The Mount Everest Earth Day 20 Peace Climb: Wild Dreams and Steps to Reality

Climbers from the United States, the USSR, and China undertake an expedition on Earth Day to climb Mount Everest for world peace and environmentalism.

| March/April 1990

  • 122-064-01.jpg
    In high spirits, Jim Whittaker in 1963 became the first American to reach Everest's summit, the highest point on Earth.
  • 122-065-01.jpg
    A team of climbers sizes up Mount Everest's north face. Looking tranquil in good weather, it will still test every climbing skill.
  • 122-066-01.jpg
    During a training ascent of Mount Rainier in Washington State, a team of Everest Expedition climbers evaluates potential routes to the summit.
  • 122-068-01.jpg
    Wearing their Everest Expedition t-shirts, a pair of Chinese climbers begins a trek up to Rainier's base camp to further test their skills.
  • 122-067-01.jpg
    Even at Rainier, climbers put the new cleanup ethic into practice. On the way down, sleds are loaded with debris-packed bags.

  • 122-064-01.jpg
  • 122-065-01.jpg
  • 122-066-01.jpg
  • 122-068-01.jpg
  • 122-067-01.jpg

Earth's highest peak is mostly granite, often climbed, and badly littered as a result. But it is also still a pure symbol of reaching high. On Earth Day, a joint Russian-Chinese-American team will attempt the summit of Everest. This time, the symbolism will be more mixed. And richer. Peace and environment.  

Jim Whittaker: Expedition Leader

The thing about Jim Whittaker is not that he's big, even though he was big even when he was little. It's that he's so damned strong. Somehow, forces such as gravity that challenge us every day net out as a bit weaker around Whittaker.

Once I visited him at a 40-foot-long cabin he had built out of tons of logs and driftwood he hauled up a cliff from the beach on the Washington coast. The cabin was slightly atilt on its pilings, so he simply jacked it up. All by himself. I looked around for a large blue ox.

Sports Illustrated was right when it gushed that Whittaker was America's strongest mountaineer. That was in 1963, after he had stood on the 29,028-foot summit of Mount Everest, the first American to do so. That seems long ago. It was a year after Silent Spring was published, the same year that civil rights demonstrations erupted in the South, a "hot line" was established between Washington and Moscow, atmospheric nuclear tests were banned, and Kennedy was shot. Jim Whittaker's achievement brought him fame in a time needing heroes. He was lionized: Americans had conquered Mount Everest. Indeed, had it not been for the Revolutionary War, Whittaker might well be known these days as Sir James.

But, as he wrote later, "We knew we had not conquered the mountain. Our team struggled for months. We had lost one man in an ice fall; others lost toes and fingers. We were survivors of the mountain. To claim we had conquered this monument of nature would have been flagrant arrogance, for there was no enemy up there to be conquered…no enemy but ourselves, our weaknesses and errors."

A big man with big ideas, he looked around for another challenge, and his eye lit on the summit of K2 in Pakistan, the second highest peak on the planet. After one attempt that failed, he led the first American team up that mountain too, in 1978. Then, during descent, it struck him that he was running out of mountains to climb.

Missing Link
3/19/2018 5:47:12 PM

I literally trespassed on Jim Whittaker's property to leave my writings to the maid who placed them in his office in '89 hopes they would be included in the capsule for The Peace Climb. I remember guard dogs barking at me and my dad laughing saying "I told you this would be an adventure"... I was serving in the USN at the time on leave visiting my dad in Washington, knew I would love to have my writings about world peace being included in this climb.... From Emily (Link) Devlahovich

Mother Earth News Fair Schedule 2019


Next: April, 27-28 2019
Asheville, NC

Whether you want to learn how to grow and raise your own food, build your own root cellar, or create a green dream home, come out and learn everything you need to know — and then some!


Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 64% Off the Cover Price

Money-Saving Tips in Every Issue!

Mother Earth NewsAt MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we are dedicated to conserving our planet's natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. You'll find tips for slashing heating bills, growing fresh, natural produce at home, and more. That's why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.95 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.95 for 6 issues.

Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
International Subscribers - Click Here
Canadian subscriptions: 1 year (includes postage & GST).

Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter flipboard

Free Product Information Classifieds Newsletters