Jim Hinkhouse, 1943-1995

Publication Year: 1996.


Jimmy “Jim” Dean Hinkhouse died with climbing companions Scott Hall and Tom Downey during a storm at Windy Corner on Denali, May 23, 1995.

Jim was born and raised in Scappoose, Oregon, and graduated from the University of Oregon. He worked for Boeing, Wharton Econometrics, and Weyerhauser before returning to Boeing in 1987. Throughout his life Jimmy was a multi-talented athlete. He became interested in mountaineering when he moved to Seattle, where he was a member of the Seattle Mountaineers, eventually becoming a climb leader for the group. In 1994, he retired from his career as an economist in the Boeing Commercial Airplane Group marketing department to pursue his interest in mountaineering, writing, and addiction recovery counseling. He also was a member of Boeing Alpine Society (BOEALPS) and had recently joined The American Alpine Club.

In 1990 he began combining his interest in mountaineering and substance addiction recovery. He was unable to arrange an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting atop Mount Rainier that year when the AA National Convention was held in Seattle, but the following year he organized three groups of 12 climbers each who made a simultaneous ascent of the mountain for the first of many AA meetings in high alpine settings. The group also included several experienced mountaineers, but over half were neophytes who spent four months in an alpine climbing and conditioning class with Jim and his mountaineering friends.

Soon thereafter, Jim established One Step at a Time (OSAT), “an outdoor club for members and friends of 12-Step Recovery programs.” Under his leadership and guidance OSAT grew to include climbers from throughout western Washington, sponsoring an annual alpine mountaineering class, Mountaineering Oriented First Aid courses, a full schedule of alpine and rock climbs as well as skiing, running, and kayaking activities, and four regularly weekly 12-Step Recovery meetings conducted in wilderness settings in the Seattle area. At the time of his death, OSAT numbered over 100 active members, with several hundred more benefiting from the weekly 12-Step meetings.

In recalling a frightening climb of the Leuthold Couloir on Mr. Hood, my daughter observed that “Jim knew just how far behind you ought to be: Not too close, so you knew you were accomplishing it on your own; but not so far back that you felt alone.” A non-climbing friend whom Jim saved from difficulties with alcohol commented that the same characteristic made him an invaluable friend to people striving to establish lives free from the suffering of alcohol or drug addiction.

Jim died with over sixteen and a half years of sobriety. He is survived by his two children, Aaron and Kym, two grandsons, and a multitude of climbing companions and others whom he inspired and taught about recovery, climbing, and living life to the fullest.

Rik Anderson