Former Washington State Congress-woman Jolene Unsoeld describes herself as a “political meddler, who cannot resist taking on causes that fight for what is right and what is just.”
She has spent a lifetime (first as a citizen activist, then two terms in the Washington State Legislature and three terms in the US Congress) tackling public policy challenges such as campaign finance reform, social justice, women’s rights and environmental protection of the natural resources of our planet.
Encouraged as a young girl to wonder what lay beyond the farthest stars, Jolene heeded the call to adventure. She climbed the mountains of her beloved Pacific Northwest and was the first woman to ascend the complete North Face of the Grand Teton.
Jolene describes her biggest adventure and accomplishment, as the partnering with “her Bill” (Willi) to bring four strong and unique children into the world.
Willi Unsoeld was a wilderness philosopher and mountaineer, who made history when he and Tom Hornbein made the first ascent of the West Ridge of Mount Everest, and the first traverse of the mountain (descending the South Col) which has never been done since. They also survived the highest bivouac of that time, at 28,000 feet, with no food or water and only the clothes on their backs.
Willi inspired generations, capturing people’s imaginations to embrace the interconnected-ness of all life and the importance of risk-taking for human spirits to grow and learn.
Personal challenges included five major Himalayan expeditions, directing the Peace Corps in Nepal, helping expand U.S. Outward Bound programs and being a planning faculty member of The Evergreen State College.
Willi’s life was cut short by an avalanche on Mt. Rainier while on an expedition with students from Evergreen. His students sang as they came down from the mountain, “You can’t kill the spirit. It’s like a mountain. Old and strong it goes on and on.”