Words

My Old Man

A familial ascent

Get It

More:

HOW: To place a hold on a copy of My Old Man and the Mountain, visit http://www.wcls.org (or www.bellinghampubliclibrary.org if you live within the city limits of Bellingham). While you wait, read Jon Krakauer’s exposé Into Thin Air: a Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster, Ed Viesturs’ My Time on Everest, or The Conquest of Everest: Original Photographs from the Legendary First Ascent, by George Lowe and Huw Lewis-Jones.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Tales of climbing Mt. Everest are filled with legendary figures: George Mallory, Sir Edmund Hillary, Tenzing Norgay, Reinhold Messner, Scott Fischer, and Ed Viesturs, to name a few.

Right in there is famed mountaineer Jim Whittaker, the first American to summit the world’s highest peak. His book, A Life on the Edge: Memoirs of Everest and Beyond, references his life philosophy: “If you aren’t living on the edge, you’re taking up too much space.”

In it, “Big Jim” talks about his larger-than-life climbing adventures, his experiences as first paid employee of Recreational Equipment Inc. (he became its CEO in the 1960s), his heartbreaks and failures. Imagine growing up as his son, constantly reminded not to take up too much space.

My Old Man and the Mountain is Leif Whittaker’s homage to his father, a coming-of-age tale of emerging from his father’s shadow, plus a high-altitude adventure story rolled into one.

Leif was a 2007 Western Washington University grad, living back at home in Port Townsend, nursing a freak back injury and wondering what to do with his life when he was handed an amazing opportunity. Eddie Bauer (the company, not the man) hatched a plan to send him to Everest. Leif’s mom and Big Jim would make the trek to base camp with him to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Big Jim’s historic ascent.

Leif’s account of the journey clearly expresses the anticipation and trepidation of attempting to go where few others have dared—and his dad was one of them. It also gives insight about some of the challenges along the way. These include a terrible stomach ailment that has normally hearty octogenarian Big Jim lunging for the bushes on the long hike in high altitude, and has Leif groaning in empathy in his tent a few days later.

Leif recounts the epic 1963 American Mt. Everest Expedition as his own attempt to summit Everest unfolds. He contemplates what it was like for Big Jim, Sherpa Nawang Gombu, and the rest of the historic team, comparing the gear, the conditions, and the mindset that compelled his father forward to the top. Leif is appropriately humble and determined to summit himself. Failure is not an option—not for a Whittaker.

Leif’s book was a finalist for the 2017 Washington State Book Award, and rightfully honored. Leif is at turns lyrical, reflective, irreverent, honest and descriptive. Though there have been dozens of excellent books about Mt. Everest and the people who dare to climb it, Leif’s holds its own. The father/son relationship adds another dimension—of testosterone, ambition, legacy and love.

Leif’s website (http://www.leifwhittaker.com)  says his home base is Bellingham, so keep an eye out on local trails (or perhaps one of our many brewpubs) for this accomplished climber and author.

Christine Perkins is the Executive Director of the Whatcom County Library System. She has no intention of ever climbing Mt. Everest, but loves to read about it.

More Words...
Gift Picks
A book for every reader

A basic philosophy shared by librarians and booksellers alike is that there is a book for every reader. Books make great gifts for this reason, and the book experts at your local library or bookstore can help you match the people in your life with books they will enjoy.

On a recent “best…

more »
The Noble Beyond
Searching for Sasquatch

Standing between six and 10 feet tall, long-armed, stooped posture, giving off a strong bad odor, primarily nocturnal and shy, possibly displaying aggressive, territorial behavior. These are descriptions that Sasquatch experts and enthusiasts mostly agree on.

But are they animal?…

more »
Prairie Fires
Beyond Little House

Anyone who remembers reading the “Little House” books as a kid or watching Melissa Gilbert play Laura and Michael Landon play Pa on the television series based on the books will want to read Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder

