500 Mt. Rainier Summits!
IMG Partner George Dunn has become the first person to summit Mt. Rainier 500 times. Please join us in celebrating this legendary mountaineer and his Rainier milestone.
Eric Simonson on George Dunn
I met George summer of 1975 when he started guiding at Mt. Rainier, and we soon became friends as well as climbing and guiding partners, along with Phil Ershler. Phil had started guiding in 1971 and I in 1973, and we were all local boys who had begun climbing in the Cascades as teenagers (George grew up in Renton, Phil in Bellevue, and I in Tacoma).
Phil and I had a head-start on George with Rainier climbing, and we beat him to the Century Club (100 climbs) but George kept on it, proving to be an amazingly persistent and resilient guide. I remember one summer when he made 40 Rainier attempts, and summited on 30 of them. That is a lot of climbs!
Somewhere along the line George passed me with Rainier summits. Phil hung in there and beat George to 300 climbs but by the time George got to 400, he was solidly in the lead. I think that George would be the first to say that getting numbers was never the goal for him; it was just the result of the fact that he loved climbing Mt. Rainier!
George and I did quite a lot of hard climbing together back in the day, and I fondly remember some of our best northwest climbs back in the 70's and 80's. During that time George started pioneering guided trips into Wrangell St. Elias NP in Alaska, and he has now probably done more trips up there than all but a handful of people.
For many years we shared an obsession with Mt. Everest, and I still get a chuckle when thinking back to how it took George four trips (it took Phil and me three tries) before we finally got the monkey off our back and made the top of Everest together May 15, 1991. Good thing we finally made it, because we were going to just keep going back until we summited, simple as that! That was back when we still wore wool knickers and nobody had ever heard of a sat phone or the internet.
After our '87 Everest trip, George married Nancy and started a family (Jimmy is in college now and Jeremy is in high school). I give George enormous credit for keeping in balance the responsibilities of a family, a job, and a couple business partners (who can be crabby at times) while at the same time staying true to his dream of being a successful mountain guide. There have been plenty of bumps along the way for George, but he has always kept his chin up and not lost heart, even when things got tough. It has been a privilege to live the dream with such an excellent friend.
Eric Simonson, IMG Partner
Phil Ershler on George Dunn
OK, so George cleaned my clock in the race to 500 Rainier summits. I won't mention how our summit numbers compare on Denali. Numbers do put into tangible terms someone's longevity and commitment to an activity. That's all fine and dandy from a quantitative perspective, but they don't begin to tell the story from the qualitative side. Now, obviously, George is my friend and my partner so I am a bit prejudiced. But let's think in terms of some other numbers. Figure an average of 20 climbers were with George on each of those Rainier summits. I reckon that's about 10,000 climbers George has helped reached the top of Mt. Rainier. The true measure of a guide isn't in the number of summits but in the number of lives impacted. Ask any of those 10,000 climbers about George and his impact on their climb and life you might find two who thought he was a pain. That leaves 9,998 who would likely tell you they enjoyed every minute of their time with Geo as their guide, and who wouldn't have traded that experience for the world.
Unflappable is the way most people describe George. I spent enough nights in a tent with George during our 1984 China-Everest Expedition, and again while on our 1989 Kangchenjunga Expedition, to know it's true. Heck, we even managed to survive a bivouac at 26,000 feet on the north face of Everest together. He and I joked that I'd spent more nights with him at that point in life than had his wife, Nancy. I do a bit of corporate speaking these days, and my mantra to audiences is to 'choose your partners wisely.' It's good to practice what you preach. I made a super choice in a climbing partner, business partner and friend. Congratulations, George, on almost 500 successful ascents of Mt. Rainier.
Phil Ershler, IMG Partner
Paul Baugher on George Dunn
If ever there were a person perfectly matched to their career choice, it would be George. When he took on the role of Chief Guide and Manager of IMG's Rainier Division, he had reached a milestone in a great career. He's reached another one with his 500th ascent. That 500th climb may be the current focus, but there is much more to the story.
Over the years I have been impressed with George's durability. He is like the original "energizer bunny" when it comes to climbing the mountain. One of the things that people don't realize is that for all the successful summits there were many other attempts that ended just short. In many instances those climbs, whether turned by route conditions or bad weather, were far more difficult than the beautiful summit days we all tend to remember.
Not all great climbers make great guides. One skill that great climbing guides have is the ability to put the success of their clients ahead of their own. George has done this as well as any guide I have seen. It is true he has shared the mountains with literally thousands of climbers. It is also true that the mountain has a way of bringing out the many different sides of people. What is really remarkable is that George has always been able to find something positive in each of those individuals to focus on.
He not only looks out for our clients, but he looks out for our guides as well. There is no better role-model for the younger guides then George. Most of them would do anything to avoid disappointing him. It is no small challenge to have a career as a climbing guide. The aspiring guides can look not only at George's dedication and perseverance in climbing, but also at his balance of family (Nancy, Jimmy and Jeremy always came first!) and his ability to develop a thriving business.
I have been lucky to share days on Rainier with George as a climbing ranger and a guide. I am also very fortunate to have him as a partner and a friend. We are all very proud to have been able to watch George succeed so brilliantly.
Paul Baugher, IMG Partner