SPEECH TITLES AND/OR TOPICS
Adventure | Environmentalism | Inspiration | Leadership | Motivation | Teamwork
More than forty years ago, Jim Whittaker, age 34, was chosen from a group of elite mountaineers to be the first American atop Everest. He is a big man still, nearly six and a half feet tall and broad-shouldered in his mid-seventies, though his hair is now wispy and mostly white. On May 1, 1963, Jim Whittaker became the first American to climb 29,028 feet toward the heavens, planting a flag at the summit of Mt. Everest.
Jim Whittaker began his life with only one difference from most people, and that is that he had an identical twin. Growing up in the Boy Scouts in Seattle, Jim Whittaker lived in the ideal place to get started in climbing. Everyday, Mount Rainier and the nearby Cascades and Olympics beckoned from the horizon. With a war raging in Europe and the Pacific, Jim and his brother, Lou, regularly escaped to Vashon Island or Mount Si in the nearby foothills.
Upon being drafted into the U.S. Army, Jim Whittaker taught mountaineering and skiing to Green Berets during the Korean War. Later, he was involved in a 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 feet by legendary pilot Link Luckett. As a member of the National Ski Patrol, Mountain Rescue, and the Mountaineers, Jim Whittaker led life-saving rescues of skiers, climbers and aircraft. He guided Senator Robert Kennedy on his first ascent of Mt. Kennedy, a peak in the Canadian Yukon named for his slain brother, and became a close friend of the Kennedy family.
In 1978 Jim Whittaker organized and led the first American ascent of K2, the world's second highest peak, after five American failures spanning a 40-year period. Against formidable political and logistical odds he organized and led the spectacularly successful 1990 Mt. Everest "Peace Climb," which put twenty men and women from the U.S., China, and the Soviet Union on the summit of Everest, helping to focus attention on environmental issues. They removed two tons of garbage left by previous expeditions.
He is a visionary business and community leader, and past president and CEO of one of the country's largest outdoor retailers, Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI). As an inspirational speaker, Jim Whittaker has given presentations to corporations and organizations for more than thirty years.
Mr. Whittaker is an accomplished bluewater sailor as well as a certified scuba diver and former member of the Northwest Underwater Research Group. He has descended to a remarkable depth of 185 feet. Jim Whittaker has twice skippered his own boats on the 2,400-mile Victoria, Canada to Maui, Hawaii sailing race, and raced and cruised extensively in the Pacific Northwest and inside passage for twenty years. For three years at the end of the 1990s Jim Whittaker sailed his 54' steel pilothouse ketch, Impossible, from Port Townsend, Washington to Mexico, the Marquesas Islands, the Tuamotus, Society Islands, Cook Islands, American Samoa, Fiji, Vanuatu, New Caledonia, Australia and back to the United States, a journey of more than 20,000 miles.
Jim Whittaker is the author of an award-winning memoir, A Life on the Edge: Memoirs of Everest and Beyond. His personal life has the same rugged topography as his preferred landscapes, and he reveals it in a lean, patient voice. His greatest successes are not only the mountains he has climbed but also the peace and love of nature, family, and the mountains that he has helped others to find.
BOOKS Search For A Book