Caroline Fraser, who edited the…

more »
Events
Today
Holiday Pet Food Drive

10:00am|Whatcom County

Deck the Old City Hall

12:00pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall

Giving Tree

9:00am|Village Books

Holiday Festival of the Arts

10:00am

The Naughty List Market and Cabaret

2:00pm|Broadway Hall

Miracle Pop-Up Holiday Cocktail Bar

4:00pm|Swim Club

Treasure Island

7:00pm|Sehome High School Theater

Shrek the Musical

7:00pm|Burlington-Edison High School

Crazy for You

7:30pm|Bellingham Theatre Guild

Number the Stars

7:30pm|Anacortes Community Theatre

A Christmas Carol

7:30pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

Wild Things

9:30am|Connelly Creek Nature Area

Toys for Tots

10:00am

Pacific Arts Market

10:00am| Sunset Square

Holiday Tea

11:00am|Willowbrook Manor

Holiday Craft Bazaar

3:30pm|Lynden Library

Drayton Harbor Shellebration

4:00pm|G Street Plaza

Gingerbread House Making

4:30pm|Ferndale Library

Valley Made Holiday Market

5:00pm|Maplehurst Farm

Christmas on the Docks

5:00pm|Cap Sante Marina

Wonderland Walk

5:00pm|Washington Park

Photos and Stories with James K. Papp

5:00pm|Gallery Pegasus

Kids Night Out @ Western

6:00pm|Western Washington University

Honk! The Musical

7:00pm|Bellingham Arts Academy for Youth

Lost Feast

7:00pm|Village Books

Christmastime is Here with Skagit Symphony

7:30pm|McIntyre Hall

Narnia the Musical

7:30pm|Claire vg Thomas Theatre

Darkness and Light

7:30pm|St. James Presbyterian Church

Tarnation and Holiday Games

7:30pm|Upfront Theatre

Tomorrow
Holiday Pet Food Drive

10:00am|Whatcom County

Deck the Old City Hall

12:00pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall

Giving Tree

9:00am|Village Books

Holiday Festival of the Arts

10:00am

Miracle Pop-Up Holiday Cocktail Bar

4:00pm|Swim Club

Treasure Island

7:00pm|Sehome High School Theater

Shrek the Musical

7:00pm|Burlington-Edison High School

Crazy for You

7:30pm|Bellingham Theatre Guild

A Christmas Carol

7:30pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

Number the Stars

7:30pm|Anacortes Community Theatre

Pacific Arts Market

10:00am| Sunset Square

Toys for Tots

10:00am

Holiday Tea

11:00am|Willowbrook Manor

Valley Made Holiday Market

5:00pm|Maplehurst Farm

Wonderland Walk

5:00pm|Washington Park

Christmas on the Docks

5:00pm|Cap Sante Marina

Honk! The Musical

7:00pm|Bellingham Arts Academy for Youth

Narnia the Musical

7:30pm|Claire vg Thomas Theatre

Tarnation and Holiday Games

7:30pm|Upfront Theatre

Darkness and Light

7:30pm|St. James Presbyterian Church

NSEA Work Party

9:00am

Breakfast with Santa

9:00am|Sedro-Woolley Community Center

Fairhaven Winterfest

10:00am|Historic Fairhaven

Winter Faire

10:00am|Whatcom Hills Waldorf School

Winter Arts & Crafts Festival

10:00am|Pioneer Park Pavilion

Sumas Book Club

10:00am|Sumas Library

Old-Fashioned Christmas Market

10:00am|Friday Harbor Brickworks

Award-Winning Book Club

10:30am|Lynden Library

Mastering Wisteria

10:30am|Full Bloom Farm

Snow Geese of Skagit

10:30am|Christianson's Nursery

Your Life is a Story Writers Group

10:30am| South Whatcom Library

Winter Wonderland Gift Gala

11:00am|Carnation Building

Saltadena Celebration

11:00am|Saltadena Bakery

Holiday Craft Bazaars

11:30am

Holiday Maker's Market

12:00pm|Terramar Brewing and Distilling

Festive Feasting Reception

1:00pm|Good Earth Pottery

Holiday Tea and Crafts

1:00pm|North Fork Library

Holiday Joy with Fidalgo Youth Symphony

1:00pm|McIntyre Hall

Teen Art Fair

2:00pm|Blaine Library

Shrinking the Worry Monster

2:00pm|Village Books

Big Holiday reds tasting

2:00pm|eifert & Jones Wine Merchants

Birding for Kids

2:30pm

Bowman Bay Holiday

3:00pm|Bowman Bay

Noel Ensemble

3:00pm|Jansen Art Center

A Deep Dive Into Eve Deisher's Psyche

3:00pm|Museum of Northwest Art

One Meditation

4:00pm| Boulevard Park

The Nativity

6:30pm|Mount Baker Theatre

Early Railroads of Whatcom County

7:00pm|Village Books

Holiday History Hi-Jinks

7:00pm|Downtown Bellingham

Contra Dance

7:00pm|Fairhaven Library

Center Into Solstice

7:00pm|Cafe Blue

Heralding Christmas with Skagit Valley Chorale

7:30pm|McIntyre Hall

Winter Solstice Concert with SeaMuse

7:30pm|Firehouse Arts and Events Center

The Kelley World Tour

7:30pm|Lummi Island Library

Cidertails with Alexine Langdon

7:30pm|housand Acre Cider House

Sunday
Holiday Pet Food Drive

10:00am|Whatcom County

Deck the Old City Hall

12:00pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall

Giving Tree

9:00am|Village Books

Holiday Festival of the Arts

10:00am

Miracle Pop-Up Holiday Cocktail Bar

4:00pm|Swim Club

Crazy for You

7:30pm|Bellingham Theatre Guild

Number the Stars

7:30pm|Anacortes Community Theatre

Pacific Arts Market

10:00am| Sunset Square

Valley Made Holiday Market

5:00pm|Maplehurst Farm

Christmas on the Docks

5:00pm|Cap Sante Marina

Honk! The Musical

7:00pm|Bellingham Arts Academy for Youth

Narnia the Musical

7:30pm|Claire vg Thomas Theatre

Winter Wonderland Gift Gala

11:00am|Carnation Building

The Nativity

6:30pm|Mount Baker Theatre

Heralding Christmas with Skagit Valley Chorale

7:30pm|McIntyre Hall

Sedro-Woolley Community Breakfast

8:00am|American Legion Post #43

Langar in Lynden

11:00am| Guru Nanak Gursikh Gurdwara

Celtic Yuletide

3:00pm|Lincoln Theatre

Scarlett and Dicey

4:00pm|Village Books

Vaudevillingham

7:00pm|Cirque Lab

see our complete calendar »