Peter Whittaker: RMI Expeditions (Ashford, WA)
Peter Whittaker had huge boots to fill. His uncle Jim was the first American to reach the summit of Mount Everest in 1963. His father Lou (Jim's identical twin) founded Rainier Mountaineering Inc. (RMI) in 1969 and led the First American Ascent of the North face of Everest in 1984.
Fortunately Whittaker got an early start. He practically grew up on Mount Rainier, carrying his skis and boots up to Camp Muir at 10,000 feet from the age of nine. He climbed Rainier for the first time at age 12 and started guiding for RMI at 16. When he came of age, Whittaker was the logical choice to lead the business, but like many hardheaded young men who feel their paths have been pre-forged, he fought it, moving to Utah to pursue skiing instead.
"Growing up, people always asked, are you going to climb Everest? Are you going to follow in their footsteps?" Whittaker says. "That just pissed me off. My response was 'I'm not going to follow in anybody's footsteps, I'm going to kick my own.'"
After working as a helicopter skiing guide at Snowbird, Whittaker started his own business — Summits Adventure Travel — focused on trekking, skiing, and climbing at iconic destinations around the globe. After 14 years spent traveling all over the world on more than 70 expeditions, including climbing the seven summits, Whittaker sealed his destiny and returned home to Washington. The year was 1995.
Now RMI's co-owner and CEO, Whittaker has climbed Rainier 241 times and grown the company to include a robust offering of international expeditions and skills seminars. "I could never have gotten where I am without standing on the shoulders of my father, or following in his and Jim footsteps, as people liked to call it," says Whittaker. "It doesn't piss me off anymore. What they did for mountaineering and mountain guiding – I'm very proud of it."