January 1, 2014

Willi Unsoeld - The Spiritual Values of Wilderness

Willi Unsoeld was a pioneer mountaineer and a teacher. Source of photo: Association For Experiential Education.

Willi Unsoeld (October 5, 1926 – March 4, 1979) was an American mountaineer who, along with Tom Hornbein, were members of the first American expedition to summit Mount Everest on May 22, 1963. Unsoeld and Hornbein's legendary climb was the first ascent from the peak's west ridge, and the first major traverse of a Himalayan peak. His subsequent activities included working as a U.S. Forest Service Smokejumper,Peace Corps director in Nepal, speaker for Outward Bound, faculty member at Oregon State University[1] and The Evergreen State College and mountaineering guide. An avalanche during a winter climb of Mount Rainier took his life.

Unsoeld and Tom Hornbein ascended Everest’s difficult West Ridge route in May 1963 on a National Geographic Society sponsored expedition while Barry Bishop and Lute Jerstad followed Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay’s South Col route established during their 1953 climb. It was the first simultaneous attempt from two directions.

The gruelling expedition cost Unsoeld nine of his toes and required several months of recovery in the hospital. Unsoeld and the team reunited in July 1963 when they were presented with the National Geographic Society’s highest honor, the Hubbard Medal, by John F. Kennedy.
Association For Experiential Education:
Since 1998, the Willi Unsoeld Award has been presented annually to a member practitioner who has made a profound and lasting impact in the field of experiential education, specifically in the Northwest.

This award is named in honor of Willi Unsoeld, a well-known experiential educator who believed that the highest value in education was the development of supportive relationships. Willi also believed that the ultimate goal of all education is to help people treat each other better. In 1963, Willi became one of the first Americans to stand atop Mount Everest after pioneering a new route on the West Ridge and eight years later, he and several other planning faculty members established the Evergreen State College . In 1979, while teaching students on a climb of Mount Rainier, Willi’s life came to an end. Through this award, and the efforts of his family, Willi’s unique spirit will continue to touch many lives.
Video Title: Willi Unsoeld - The Spiritual Values of Wilderness. Source: YouTube channel caver504. Date Published: May 24, 2009. Description:
Wlli Unsoeld's Keynote Address at Keene State: The Spiritual Values of Wilderness.
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