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A Life on the Edge: Memoirs of Everest and Beyond Paperback – September 1, 2000

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Editorial Reviews

From Kirkus Reviews

Whittaker, the first American to summit Everest, tells here the story of his life thus farhe has managed to reach 70which has been lived with the kind of intensity that only his adrenal glands can truly appreciate. Whittaker never actively courted peril; indeed, as he tells it, though luck has been his friend, its also ``something you make happenby extending yourself into situations of risk but also by preparing yourself to succeed under those risky conditions.'' He didn't just climb Everest in 1963 (he deadpans his way through the tribulations of that feat), but had been unknowingly preparing for it as a mountain guide and rescue team member in the Pacific Northwest. Hed been in enough precarious situations to know the difference between objective dangers (avalanches, rock falls) and subjective gamble, when risky business becomes flagrant exposure. Though Whittaker gained wide recognition for his climb of Everest and his expedition to K2, the mountaineering community will also remember him as the force behind REI, the funky climbing-supplies cooperative that did so much to give climbing its antiestablishment, bohemian tone. His personal life has had just the same rugged topography as his preferred landscapes, and he reveals it to his readers in a lean, patient voice. There was divorce and separation from his children, financial ruin, the loss of friends to climbing accidents. And there was remarriage and connecting with his children, both young and old, and so much time outdoors doing what he loved, embracing not just the high peaks but all of nature transient: ``It was just after midnight. The temperature was twenty degrees below zero, a soft quilt of powder snow covered everything, and ice-dust sparkled in the moonlight. I sat in a small aspen grove . . . in awe of the beauty around me.'' Whittaker has a knack for finding such silent, sublime places. Now he's off sailing around the world with his family, trusting again to that angel who has watched over his shoulder. (24 pages color photos, 50 b&w photos, not seen) (Author tour) -- Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"...For the majority who will never set foot on the Himalayan peak, this book offers one of the best vistas of that experience." -- Los Angeles Daily News

A great upbeat autobiography. [Whittaker] has a winning style, an easy approach, and reading his story is an act of joy. -- Carolyn Spector, KLCC, Eugene, OR

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 271 pages
  • Publisher: Mountaineers Books (September 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0898867541
  • ISBN-13: 978-0898867541
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 5.6 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,289,578 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 10, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Jim Whittaker is famous as the first American to summit Mount Everest. This book provides intriguing insights into the motivation and character of Jim, who has taken full advantage of the prominence that he acquired through his Everest accomplishments to pursue many causes important to him, including the environment, progressive politics and world peace. In addition to an extraordinary career as a mountaineer (first American on Everest; leader of expedition which put first Americans on top of K2; leader of Russo-Sino-American Peace and Environment Expedition to Mount Everest which put teams of Chinese, Russians, and Americans together on summit of Mt. Everest), Jim has been successful in business (CEO of Recreational Equipment during its period of exponential growth), has been actively involved in politics (as manager of Robert Kennedy's Washington and Oregon campaigns and other activities), has known well fascinating people from many venues in life (such as the Kennedy family), and has had to deal with failure and betrayal as well as success in life (divorce, bankruptcy caused by a dishonest business partner). This book is illuminating because it focuses on larger issues, such as the challenges of facing unexpected adversity and the challenge of making a difference with your life. This is much more than the story of a mountaineer. I seldom read the biographies of mountaineers and climbers because they are much less interesting than descriptions of individual adventures. This book, however, is an exception. I could not put it down.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Ross Capdeville on March 25, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I'm a 20 year old guy about to graduate from college, and have thus been thinking a lot about the future and how I want to live my life.. I just finished reading the book and wrote in my journal about it, which will sum up how I feel about it pretty well:
Wow... I just finished reading a really good book, a book that has brought together and solidified a lot of the things I've been thinking about the past few weeks. The name of the book was "Life on the Edge" by Jim Whittaker, the first american to reach the summit of Everest. When Chris and I went to the bookstore for our weekly visit, I was looking for an true-life adventure book, but I also wanted something that had a sense of "living" to it as well. I read "Into Thin Air" and it was like a drama novel, seeming almost like fiction. "Life on the Edge" hits much closer to home, describing the realities of a life well lived.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Chevy on September 8, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I've worked for REI for over 13 years and had heard a lot about Jim. Until reading his story, I never knew just how instrumental his leadership was in starting our Coop. His humble leadership style is evident in his outdoor accomplishments as well, bringing people together of differing personalities in sometimes-dangerous circumstances. Many lessons can be learned from Jim in this book that can be applied to business situations as well as everyday life. I found it an easy and interesting read from both a philosophical as well as a hard core mountaineering standpoint. I read part of it on a backpacking trip around Mt. Rainier, and read it to my 13 year old son who enjoyed it as well!
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 9, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Jim Whittaker's book, A Life of the Edge, is an entertaining autobiography of the first American to summit Mount Everest. In it, Jim Whittaker talks about the highlights of his life with a great sense of humor. Unlike other autobiographies which tend to be dry to read, Mr. Whittaker sprinkles his tale with interesting facts and light hearted descriptions of events. Especially interesting is his account of his first ascent to the summit of Everest, in the midst of an incredible snow storm and the interesting problem he faced on his way down. His accounts are vividly described and would interest any mountain climber or outdoors person.
This is a great book to read and enjoy. With the sudden re-surgence of interest in Mount Everest, this is not a book to be missed. Especially when it is written by the first American to summit Everest. A great book to include in any autobiography library!
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Philip B. Clement on January 22, 2002
Format: Paperback
One of the truly great climbing books! The work describes this American Hero's life philosophy of learning and truly living. It describes how to take on an acceptable amount of risk and gain from the experience. I found valuable Jim's philosophy (who I met and idolized as a kid) translated into a world well beyond the mountain - into his political friendship with the Kennedy's, his professional life at REI and Magellan GPS; as well as his efforts to foster nothing short of world peace. I kept finding myself wondering if there was anything Jim had not taken on!
The writing is considerably less melodramatic than a great number of climbing/travel logs, which is refreshing. Straightforward and clear, even when discussing the inevitable loss of life involved in mountaineering.
A memorable quote follows: "It's about making the most of every moment, about stretching your own boundaries, about being willing to learn constantly, and putting your self in situations where learning is possible - sometimes even critical to your survival. Being out on the edge, with every-thing at risk, is where you learn-and grow-the most.
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