The Orange County
PEOPLE // Everest climber a geared-up guy James
|Story appeared in Local section
on page Cover
June 20, 2003
He just got back from climbing the world's tallest
peak, Mount Everest. Instead of resting, 39-year-old
James Clarke of Costa Mesa is back to 12-hour workdays as
COO/CFO of an interactive media company. The West Point and
Harvard grad's idea of relaxing is jumping out of a plane. He
stops short of calling himself an adrenaline junkie, but you
name it, he's doing it. Except cooking and relationships.
So he just climbed to the top of the tallest mountain
in the world. James Clarke is back in Costa Mesa after a
grueling but exhilarating expedition to Mount Everest
-- one would think he'd be resting easy.
But the 39-year-old hasn't missed a beat in getting
back into crisp suits for 12-hour days as chief operating
officer of an interactive-media company.
``We can totally deliver ... they're playing in a
different league ... hit the ground running ...'' the New York
native says animatedly on his cell phone after work hours.
Clarke's all business during the week, but on weekends,
he's ready for some outdoor action. The thought of sitting at
home watching TV bores him. The big-screen TV in his spacious
home is more decoration than anything else.
Noticeably absent from his garage is his car. Instead
there are: two mountain bikes, a Harley motorcycle, in-line
skates, surfboards, hiking, climbing and scuba gear, tennis
rackets, a sky-diving helmet and crutches (from the time he
sprained his ankle playing basketball).
This guy's idea of relaxation is jumping out of a
Can we say adrenaline junkie?
``I don't feel like I'm an adrenaline junkie, though,''
says Clarke, laughing. ``It feels normal.''
After graduating from high school at age 16 in Canada,
Clarke attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. His
parents wanted him to go to college, but Clarke wanted an
adventure as part of his rite of passage.
A relative was dubious about whether Clarke could
handle the physical demands of the military academy, but
Clarke said that only motivated him. He made a point of become
an infantry officer, the most intensive branch in the academy.
After graduating, Clarke became an Army Ranger, paratrooping
out of planes, fording rivers and climbing mountains. The
physical component of his duties became a way of life.
Then a friend handed him a copy of ``Seven Summits,'' a
book on scaling the world's highest peaks, and Clarke found
his ultimate goal.
``Maybe it comes from the military training, the whole
pushing yourself to the limit and seeing what you're capable
of mentally,'' said Clarke.
His love of adventurous challenges also has much to do
with a fear of regret.
``We have such a short amount of time here on Earth,''
he said. ``My biggest fear is to look back one day and say, `I
wish I did that or this.' I want to look back and have all
these great memories.''
His house is immaculately decorated with soft leather
chairs and unfinished wood tables. Mementos of his travels
decorate the walls: tribal masks from Nepal and Africa, framed
maps of different mountains.
Trance beats stream from the stereo speakers on his
ceiling. His CD collection includes Weezer, Offspring, Buena
Vista Social Club, Janis Joplin, Tony Bennett, NSync and
His ``recreational'' books have titles such as:
``Idiot's Guide to Chess,'' ``1,001 Brilliant Ways to
Checkmate,'' ``Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway,''
``Skydiving in 8 Days,'' ``99 Critical Shots in Pool,''
``Hiking Yosemite,'' and ``Big Damn Book of Sheer Manliness''
(a gift from a friend, he explains).
On his fridge is a small fortune-cookie message, a
reminder of his mountaineering accomplishments: ``Soon you
will be sitting on top of the world.'' He cracked the cookie
the day he sent in his check for the expedition to Mt.
He's nearly reached his goal of climbing to the top of
the world's seven highest summits. Five down, two to go.
After he completes that feat (fewer than 100 have done
it), the bachelor says maybe he will take time for other
``(Relationships) haven't been a priority for me, and
I've let a couple of great ones get away,'' Clarke said.
``It's funny, I don't display the same risk-taking and
gutsiness in that aspect of my life.
``Now, with some of the goals behind me, that will
(714) 445-6685 or email@example.com
Residence: Costa Mesa and Hollywood Hills
Education: Bachelor of science degree in engineering
from U.S. Military Academy at West Point; MBA from Harvard
Hobbies: When he's not sky-diving, hiking or climbing
mountains, he enjoys going to the gym, movies, and dining