May 1, 2013

Mountainfilm Celebrates 50 Years of Americans Atop Everest

Mountainfilm Celebrates 50 Years of Americans Atop Everest

Conrad Anker to moderate discussion with Tom Hornbein and Jim Whittaker following world premiere of “High and Hallowed”

Telluride, Colorado (March 18, 2013) – In the spring of 1963, an expedition of American climbers attempted a bold ascent of Mount Everest. Fifty years later, two of the men who reached the summit of the world’s highest peak—Jim Whittaker and Tom Hornbein—will speak at Mountainfilm in Telluride, the leading festival for alpinists in America.

On May 1, Whittaker became the first American to stand on top of the world, getting there with Sherpa Nawang Gombu. The two men, part of a large and ambitious American team, led by Norman Dyenruth, followed the same way to the top—via the South Col—that Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay (Gombu’s uncle) had ten years earlier.

American team members Tom Hornbein and Willi Unsoeld decided to take a different and more dangerous route to the summit by going up the West Ridge, which included climbing a long, harrowing gorge high up on the mountain that was later named the Hornbein Couloir. To this day, it is widely considered one of the most legendary ascents in the annals of mountaineering and one that caused Unsoeld to lose several of his toes to frostbite.

Whittaker continued to climb all over the world and guided Robert F. Kennedy up Mt. Kennedy, named after his late brother, in 1965. He also was the first full-time employee of REI, becoming the CEO in the 1960s. He was last at Mountainfilm in 2009. Hornbein also continued to climb but focused much of his energy on his career as a doctor.

Festival director David Holbrooke said, “It will be great to have Jim Whittaker back in Telluride and we are thrilled to be welcoming Tom Hornbein to the festival for the first time. These two men so embody the indomitable spirit that we celebrate at Mountainfilm.”

Peter Kenworthy, executive director of Mountainfilm said, “It is particularly rewarding to have our presenting sponsor, Eddie Bauer, involved in bringing Jim and Tom to the festival because it was Eddie Bauer that sponsored and outfitted the first American ascent of Everest fifty years ago.” Kenworthy also noted that Mountainflm’s national media sponsor, Outside Magazine, featured the 1963 Everest expedition as its May cover story.

The two legendary mountaineers are part of a larger program Mountainfilm will stage to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Americans on Everest. High and Hallowed, a new film about the first American ascents, by world-renowned mountain guide and climber Jake Norton, will make its world premiere. Following the film, Conrad Anker, one of the world’s leading contemporary mountaineers and a frequent Mountainfilm guest, will moderate a discussion and Q&A session with Whittaker and Hornbein. Brent Bishop, the son of Barry Bishop, one of the members of the 1963 Everest team, will exhibit his father’s photographs. High-altitude medical specialist and Everest veteran Dr. Peter Hackett, will host a Coffee Talk with Hornbein and 1996 Everest tragedy survivor Charlotte Fox will be a judge for the annual Charlie Fowler Award.

“We want to really honor these great men at Mountainfilm this year and I think our focus on their Everest summits fifty years ago will be a real highlight of the 2013 festival,” said Holbrooke.


About Mountainfilm: Established in 1979, Mountainfilm in Telluride is dedicated to educating and inspiring audiences about environments, cultures, issues and adventures. Working at the nexus of filmmaking and action, its flagship program is the legendary Mountainfilm Festival — a one-of-a-kind combination of films, conversations and inspiration. Mountainfilm also reaches audiences year round through its worldwide tour, on Outside Television, with its online Minds of Mountainfilm interviews and in classrooms through its educational outreach initiative, Making Movies that Matter. Mountainfilm has the power to change lives. To learn more, visit To join the conversation, please visit the Mountainfilm in Telluride blog, follow us on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook.

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