic university located in the First Hill neighborhood of Seattle, Washington, USA.SU is the largest independent university in the Northwest US, with over 7,500 students enrolled in undergraduate and graduate programs within eight schools, and is one of 28 member...


He was the first full-time employee of Recreational Equipment Inc. and was the company's CEO in the 1960s.
Now, Whittaker is chairman of the Board of Magellan Navigation
Magellan Navigation
Magellan Navigation, Inc. is a producer of consumer and professional grade global positioning system receivers. Headquartered in Santa Clara, California, with European sales and engineering centers in Nantes, France and Moscow, Russia, Magellan also produces aftermarket automotive GPS units,...

, a company that produces handheld global positioning system
Global Positioning System
The Global Positioning System is a space-based global navigation satellite system that provides location and time information in all weather, anywhere on or near the Earth, where there is an unobstructed line of sight to four or more GPS satellites...

 (GPS) units.

In 1965 he guided Robert Kennedy up the newly-named Mount Kennedy
Mount Kennedy
Mount Kennedy is a peak in the Saint Elias Mountains within Kluane National Park, in Yukon, Canada. Its 4250-m to 4300-m summit lies within 10 km of the Alaska Panhandle. Dusty Glacier lies against it to the north....


He led the Earth Day 20 International Peace Climb
Earth Day 20 International Peace Climb
The Earth Day 20 International Peace Climb was an expedition to reach the summit of Mount Everest during Earth Week 1990 led by Jim Whittaker, the first American to climb Mount Everest , and marked the first time in history that mountaineers from the United States, Soviet Union and China had roped...

 that brought together climbers from the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, USSR and China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

 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.

In 1999 Whittaker released his autobiography, A Life on the Edge: Memoirs of Everest and Beyond.

Awards and honors

  • For being the first American to scale Mount Everest, Whittaker was awarded the Hubbard Medal
    Hubbard Medal
    The Hubbard Medal is awarded by the National Geographic Society for distinction in exploration, discovery, and research. The medal is named for Gardiner Greene Hubbard, first National Geographic Society president.-Recipients:...

     by United States President
    President of the United States
    The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

     John F. Kennedy
    John F. Kennedy
    John Fitzgerald "Jack" Kennedy , often referred to by his initials JFK, was the 35th President of the United States, serving from 1961 until his assassination in 1963....


(This is essentially equivalent to George Mallory's question and answer: "Have we conquered an enemy? None but ourselves," quoted in Everest: the West Ridge, p. 27. )

External links

  • http://www.banffcentre.ca/mountainculture/media/2002/whittaker.htm
  • Interview with Jim Whittaker (2007) http://video.msn.com/video.aspx?mkt=en-US&brand=&vid=4b543340-5307-4593-83cc-340bb6b2dffe
  • Sarah Holbrooke intervies Jim Whittaker on Minds of Mountainfilm: http://vimeo.com/5322444