Lou Whittaker began climbing
mountains with twin brother Jim as a way for the pair to
His list of climbing
accomplishments is impressive, starting in 1963 with a three-day
ascent of Mount McKinley in
Alaska and including a 1965 winter climb of Mt. Fuji. In 1975
he was a member of an American
team attempting to climb K2, the world's second
tallest peak. In 1984, two years
after an unsuccessful attempt, Lou led the first American
team to summit Mt. Everest by
climbing the mountain's north wall. One year later, his
climbing expertise was crucial
in reaching many intact burial sites on a 1,000-foot cliff
face in the Peruvian Andes.
In the spring of 1989 and going
by way of the North Wall, Lou led the first successful
ascent by an American team to
the top of Mt. Kangchenjunga in Nepal, the world's
third-tallest mountain. Six
Americans reached the summit that day.
Lou has climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro
and many peaks in Europe with his wife Ingrid, who
is from Munich, Germany. They
have also trekked in Nepal and Bhutan.
Lou was born in Seattle in 1929,
graduated from West Seattle High School in 1947.
He and Jim had Basketball
scholarships to Seattle University. They graduated in 1952.
Lou and brother Jim started
guiding for the Rainier National Park Company in 1951, but
in 1952 they were drafted into
the Army following their college graduation. He incorporated
his company, Rainier
Mountaineering Inc., in 1968. It is the largest guide service and
climbing school in the United
States. Lou was the Chief Guide on Mount Rainier for over
30 years. With the Army, Lou was
an instructor at the Mountain and Cold Weather Training
Command. He is now an honorary
member of the 10th Mountain Division, an elite
mountaineering corps of the U.S.
Lou is a charter member of the
Mountain Rescue Council and was one of youngest
members of the National Ski
In 1994 Lou gathered his
memories into his first book: "Lou Whittaker, Memoirs of a Mountain Guide"
Lou and Ingrid live in Ashford,
at the entrance to Mt. Rainier in an underground passive solar
house they built with their own
Lou has also restored the old
loggers bunkhouse in Ashford and made it into a very
successful Motel and Espresso
shop popular with climbers on the way to Mt. Rainier.
He recently added an annex by
rescuing a building from Longmire and turning it into
Jim Whittaker is best known as
the first American to reach the summit of Mt. Everest, the
highest point on earth, a feat
accomplished on May 1, 1963. Jim also led Senator Robert
Kennedy on the first ascent of
Mt. Kennedy in 1965, a peak in the Canadian Yukon named
for his slain brother.
In 1978 Whittaker organized and
led the first American ascent of K2, the world's second
highest mountain, succeeding
after five American failures spanning 40 years.
Against formidable political and
logistical odds, Jim organized and led the spectacularly
successful 1990 Mt. Everest peach
Climb which put 20 men and women from three
superpowers---the U.S., China and
the Soviet Union---on the summit of Everest.
As a former guide and climbing
instructor on Mt. Rainier and a member of the National
Ski Patrol, Mountain Rescue, and
the Mountaineers, Whittaker has led life-saving rescues
of skiers, climbers and aircraft.
Jim was also the first full-time
employee of Recreational Equipment Inc and was the
company's CEO in the 1960's. He
is now Chairman of the Board of Magellan Navigation
a company that produces handheld
global positioning system (GPS) units.