Northwest Military Blogs: McChord Flightline Chatter

August 11, 2016 at 11:12am

McChord members summit Mount Rainier

Members of the U.S. Air Force 50 Summits Challenge pose for a photo July 23 at the summit of Mount Rainier. Eight climbers from Joint Base Lewis-McChord summited the mountain to complete the summit challenge for Washington. Courtesy photo

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Two climbing friends took on the impossible recently and summited Mt. Rainier as part of the U.S. Air Force 50 Summits Challenge. Air Force retired Chief Master Terry Oshiem and Master Sgt. Kim Brewer summited the mountain July 23, with a team of eight other servicemembers and veterans from Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

Standing at 14,411 feet tall, Mt. Rainier is the tallest mountain in Washington state and one of the 50 summits that was yet to be summited under the 50 Summits Challenge, until now.

"We seek to have airmen coordinate groups to hike the highest area for any state they are stationed in," said Maj. Rob Marshall, 97th Airlift Squadron pilot and 50 Summits Challenge coordinator. "My vision is to proactively help airmen and veterans become stronger mentally, socially, physically and spiritually before bad things happen. Through mountaineering, they have something to fall back on and a community to go to."

The team arrived at Mt. Rainier on July 22 and hiked 4,900 feet in elevation to Camp Muir where they setup base camp.     

"Part of the 50 Summits Challenge is the resiliency aspect behind it," said Brewer. "A lot of people are benefiting from this. People are getting outdoors and reaching their goals."

After only a few hours of sleep, the team left base camp and began their journey to the summit in the dark of night. Split into two teams, team members climbed the mountain roped together.  

"You just get up, it's still dark out, you're climbing, and you just try to focus where your feet are at," said Oshiem. "We had to move in sync. I couldn't let too much slack build up in the rope and couldn't let the rope get too tight."

Climbing for more than eight hours to reach the summit, the team had to cross two crevices more than 10 feet across.

"I think this is important to give back to fellow airmen," said Brewer. "In twenty years in the service, airmen helped me achieve my goals, and I want to help airmen and veterans to achieve theirs."

The team reached the top close to 9 a.m., July 23. With clear skies and the sun shining, they took in the view and enjoyed the moment.

"It took a minute, but once we made it to the summit, it sunk in," said Oshiem. "Summiting Rainier has been on my bucket list for years. Having the opportunity to summit Mount Rainier with a team of veterans like we did was a proud moment."

Longtime friends with Brewer, Oshiem credits much of his success mountaineering to training with Brewer. Together, they have summited Mt. Hood, Mt. Adams and Mt. Saint Helens.

"Brewer asked me if I wanted in, and I said ‘I want in, but I don't know if I'm ready,'" said Oshiem. "I didn't want to be that guy on the rope team to have to turn around because I couldn't make the climb. I'm more comfortable climbing with someone who knows what they are doing."

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