Film looks at famed ascent up Everest’s West Ridge

Hornbein, Unsoeld were the first to scale difficult West Ridge

Staff reportNovember 10, 2013 

A film and discussion about Willi Unsoeld and Tom Hornbein’s first ascent of the West Ridge of Mount Everest will be the feature of this year’s Unsoeld Seminar Nov. 20.

“High and Hallowed: Everest 1963” tells the story of Unsoeld and Hornbein’s pioneering ascent, and looks at the risk and adventure that drew them to the summit. Filmmakers David Morton, Jake Norton and Jim Aikman will join Tom Hornbein onstage after the film to discuss the film with the audience.

Unsoeld was a philosopher, mountaineer and founding faculty member at The Evergreen State College. He died in an avalanche on Mount Rainier in 1979.

Unsoeld and Hornbein were part of the same expedition in which three weeks earlier Jim Whittaker became the first American to stand atop the world’s highest mountain. Whittaker climbed the traditional South Col route.

The ascent by Unsoeld and Hornbein up the West Ridge route is considered by some to be the crowning achievement in American mountaineering history. It also is one of the deadliest routes on the mountain. Since the 1963 climb, just five climbers are known to have reached the summit via the West Ridge, while nine climbers have died on the route. Unsoeld lost nine of his toes to frostbite after the climb.

In telling the story of the historic ascent, the filmmakers also tell the story of a 2012 attempt up the West Ridge. The climbing team of Charley Mace, Norton, Morton and Brent Bishop (son of Barry Bishop, a photographer on the 1963 expedition) were stopped short of the summit by terrible conditions in the Hornbein Couloir.

The Unsoeld Seminar series is endowed as a living memorial to Unsoeld’s interests in wilderness and human values, ethics and human behavior, effective learning and experiential education, philosophy and environmental awareness, nature and culture, said a news release from the college. Since 1986, the series has offered lectures, workshops and performances that reflect Evergreen’s emphasis on collaboration and personal responsibility.


WHEN: Nov. 20. The program will begin at 7 p.m.

Where: The Washington Center for the Performing Arts, 512 Washington St. SE, Olympia

Cost: Free

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