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My Old Man and the Mountain: A Memoir

4.25  ·  Rating details ·  253 ratings  ·  35 reviews
In 1963, the world followed the first American Mount Everest Expedition, and watched as "Big Jim" Whittaker became the first American to stand on top of the world. He returned home a hero.

My Old Man and the Mountain is Leif Whittaker's engaging and humorous story of what it was like to "grow up Whittaker"―the youngest son of Jim Whittaker and Dianne Roberts, in an extende
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published September 20th 2016 by Mountaineers Books
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Average rating 4.25  · 
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Jan 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir-read
Loving this Mt.Everest memoir by Northwest native (and son of the first American to summit Everest) Leif Whittaker. It has sucked me into the world of mountaineering and summits (which didn't interest me before but pulled me in and have me looking up climbing terms and and the Khumbu Icefall.) He also tells his father's story throughout it and talks about what it is like to grow up constantly being asked by everyone, "So, are you gonna climb Everest like your dad?"
Great read. Sounds terrifying
Marcia Meyers
Nov 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
After setting aside other books in progress to read this book, I did not wish to return to the others. This was rich in nuanced metaphor, carefully crafted, yet never stiff nor overdone. I take back everything I thought about writers needing decades of living to reach this level of smarts and skill.
I thoroughly enjoyed every page.
Oct 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a quick and easy read. My son and I spoke with the author at the Washington book awards. He asked my son about his favorite snacks. He went on to say that he used Cheetos and sour patch treats to power his climb up Everest. I wouldn't have guessed that! ...more
Aug 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Leif Whittaker is a brilliant writer. His poetic use of metaphors and beautifully cultivated sentences made me continually choose this book over others and brought me to tears several times.

Leif perfectly captured the intimate side of something as challenging as climbing Everest, while backing it with the rich family history that the entire journey was based upon.

This book is a phenomenal story about perseverance and dedication, written so eloquently, I had no choice but to purchase and shelve
Sue Meland
Jan 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
If you love the Northwest, the mountains or are fascinated by the Everest (and other climbing expeditions) then read this book by Jim and Dianne Whittaker’s youngest son, Leif. It is a great comparison of his climb against his father Jim’s expedition in 1963. Thank you to my brother Mike for recommending this book to me. It almost made me think I could get out there and climb. Almost.
Leanna Harrison
Sep 02, 2018 rated it did not like it
There is no lack of accomplishments one can accomplish on someone else’s dollar. Leif should take out the first five chapters where he paints himself as an entitled ungrateful child, then start with the climbing chapters, then this would be a 2/5 Star book. At one point in the book while climbing he judges someone else who probably paid their way to climb Everest, but failed to reflect, that is essentially what he is doing....(or more specifically other people are doing for him). If someone paid ...more
Apr 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
This mountaineering memoir doesn’t have the high drama of multiple climbing teams lost in a record-breaking storm like John Krakauer’s 1997 Into Thin Air, so I was surprised when My Old Man and the Mountain turned out to be a page turner for me. I always read multiple books at the same time, and usually give the lion’s share of my reading time to whichever works of fiction I have going. But this book really caught and held my interest, and had me setting aside other works until it was done.

The w
Ryan Dobbs
Dec 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
Great book about adventure, mountain climbing, endurance, and growing up in the shadow of a famous father. Although I am not a mountain climber myself--yet--I enjoyed the book, including the details about climbing, reaching the summit of Mt Everest, and the author's personal anecdotes about life in a mountaineering family. I feel like I learned a lot about mountain climbing, and this book inspired me to pursue the sport in the future. I don't know that I'll ever have the fortitude to climb Mt. E ...more
Apr 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
very enjoyable recap of his own ascents up Mt. Everest [somewhat oddly [to me] he blends details from two climbs to weave together a coherent narrative of one time he reached the summit], alternating with reminiscences about growing up as the younger son of the first American to reach the top of Mt. Everest and with info on his father's 1963 climb.

Must be odd to have entire books written about one of your parent's adventures, so you can sort out what they say about it now from their journals at
Kristina Ciari
Dec 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I've read almost everything ever written about climbing Everest, and this is among the best. Leif is hands above his fellow authors in terms of writing style, painting beautiful pictures of his childhood, the climbing journey, and the natural beauty of his environment. This book was extremely well written. He doesn't excellent job of painting a portrait of his childhood in the shadow of his father, and then eventually following in his footsteps. He weaves the story of Jim Whittaker's 1963 expedi ...more
Al Bergstein
Aug 26, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I will never climb Everest but Leif's honest assessment of his own first climb of it, along with interweaving the legendary 1963 climb of dad's, (along with Tom Hornbein and Willi Unsoeld's incredible climb of the west ridge during that expedition), makes compelling reading. The contrast of the climbing in 63 to today shows how far the industry of Everest has come,but that it is not an easy thing to do, regardless of how commercialized it becomes. Leif's writing is solid, and sweeps us along in ...more
Andrea Stevens
Feb 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biographies
What I simply call a really nice book to thoroughly enjoy. Leif's book took me through his journey and shared the simple joys of being part of such a local legendary wonderful family. A good friend got me this autographed book for my birthday this new years. I had only 20 pages left when I had a huge loss in my family, my heart broken. Being able to have the last little bit of this book to feel hopeful, reinvision the beauty of discovery and life itself along with its challenges made all the dif ...more
Apr 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I love mountain climbing books and this one was wonderful. Written by Jim Whittaker's son Leif after he climbed Mt. Everest, 49 years after his famous father. He gives a youthful take on his climb (25 years old the first time and then climbed it again 2 years later), combining it with experiences of his father when they were in the same spots. It was a community read in our small WA town and he gave a presentation, including a slide show, when the read was over. He is very humble, with a good se ...more
Meilee Anderson
Aug 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I am frugal with the space on my bookshelves and I rarely reread books. My Old Man and the Mountain is a book I will keep and happily reread. I’d already laughed several times before chapter three. What a fun read!

