Lou Whittaker

A Look at the Mountaineer: Lou Whittaker

One of Americas most respected climbers for more than four decades, Lou Whittaker began his mountaineering career as a teenager in the Pacific Northwest, climbing insatiably in the Olympic and Cascade Mountains with his twin brother, Jim. He stepped naturally into coveted spots on expeditions to formidable peaks in Alaska, the Himalaya and the Karakorum, and went on to lead the expedition that made the first American ascent of the North Col on Everest in 1984. To north westerners, Lou's name is synonymous with Mount Rainier, where he has guided thousands to its summit since his own first ascent of the mountain at age nineteen.

In these memoirs*, Lou Whittaker's tales of life as a young mountain rescuer, and later as a climbing mentor to others, are filled with his trademark humor, boundless energy and compassion. He recalls climbs with family, friends, and a host of fellow mountaineers, including Jim Wickmire, Peter Schoening, John Roskelly, Joe Kennedy JR., Peter Whittaker and Willi Unsoeld. The thrilling challenges of mountains such as K2, Kanchenjunga, and McKinley are also remembered. Especially poignant are his memories of Marty Hoey, a promising young climber who died on the 1982 expedition to Everest. Evident and inspiring throughout these stories are his love for climbing and for life, even amidst such losses.

Lou's philosophy is simple: "When it comes to dying," he says, "I want to know what it is like to have really lived."

"Lou Whittaker: Memoirs of a Mountain Guide" by Lou Whittaker and Andrea Gabbaro.
Photo courtesy of RMI Guides.

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