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Film Looks At Recreation Of Historic Climb And Grunge Rock

Fans of mountaineering and grunge rock will be interested in a film that will be screened in Spokane on Saturday.

"Return to Mt. Kennedy" is a film that looks at the effort to recreate an historic climb on a remote mountain peak in the Yukon. The original climb in 1965 featured noted Seattle mountaineer Jim Whittaker and Senator Bobby Kennedy. That pair originally got together to scale Mt. Kennedy, which had been named by the Canadian government in a tribute to JFK.

That was really the initial meeting of the two, and they became fast friends. 

Bobby Whittaker, named after the famous senator, says his dad and Kennedy both came away enriched by the experience.

“It really changed my father, because he, at some point, said he didn’t know he was a Democrat until he met Bobby Kennedy, and then Bobby had a change in that he became an environmentalist after that climb, I think,” he said.

Fast forward to the present day and Whittaker and his brother Leif were discussing Leif’s recent climb to Mt. Everest and what would be an appropriate next goal. They hit on the idea of a return climb to Mt. Kennedy.

“Leif and I said to Dad, we’re thinking of going back to Mt. Kennedy, and he said you gotta give Chris a call because I was talking with him about this recently. So we called Chris, and he said I’m in, and like, literally the next afternoon we were up on the glacier,” Whittaker said.

In case you haven’t figured out where this is going, Chris is the son of the late Bobby Kennedy.

But the movie takes some twists and turns. Mainly, it looks at Bobby Whittaker's other life.

Beginning in the late 80’s, Whittaker managed one of the first grunge bands, Mudhoney, for 12 years, and got them signed to a major label. He also because the road manager for REM.

Whittaker says there is plenty of footage of classic early Seattle grunge moments in the film.

“We unearthed about 60 hours of home movies that the bass player from Mudhoney, Matt Luken, had taken on tour and that includes footage of Nirvana, Mudhoney and a lot of different bands,” Whittaker said.

But the mountain climb is not without its excitement either, including one hairy moment when Kennedy fell into a crevasse.

The movie also features some original soundtrack music composed by Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam fame.

"The Return to Mt. Kennedy" will be screened Saturday, February 16 the Bing Crosby Theater at 7 pm.








Steve was part of the Spokane Public Radio family for many years before he came on air in 1999. His wife, Laurie, produced Radio Ethiopia in the late 1980s through the '90s, and Steve used to “lurk in the shadowy world” of Weekend SPR. Steve has done various on air shifts at the station, including nearly 15 years as the local Morning Edition host. Currently, he is the voice of local weather and news during All Things Considerd, writing, editing, producing and/or delivering newscasts and features for both KPBX and KSFC. Aside from SPR, Steve ,who lives in the country, enjoys gardening, chickens, playing and listening to music, astronomy, photography, sports cars and camping.