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The Orange County Register
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Story appeared in Local section
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ID: 62564898
Edition: 1
PEOPLE // Everest climber a geared-up guy James Clarke

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 plane.

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 Eminem.

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. Everest.

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 adventures.

``(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 probably change.''

(714) 445-6685 or

James Clarke

Age: 39

Residence: Costa Mesa and Hollywood Hills

Status: Single

Education: Bachelor of science degree in engineering from U.S. Military Academy at West Point; MBA from Harvard Business School.

Hobbies: When he's not sky-diving, hiking or climbing mountains, he enjoys going to the gym, movies, and dining out.

Copyright 2004 The Orange County Register
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