Track rain, snow and wind with the free Q13 News app
Get a custom Q13 forecast and severe weather alerts in your inbox

American hero Whittaker recalls Everest climb as 50th anniversary nears

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

SEATTLE — Wednesday marks the 50th Anniversary of the first American to summit Mount Everest, the world’s highest peak.  It made West Seattle native Jim Whittaker an American hero.

Whittaker’s final assault to the top happened on May 1, 1963, when he and his Sherpa Gombu woke up at 27,000 feet in the brutal cold with savage winds.

“It was 35 below zero, and it was a ground blizzard coming up,” said Whittaker.  “You couldn’t see your footprints because the plume, all that new snow was going in front of you. And so I looked up at the ridge where the plume was and started kicking steps up.”


(Photo: Eddie Bauer)

Whittaker and Gombu made the final, harrowing assault to Earth’s highest point without water.

“You get dumb at high altitudes,” he said about the decision to put water they had melted on the outside of their packs.  “We go to take a drink of water, and all be damned, it’s ice.”

Whittaker said they lasted 12 hours without water as they made the ascent to the top, which he remembers was excruciating.  “You are taking five breaths to a step,” he said.  “Just dry as the devil.”

Whittaker recalls that as they approached the top he turned to Gombu and gestured for him to go first.  Gombu, in turn, wanted Whittaker to go first.  Instead, they did it together.  “Side by side, we walked up to the highest point of Earth,” Whittaker said.

When asked what was going through his mind at the top, Whittaker said it wasn’t anything to do with God or the meaning of life.

“How to get down,” he recalls of his first thought.  “I mean, we were in the death zone.  There’s not enough oxygen to support life, you know.  And so if you got any brains at all, you know you’ve gotta get out of the death zone.”

Overnight, Whittaker became one of the most famous Americans, right up there with John Glenn, who a year earlier had orbited the planet.  “I didn’t really know that until we had a ticker tape parade and went back to the White House.”

Whittaker says things are much different on Everest now than 50 years ago.

“Now it’s very crowded,” he said.  One advantage, though is that you can fly in very close to base camp and the existence of actual establishments at the bottom.   “You can get a beer right up to base camp,” he said.

Whittaker believes they are trying to put too many people on the top, which he attributes to the money.  “Here’s the client sitting there,” Whittaker said.  “He’s paid you $60,000 bucks to climb.  What are you going to do?”

Whittaker notes that guides have died because of being pressured to take people up the mountain in dangerous conditions.

Whittaker says the best advice he gives to you kids who have big dream is to get outside.  “It’s a magical planet,” he said.  “Explore, learn, nature’s a great teacher.  No child left inside.  No child left inside. “

The 1963 expedition was outfitted by Eddie Bauer.  The company has created a new documentary film titled “High & Hallowed: Everest 1963,” set to premiere at Mountainfilm in Telluride in late May.

Whittaker’s great achievement is detailed in a newly re-issued autobiography, “A Life on the Edge.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


  • weight losing pills for men

    There are a few weight loss pills out there that present sure
    positive results when they’re taken in line with dosage directions.
    Generally, doctors prescribe weight loss pills for
    many who have already got varied bodily problems other than being over weight.

  • hidradenitis suppurativa treatment adults

    Many people with MS also report that they have difficulty finding the right words when communicating.
    For patients suffering from pain, optimum exercise and physical therapy may help to overcome the problem
    of spasticity and muscle contraction. There are two groups of pedigrees, autosomal and sex-linked.

  • Terra Battle Cheats

    “Forthe first time, we used a genome-wide strategy to interrogate over 500,000variations in inherited DNA to find common gene variations called SNPs, orsingle nucleotide polymorphisms, that predicted response to chemotherapy,”said lead researcher Mary V.
    Of the Castle Age tips, it is important to remember that all of the Castle Age monsters work the same way.
    First you want to choose the right containers for your herb garden.

  • Beyond Human Testosterone

    Thanks for your marvelous posting! I seriously enjoyed reading it,
    you could be a great author. I will make certain to bookmark your blog and will
    eventually come back very soon. I want to encourage that you continue your great work, have a nice evening!

  • face book memes

    Right here is the perfect site for anybody who hopes to find
    out about this topic. You realize a whole lot its almost hard to argue with you (not that
    I really would want to…HaHa). You certainly put a
    fresh spin on a topic that has been discussed for a long time.
    Great stuff, just wonderful!

  • プロミス即日


  • ジャグラー 台選び




  • 金沢 風俗 求人


  • プロミス即日土日


  • ems

    Howdy! This is my first comment here so I just wanted to give a quick shout out and tell
    you I truly enjoy reading through your articles.
    Can you recommend any other blogs/websites/forums that deal with the same topics?
    Thank you!

Notice: you are using an outdated browser. Microsoft does not recommend using IE as your default browser. Some features on this website, like video and images, might not work properly. For the best experience, please upgrade your browser.