Jim Ebert lead the first ever assisted trail descent to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, seen here.
The whole Unofficial family extends their deepest condolences to the Ebert family, and Jim’s many friends around the world.
James “Jim” W. Ebert, climber, mountaineer and adventure guide, died unexpectedly while hiking Mt. Whitney with his son on Tuesday, July 26, 2011. One of the world’s most experienced outdoor guides, Jim was 64 years old and died from complications due to an enlarged heart.
When in the superlative world of pinnacles, peaks and spires, we reserve our greatest admiration for those with the vision and courage to blaze the trail, send the new route or summit the unblemished mountaintop. Yet in the pantheon of the great visionary adventurers of the 20th century, there exists a fraternity of men and women whose contributions have been lauded in mere whispers; and in some cases have gone largely unsung. For this elite group the very nature of their accomplishments predestines them to go widely unmentioned. For theirs has not been a life dedicated to individual pursuits or admiration from their peers; theirs has been a life devoted to the pursuits and accomplishments of others around them. There is perhaps no better example of this than Jim Ebert.
Jim was a man of unmatched pedigree. His parents, John and Ede Ebert, were accomplished climbers who founded one the most prolific climbing and mountaineering clubs in the world (Iowa Mountaineers, Inc). Jim and his siblings spent the days of their youth in some of the world’s most beautiful places, learning from mountaineering elite like Petzoldt, Sttetner, Gmoser and others. First ascents, new routes and “youngest to’s” became common taglines in Jim’s ever-growing bio as he climbed into adulthood. By his early twenties it was obvious that Jim was on a path to climbing and mountaineering greatness – less obvious was how his greatness would ultimately be defined.
Jim, like many others, was entranced by the sweet taste of glory at the top of the mountain, the bottom of the canyon and the end of a killer climb. But what distinguished him was that while many of his peers pushed their own personal limits and searched to find the next great taste, Jim committed his life to sharing that taste with others. He, no doubt, had the physical tools and elite education to become a legend on the rocks and trails. But Jim believed that the most stunning panoramas were more beautiful when shared with others. For thirty years Jim instructed, guided and trained thousands of people in all manner of outdoor adventure, while maintaining a perfect safety record. He developed the Iowa Mountaineers into the most active mountaineering club in the world, offered the Nation’s First Outdoor Toprope Instructor Certification Course, instructed the US Military in rock climbing and winter survival skills, led hundreds of first ascents and first American ascents and was even a professional Adventure and Wildlife photographer and film-maker.
For all the tally marks and belt notches, however, this is not how Jim Ebert will be remembered; nor will his long limbs, large hands or seemingly Herculean strength be his lasting visual hallmarks. Instead, those fortunate to have known Jim will be forever imprinted by his perpetual smile and inspired more by his heart’s ability to move mountains than his feet’s ability to climb them.
Later in his life Jim became a tireless advocate for the disabled in the outdoors. For six years he was the Director of an Easter Seals Camp (Camp KYSOC) whose primary purpose was to provide adults and children with disabilities a fully accessible camping experience. Ever the pioneer and adventurer, Jim carried this a step further and created what may be his single most important contribution to the world of outdoor adventure: a non-profit organization called Alpenglow Adventures. He recognized that with all of mankind’s incredible accomplishments in the outdoors, most of the world’s most inspiring locations and trails remained inaccessible to anyone who could not walk the trails themselves.
Not one to ever leave a person behind, Jim felt that there was “no individual personal goal in the world that is more meaningful than to take someone who cannot walk to see [some] of God’s greatest and most scenic hiking destinations…around the world.”
Read the rest of the piece here.