George Dunn becomes first to summit Mount Rainier 500 times
CRAIG HILL; Staff writer
Not even snow, strong winds and a nearby lightning strike could keep George Dunn out of the record books Saturday morning.
At 6:10 a.m., Dunn became the first person to reach the 14,411-foot summit of Mount Rainier 500 times.
“It was a little spicy,” said International Mountain Guides’ Tye Chapman, relaying a satellite phone message from the party about the conditions.
Chapman said the group nearly turned back several times but determined it could safely reach the summit.
Dunn’s climbing party included his longtime friend and fellow IMG director Phil Ershler. Ershler has the second-most Rainier summits, getting his 440th Saturday. Ershler, 59, says it’s unlikely he’ll ever match Dunn’s landmark.
Also reaching the summit with Dunn was his 16-year-old son, Jeremy, who was making his first climb. Dunn’s wife, Nancy; Ershler’s wife, Sue; and IMG director Eric Simonson and guide Jason Edwards also were in the group.
The summit was the 283rd for Simonson, who extended to 41 his record of consecutive years with at least one summit. Saturday was Edwards’ 315th summit, sixth-most of all time.
The group left Ingraham Flats, about 11,000 feet up the mountain, shortly after midnight.
Members had originally planned to summit Friday morning but changed their schedule to honor a commitment to ascend with a fundraising climb benefiting the Washington National Park Fund.
Dunn’s 500 summits covered 9,000 miles and 4.5 million vertical feet. The climbs typically lasted two or more days, but some were five-day climbs in winter conditions. Dunn has taken part in at least 100 other climbs in which participants turned around below the summit because of dangerous conditions.
“It’s an amazing accomplishment,” IMG director Paul Baugher said before the climb. An injury kept Baugher from joining the climb. “Every climb is long and hard. It’s willing yourself to keep going upward. You have people pulling on the back of the rope. You have days when the weather is horrible. But George loves it. He has a dedication. He keeps grinding it out and finds something positive on every trip.”
Dunn climbed Rainier for the first time in the late 1960s while attending Renton High School. He began serving as a guide for RMI in 1975.
Dunn also has guided climbs worldwide, including on Mount Everest – which, at 29,029 feet, is more than twice as tall as Rainier – in 1991.
Only three men have climbed Mount Rainier 400 times, and only eight have 300 summits.
Craig Hill: 253-597-8497