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My Old Man and the Mountain: A Memoir

Author(s): Whittaker, Leif

Copyright: 2016, US
Specifications: 1st, 8vo, pp.285, 4 bw photos, photo eps, black cloth
Condition: signed, dj & cloth new

In 1963, the world watched as Jim Whittaker became the first American to summit Mount Everest. He returned a hero, celebrated from the streets of his hometown of Seattle to the halls of the White House.

In this engaging and humorous memoir, Jim’s youngest son Leif, explores what it was like to “grow up Whittaker” – how he learned to survive in a family of climbers, to respond to the constantly asked question if he will climb Everest, and to find his own way out of the shadow of one of the world’s most famous mountaineers. He paints a loving but open-eyed picture of his family: Thanksgiving dinner features two dozen Whittakers, “mostly sons and brothers,” vying to prove they are the most alpha in a roomful of alpha males. Leif’s brother, Joss, is the perfectly polite son at their dad’s presentations, while Leif struggles to stay awake. The family sails around the world for four years, yet Leif finds no trouble in catching up with his classmates on his return.

Leif interweaves his father’s historic ascent with his own awkward young adult years, his initial efforts at climbing, and the first time he sees the celebrated mountain for himself. Gradually, as he matures and his confidence expands, Leif comes to better appreciate and understand his father’s legacy.

With wry honesty and humility, Leif depicts being a recent college grad, again living in his parents’ home and trying to find a purpose in life, while, building houses and selling T-shirts to tourists and headlamps to climbers. Inevitably, the opportunity to climb Everest presents itself. Leif heads to Nepal, sharing the mountain with prominent guides Dave Hahn and Melissa Arnot. He brings alive all the excitement, absurdity, boredom, and risk that is high-altitude climbing today.

This is a unique coming of age tale on the steep slopes of Everest, a climbing adventure that lights the imagination, and an emotional endeavor in which readers will recognize the truth of our shared humanity.

Finalist 2017 Banff Mountain Book Festival Mountain Literature Award.

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