Saturday, December 31, 2011

Jim Ebert - A Life Well Lived Helping Others to the Top

Jim Ebert (left) with Juan Botero at the top of
Mt. Kilimanjaro.
At year's end I offer up the story of Jim Ebert - a professional mountaineer who not only lived to summit the world's most challenging peaks, but focused his work on helping others experience the thrill of extreme adventure. Jim died this year in July at 64 years old, while climbing Mt. Whitney in California in preparation for a trip that will bring people with disabilities to the highest point in the lower 48 states.

Jim was raised in a family of mountain climbers who were well connected with the world's leading mountaineers. He took hold of the family's passion early on and devoted his life to the epic sport. Along with numerous personal climbing accomplishments, Jim also made a stunning array of contributions to the climbing world. These include guiding the Iowa Mountaineers to become the world's largest university climbing club, offering the first outdoor toprope instructor certification course in the U.S., training the U.S. military in mountain climbing and winter wilderness skills, and leading countless first ascents in the U.S. and abroad. In thirty years of climbing expeditions and trainings he maintained a perfect safety record, personally guiding over 67,000 people to 17 alpine countries ascending over 1300 major peaks. Jim loved to share the joys of reaching pristine places with others, yet his life work was not complete without helping those with disabilities to access the same thrill of adventure he sought out for himself.

Jim directed an Easter Seals camp in Kentucky in his later years to ensure that adults and children with disabilities could experience accessible camping. His lasting contribution, however, was starting Alpenglow Adventures, an Iowa based organization that helps people with disabilities fulfill their dreams to access the world's most inspirational wild places. Alpenglow's trips in the past few years have helped individuals reach Machu Picchu in Peru, the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa, and the bottom of the Grand Canyon in Arizona. One thing I really appreciate about Alpenglow Adventures is that the trips are decided based on where someone who has a dream wants to go, then hikers and climbers are recruited to form an assistive team. It truly is a pioneering experience. Each trip is usually the first of its kind to the destination. I'm tempted to sign up to help out on a trip myself!

Jim Ebert (on right) on the Bright Angel trail
 in the Grand Canyon.

Justin Ebert, Jim's son, says "Anyone who ever knew my Dad, Jim Ebert, will speak of his infectious optimism. He cherished living in the moment and never stopped dreaming of the next adventure. What my Dad loved about Alpenglow Adventures, was the opportunities it provided that had never before been possible. He was always amazed that the beautiful places he loved so dearly had never before been experienced by people with disabilities. He felt it was one thing just to see the Grand Canyon, and another to actually get on the trail and experience all the wonders it had to offer, and that was his motivation. By what he dreamed of with Alpenglow Adventures, his legacy is only beginning."

Alpenglow plans to complete the trip Jim was planning on Mt. Whitney in 2013. In 2012, they will be tackling the Half Dome at Yosemite National Park and doing a Rim to Rim hike of the Grand Canyon, and possibly an international trip with an Everett Base camp trek in the Himalayas.

Thanks Jim, and to those who are continuing your work! You are surely missed by those who knew you and those of us who appreciate the spirit of your life and all you accomplished!

Thanks to Justin Ebert for photos of his father!

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