Under clear, sedate skies, mountaineering guide Brent Okita ushered a party of five to the top of Mount Rainier on Thursday morning.
It was their first time reaching the summit. It was his 400th.
The 49-year-old from Enumclaw hit the peak about 6:30 a.m., becoming the third climber to summit Mount Rainier 400 times.
“I had a great group of climbers with me, great weather … all my dreams have come true,” said Okita, who has been a guide for Rainier Mountaineering Inc. since 1986. At first, he viewed the milestone as “just another number,” but the enthusiasm of co-workers, friends and strangers rubbed off on him.
His party left Camp Muir at 1:30 a.m.
Okita has been on 20 expeditions to Mount McKinley, Alaska, as well as climbs on Mount Vinson, Antarctica, Mount Everest, the Cascades and the French, Swiss and Italian Alps.
Reaching the 400 mark is a feat of endurance, said RMI guide Peter Whittaker, who has known Okita for more than 25 years and described him as a quiet, solid leader. “There’s a joke that in mountain-climbing: It’s important to have the ability to put up with low-level suffering for long periods of time,” he said. On Rainier, “each climb is 9,000 vertical feet up and 9,000 vertical feet down.”
In the winter, Okita is the assistant ski patrol director at Crystal Mountain, where he met his wife, Julie.
Joyce Chen: 253-597-8426 firstname.lastname@example.org