I found this memoir while browsing the shelves of the Ashford Creek Pottery store in Ashford, Washington. I stopped in on a whim on my way to Mount Rainier National Park. The owner of the store has a carefully curated collection of PNW authors, along with an impressive array of art and
I read this book because it was our town's Community Read selection for March, and is full of Port Townsend references. I am not a mountain climber – I don't really understand the urge to embark on such discomfort and danger, although I am drawn to the quiet, the nature, the views and the exercise of hiking. This affinity at least lets me understand a little about Leif's (and the others, including his father's) compulsion to climb. But the beauty of reading is to get inside another's situation, ...more
Sep 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
Ever since trekking in Nepal decades ago, I have been drawn to stories of climbing in the Himalayas.
I ended up enjoying this book much more than I expected to initially. The aggressive masculinity, brand name-dropping, and privilege are off-putting, but it is the writers humor, self-awareness of these issues and his vulnerability discussing what it is like to grow up in a famous climbing family
that carries the story. The language is engaging as well--grossly descriptive, humorous, and poetic.
Jan 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Great story of a son growing up in the shadow of his father and eventually realizing the significance of his fathers achievement! It felt like you were really hiking along with Leif! Nice interweaving of his fathers 1963 trip and his own story of tackling Mt Everest! I now want to go and read Jim Whittacker’s story of his climb! Exciting story and very enjoyably presented.
Nov 25, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I appreciate that the author did not hide his limitations, insecurities, and fears. He narrated his journey with frankness, gratitude, and respect for not just those included in his memoir but for his readers, too. I look forward to reading this memoir with my students in the spring.
Feb 05, 2020 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Amy Delo
Jan 09, 2021 rated it really liked it
Good account of the challenges- personal, technical and logistical- in climbing Everest and includes a healthy dose of recognizing the privilege inherent in attempting such a summit. Would recommend to anyone interested in mountaineering.
Mar 14, 2021 rated it really liked it
Writing: 3/5
Story: 4/5

Some of Whittaker’s analogies were a bit much. And the humble-brags and (what felt like) faux humility were a bit obnoxious. However, the way he mixed his ascent with his father’s was clever and gave a fuller appreciation for The Mountain.
Angela Crampton
Sep 01, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: outdoors
Great read for someone that loves the history of alpine climbing and seeing it through two generations.
Emily Newcomer
Feb 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Interesting and easy book if you like adventure novels and/or memoirs.
Aug 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
I won this book from Goodreads Giveaways. Thank you.

Though you know how it ends, the book is full of suspense and allows the reader to live vicariously through the author's journey.
Michael D.  Alligood
Mar 13, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: onmyshelf
The story would be better with a decent editor, the subtraction of 1000+ unnecessary contractions, and less spoon-feeding.
Mar 11, 2020 rated it liked it
An excellent read!
I had just read the new National Geographic issue on Everest. A few days later I was shopping at REI and I stopped by the bookshelf on my way out, because they usually have some interesting travel books and memoirs there. I picked up this book, saw the word 'Everest' on the back, and got it, and I am glad I did. I'm usually not a huge fan of modern memoirs, because they usually tend to be some famous actor, singer, dancer, performer, or what have you who with their personal struggles for success ...more
Dean Woodbeck
Sep 14, 2018 rated it did not like it
I really wanted to like this book. I have read much about Everest adventures and climbs. But this book never engaged me. Metaphor after metaphor gets tedious. The name dropping of people that only insiders would know also gets old and interrupts the story. There is a theme - open at the beginning and more subtle as the book progresses - that the author doesn't want to be known as the son of the first American to climb Everest. Yet he trades on that throughout the book. The technique of going bac ...more
Ben Marean
Jan 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is an excerpt from the fan mail I sent to the author.
I just finished reading your book and want to share with you that I really enjoyed It. Like most of America I read Into Thin Air, and got kind of addicted to mountaineering books for awhile reading more Jon Krakauer, Joe Simpson, Jim Wickwire and of course your dad's book. I've got an autographed copy. Since then I felt like I had read enough mountaineering, but then I was gifted a copy of your book and felt like I connected with it.
Jan 07, 2017 rated it liked it
I learned alot about what is entailed in climbing a high mountain! Also, living in the NW, Jim Whittaker is a name known by all, so it was interesting to get an inside view of him and his 1963 achievement. I enjoyed the book and recommend it to anyone who likes to read about adventure.
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Leif Whittaker seeks adventure in all aspects of life. Born in Port Townsend, Washington among the glaciated spires of the Olympic Mountains, he reached his first major summit when he was 15 years old. He has since climbed many of the world’s tallest mountains, including Aconcagua, Mount Vinson, and Mount Everest twice.

Mountaineering is not his only passion. His love of skiing, rock climbing, sail

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