by Janine Unsoeld
In one of many recent, national acknowledgements of the 50th anniversary of Americans on Everest, the Washington State Senate commemorated the historical event by passing Senate Resolution 8655 last week.
In attendance were Jim Whittaker, the first American to summit Mt. Everest in 1963, his wife Dianne Roberts, and Jolene Unsoeld, widow of Willi Unsoeld, who, with Tom Hornbein, summitted Mt. Everest three weeks after Whittaker via a first-ascent of the West Ridge route.
Jolene Unsoeld is a former Washington State representative and United States Congresswoman. A similar resolution, HR 4650, was passed in the House the same day.
Several senators spoke in support of the resolution, which was initiated by Senator Karen Fraser. Fraser said she was inspired to write the resolution because of Washington state's deep ties to the expedition, noting that a large percentage of those involved were from Washington State, and later built their careers here. Many Washington State individuals and companies contributed cash and gave in-kind contributions, including beer, candy, clothing, and supplies, and the team trained and tested equipment at Mt. Rainier.
Several senators expressed their appreciation and support for the resolution, creditting the expedition for inspiring them in their personal lives. Senator Curtis King of Yakima noted that the Yakima Rotary Club gave the expedition money; Senator Mike Hargrove showed off a 1963 National Geographic, saying he was not quite ten years old when the ascent was made, but the event got him fascinated in geography. Senator Rodney Tom, a three time summitter of Mt. Rainier, thanked the Sherpas on the expedition, and Senator Kohl-Welles said she once met Sherpa Nawang Gombu who guided her husband up to summit Mt. Rainier.