Senior Guide Jim Williams was recently presented with Exum’s Excellence in the Art of Guiding Award. This award is the highest honor Exum can bestow upon a guide.
The award honors Jim’s lifelong guiding achievements in the Tetons and worldwide. It especially celebrates Jim’s recognition by his peers. An Exum guide for 25 years, Jim is not only an accomplished guide, teacher and alpinist, but also a noted explorer.
During the course of his career, Jim has led major expeditions to Chile, Peru, Africa, Bhutan, China, India, Nepal and Tibet. He has successfully guided clients on Mt. Everest, Nupste, Lhotse, Mt. McKinley, Ama Dablam, Carstenz Pyramid, Elbrus, Aconcagua, Vinson, Kilimanjaro and numerous other peaks, including expeditions in the Arctic, Antarctic and on the Patagonian ice cap.
In 2000 Jim’s success reaching the summit of Mt. Everest with clients inspired him to become the first person to guide successfully all “Seven Summits” (the highest point on each of the seven continents) in a single year!
Honored numerous times for his competence and dedication, in 2003 Jim received the National Park Service Search and Rescue Award, and in 2005 Best Life Magazine named Jim as member of the “Durable Dozen” for his “Seven Summits” achievement (Ulysses Grant, Ernest Shackleton and Chuck Yaeger are among others named).
In October Jim will be honored at the Explorer’s Club in New York City with the prestigious Lowell Thomas Award, which this year recognizes “explorers who not only have pushed beyond the outer edge of the known envelope, but those who have done so safely and have come back to tell others how.”
Typical of Jim’s “firsts” was his participation in the successful 1987 South Pole Overland Expedition, a 1500-kilometer journey on skis to the South Pole. Some members were not seasoned skiers and many had not been to the Antarctic. At the time, only 11 people had been to the South Pole without motorized vehicles — on foot or on skis — and only six had returned alive.
Although the expedition served to open the overland route to all of those who have followed, Jim considers his true accomplishment not reaching the Pole, but making certain everyone remained safe and all members developed a common bond while achieving their goal. This achievement is but one demonstration of Jim’s critical skills in guiding and expedition leadership.
Because of his familiarity with the extreme landscape and hazards of the Antarctic, Geographic Expeditions selected Jim as one of the leaders on the first guided crossing of South Georgia Island following Shackleton’s epic route.
Jim will soon embark on a long trek in Nepal which will culminate in a guided climb of 7129-meter Baruntse.