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A LIFE ON THE EDGE: MEMOIRS OF EVEREST AND BEYOND Jim Whittaker 1999 1st ed Hardcover DJ Fine
By Whittaker, Jim
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Seattle, 1999, 1st edition. 271 pp, b/w and color photos. Hardcover with dust jacket. Fine.

Autobiography of Jim Whittaker, first North American on Everest. A story of big mountains, big business and big names - Everest, K2, REI, and the Kennedys.

  • First North American to summit Everest
  • The story of big mountains, big business, and big names - Everest, K2, REI, and the Kennedys

There have been many firsts in Jim Whittaker's life. He was the first American to summit Mount Everest. As the first manager and employee, and ultimately the CEO, of fledgling Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI), he guided the company through several years of record-setting growth. He guided Bobby Kennedy up the newly-named Mount Kennedy, helping him to become the first person to summit the Canadian peak. He led the historic International Peace Climb, which put climbers from the U.S., Russia, and China on the summit of Everest in the name of world peace.

Jim Whittaker's achievement on Everest and his many successes before and after are the natural outcome of a life driven by a passion for outdoor adventure combined with strong leadership qualities and a commitment to making a difference. This honest, revealing autobiography features all the major events in Whittaker's life: his formative years, spent climbing with his twin brother Lou; the creation of REI and years of work growing the company; his intimate friendship with the Kennedy's and the new world into which he was launched after his success on Everest; his major expeditions on K2 and Everest; a business partnership that resulted in bankruptcy; a failed marriage; a new marriage and a new family; and his new challenges beyond the mountains.

In A Life on the Edge, readers will discover a true hero-someone who tells his story not to boast or preach, but to share his love of the environment and outdoor adventure and to inspire others to seek challenges in their own lives.

There have been many firsts in Jim Whittaker's life. He was the first North American to summit Mount Everest (1963). As the first manager and employee, and ultimately the CEO, of Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI), he led the company through years of record-setting growth. In 1965 he guided Bobby Kennedy up the newly-named Mount Kennedy, helping him to become the first person to summit the peak. In 1990, he led the historic International Peace Climb, which put climbers from the U.S., Russia, and China on the summit of Everest in the name of world peace.

In 1963, Swiss mountaineer Norman Dyhrenfurth invited the Whittaker brothers to join him on an Everest expedition. Lou was unable to make the trip, but Jim leapt at the chance. In his 1999 autobiography A Life on the Edge he describes how it felt to stand atop Everest: 'I did not feel expansive or sublime. I felt only, as I said later, 'like a frail human being'. People, mostly non-climbers talk about conquering mountains. In my mind, nothing could be farther from the truth. The mountain is so huge and powerful, and the climber so puny, exhausted, and powerless. The mountain is forever. Gombu and I, meanwhile, were dying every second we lingered.'

Summitting Everest changed Jim Whittaker's life. An invitation to the White House led to a friendship with the Kennedy family and in particular with Bobby Kennedy, President Kennedy's younger brother and Attorney-General. Following the president's assassination, Whittaker guided Bobby Kennedy to the top of the Yukon mountain named in the president's memory.

Whittaker went on to lead expeditions to K2, organizing the first American team to summit the mountain in 1978. In 1990 he surmounted physical and bureaucratic hurdles to place a combined U.S-Chinese-Russian team at the summit of Everest as part of the 1990 Mount Everest Earth Day International Peace Climb.

Today Jim Whittaker spends his time lecturing, writing and, when time allows, sailing with his wife, photographer Dianne Roberts, and their two teenage sons. Life, Whittaker says, is still full of adventure: "I think a life well lived is also inseparable from being able and willing to learn continuously. A climber who doesn't learn, almost with every foothold and handhold, is unlikely to be around long enough to have a life well lived. Learning is what happens when you risk a journey beyond what you know and are comfortable with, to something you don't know and aren't comfortable with. A lot of people my age act like they've seen it all and have nothing much else to learn. But I'm still a learner."


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