‘Return to Mt. Kennedy’ is a family affair

Category: Movies

In 1965 the Canadian government wanted to do something to honor President John Kennedy. They decided to find an unexplored mountain and name it Mt. Kennedy. Then Jim Whittaker, the first American to climb Mt. Everest, led an expedition up Mt. Kennedy in the Canadian Yukon, with Senator Robert Kennedy joining the team. Kennedy had never climbed a mountain and was afraid of heights, but he felt he had to do it as a tribute to his slain brother. When they got near the summit Whittaker stepped aside, letting Robert Kennedy be the first person to stand on the top of that mountain. Fifty years later, Whittaker’s sons Bob, Leif, and RFK’s son Christopher returned to meet the challenge of their fathers. This documentary, Return to Mt. Kennedy, not only follows this latest trek up the mountain, but also gives plenty of background on all of the people involved in the first expedition as well as this follow-up climb.

The film includes never before seen footage of the original climb, with RFK and Whittaker. It also looks at the second generation of climbers, most notably Bob Whittaker who was named after RFK. After the initial climb, the Whittakers and the Kennedys became fast friends and Jim talks about how he stepped in to become one of the many surrogate fathers to the RFK brood of 11 kids.

Chris Kennedy was talked into joining this new trek up the mountain and along the way encountered some pretty rough situations. The three men basically walked in the steps of their fathers fifty years later.

Besides being the first American to climb Mt. Everest, Jim Whittaker, a true outdoorsman, became CEO of REI and both families shared a love of the outdoors and the wilderness. That is what Bob Whittaker has tasked himself with doing these days, although his earlier life was far different, as viewers discover.

Return to Mt. Kennedy is an interesting look at the two generations and the confluence of circumstances that brought them together in spirit fifty years apart. The film is available on digital platforms November 5, 2019.

About the Author

Francine Brokaw has been covering all aspects of the entertainment industry for over 25 years. She also writes about products and travel. She has been published in national and international newspapers and magazines as well as Internet websites. She has written her own book, Beyond the Red Carpet The World of Entertainment Journalists, from Sourced Media Books, is the entertainment correspondent for Good Day Orange County, and has her own TV show, Beyond the Red Carpet, on Village Television in Orange County. Follow her on Twitter.