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Brent Okita of Enumclaw becomes only the 3rd to summit Mt. Rainier 400 times

Brent Okita tries to sign his name in the log at the top of Mount Rainier every time he makes the climb, but with 400 summits, he said crossing the crater isn’t always possible.

Thursday, the 49-year-old Enumclaw man became the third person to summit the volcanic peak 400 times.

For Okita, a professional climbing guide for Ashford-based, mountain-guide service Rainier Mountaineering Inc., the milestone was just another day at the office.

He was doing his job, which he thoroughly enjoys, leading a group of individuals, mostly from out of state, on their first climb up the 14,411-foot peak.

“I’m not necessarily climbing for myself,” he said. “I’m climbing for other people. I’m helping people explore their boundaries and expand their horizons.”

It’s a career, the University of Vermont graduate said, he fell into by coincidence and natural interest.

A passion for skiing and the outdoors helped lead him to Washington state, and eventually the doorstep of RMI, which was founded by legendary climber Lou Whittaker. When he’s not leading ascents from early-May through September, he can be found on the slopes at Crystal Mountain where he’s Ski Patrol assistant director.

Okita said, part of the joy of climbing is “opening people’s minds to the fact that they can do it. It’s not just for super heroes.”

Okita doesn’t consider himself in that category.

“I have a couple of friends who have a few more summits than I do,” Okita said, noting friend George Dunn, who has recorded 497 summits for Mount Rainier.

Okita, who has been with RMI since 1986, reached the milestone in record time and is on pace to surpass his friend. According to the RMI Web site, Okita also has an uninterrupted string of 20 summits for Alaska’s Denali, Mount McKinley, North America’s highest point at 20,320 feet. He has also been to the top of Mount Everest and to the summit of Mount Vinson, Antarctica’s highest point. He also guides, or has been part of expeditions, in the Mexican volcanoes, French, Swiss and Italian alps and the Washington Cascade Mountains.

He’ll have a few more chances to extend his record.

During the heat of the season, Okita will be up and down the mountain two or three times a week. He said it’s never boring.

“The mountain always changes. The weather is always changing. The glacier is always changing. My job is to provide a good experience and get my people up and down safely.”

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