Whittaker speaking at the Computer
History Museum in 2005
February 10, 1929 (age 89)|
West Seattle High School
|Relatives||Lou Whittaker (twin brother)|
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.
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, a company that produces handheld global positioning system (GPS) units.
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.
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
- For being the first American to scale Mount Everest, Whittaker was awarded the Hubbard Medal by United States President John F. Kennedy.
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.
- EverestHistory.com: Jim Whittaker
- "Brothers synonymous with mountain climbing in Northwest". Reading Eagle. (Pennsylvania). Associated Press. March 13, 1983. p. 43.
- Shnayerson, Michael (May 2003). "Jim Whittaker, Back on Earth". National Geographic Adventure Magazine. Retrieved 2007-05-07.