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Presidential Dinner with Gordon Wiltsie

Veteran explorer and photographer Gordon Wiltsie sometimes laments magazines like National Geographic usually sent him on assignments that were cold, miserable or dangerous. But he was the person for the job. By combining photographic talent with a natural aptitude for mountaineering, skiing and other adventure skills he quickly evolved into a leader who could organize and photograph over a hundred foreign treks and expeditions to some of the wildest places on earth. Today he is widely recognized of his generation’s preeminent expedition photographers.

He has explored on six continents, documented mountaineers like Alex Lowe and Conrad Anker climbing both the southern and northernmost big wall rock climbs of the time, galloped across Mongolian steppes with descendants of Genghis Khan, searched for pre-Incan mummies in the Amazon and joined Will Steger dog sledding past both geographic poles. It’s hard to choose which of his many adventures to describe.

Gordon’s quest for adventure was born in his hometown of Bishop California, below the spectacular eastern Sierra Nevada. His parents took him camping at high elevations while he was still an infant and by age eight he started winding film through a Kodak Brownie. Then, while shooting pictures for his high school yearbook, he encountered a visiting rock climber named Galen Rowell, who would soon be called “The Ansel Adams of his time.” Galen was a huge inspiration and they would later often work and climb together.

Wiltsie’s wanderlust began in earnest after two years at Amherst College, when he took time off to vagabond 20,000km through Europe and Turkey. Shortly after transferring to UC Santa Cruz, he spent a semester abroad in Nepal, where he climbed his first 20,000-foot summit. At the same time the pioneering outdoor journal Mountain Gazette began publishing his pictures and put his name on the masthead. But success did not come quickly or easily. After graduation he worked as a carpenter, handyman and graphic artist to support his primary passion.
One of these side careers, however, finally gave him the push he needed: mountain guiding. Soon after college he was hired by the Palisade School of Mountaineering, where he led aspiring mountaineers up difficult 14,000-foot crags in the Sierra Nevada and learned the advanced skills of keeping both himself and others safe and moving forward in very precarious places – which would become a keystone of his career. By age 26 he was leading (and photographing) Himalayan treks for Mountain Travel, the pioneering adventure travel company. Later, he would guide and document almost two dozen expeditions to Antarctica and the Arctic – often in the company of other notable explorers, film crews, writers and explorers.

Wiltsie is also passionate about documenting the vanishing cultures he has encountered around the world. During his first trip to Nepal he lived through the spring with a village family that spoke only Nepali and for a “honeymoon” he and his bride Meredith worked long months side by side with residents of a beggar’s camp in Dhaka, Bangladesh. He has also lived with Tibetans, Peruvians, Mongolians and Russian reindeer herders, learning as much as he could of their languages. “People photography is what I most wanted to do in the first place,” he says. “I just happened to be on the doorstep for the age of adventure travel and was detoured in that direction, instead.”

Gordon’s pictures and writing have been featured in hundreds of publications around the world. His work appeared in some of the earliest issues of Outside Magazine, he spent two decades covering ski mountaineering and alpine resorts as a contributing editor for both SKI and Powder, and has created scores of ads and catalogs for companies ranging from Patagonia and The North Face to General Foods and the U.S. Army. He has documented more than a dozen feature stories for National Geographic and its offspring Adventure, covered multiple topics for the likes of Life, Geo, Travel & Leisure, and American Photographer, and illustrated three books by other authors. In 2006 W.W. Norton published his own critically acclaimed “To the Ends of the Earth - The Adventures of an Expedition Photographer.” Millions of people around the world have enjoyed his work.

Date: Thursday, January 21st

Time: 6:00 pm Reception, 7:00 pm Dinner, 8:00 pm Presentation

Location: Club Headquarters, 46 East 70th Street, New York, NY, 10021

Member Ticket Price: $70

Guest Ticket Price: $80

Reservation Notes:

Click Here to Purchase Tickets Online

Reservations must be procured in advance for a catered dinner, and payment must accompany reservation. There will be no cancellations allowed after Friday, January 15th, 2016. Non-members are welcome to reserve a seat as the nominal guest of Daryl Hawk MR’98, organizer of the Presidential Dinner.

To secure a reservation, you may also call us at 212.628.8383, or email us at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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Background image photography courtesy of members Christoph Baumer, Neil Laughton, Matt Harris and Don Walsh's image of the Bathyscape Trieste