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Tribune file photo by Rand Middleton Lute Jerstad’s cousin Erling Baalson, with wife Zona, holds the October 1963 National Geographic with a cover photo taken by Barry Bishop showing Lute nearing the peak on May 22, 1963. The flag was staked by expedition partner Jim Whittaker on May 1 while the rest of the expedition waited to resupply supplemental oxygen tanks. This photo was taken on May 2, 2004, at the Baalson farm north of Brooten.

Willmar notebook: From Bonanza Valley to the Top of the World

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Next Wednesday, May 1, will be the 50th anniversary of the first American to summit Mt. Everest.

It was “Big Jim” Whittaker, a Seattle resident who owned an outdoor store that would grow in to the REI chain.


Three weeks later, May 21, two more Americans from the same expedition reached the peak, then measured at 29,028 feet but since re-calibrated at 29.035 feet

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Rand Middleton

Covers Willmar and area high schools and Ridgewater College, plus amateur baseball, stock car racing and fitness events in summer. Writes weekly column since 1980. Began working in radio and at weekly newspaper in Munising, Michigan, in 1972. Started parttime at West Central Daily Tribune Sept. 1974. Fulltime beginning Feb. 1979. Married to Tribune news clerk Donna (Miller) Middleton, formerly of Kerkhoven. 2 grown children. 

(320) 214-4334