Local Mount Rainier climbing guide shares advice for staying safe on the mountain

EATONVILLE, Wash. — There aren’t many people who can say they’ve summited Mount Everest, and even fewer who can say they’ve done it multiple times. Josh McDowell, a native of Western Washington is one of the few. He recently summited Everest for the third time.

“It was definitely a dream come true to be able to go back and get safely up the mountain, get down, I had a great team of climbing sherpa and co-guides that I was working with that made it pretty, not easy but relatively compared to previous trips,” he said.

McDowell is a guide for Climbing the Seven Summits and led his most recent climb in May. He said it was somewhat of a redemption, because in 2017, he almost lost his life. He said a client became unconscious and unresponsive at about 26,000 feet and he had to perform a rescue. He said they ended up running out of oxygen and he also had to be rescued.

“Ended up being out for 36 hours, and ended up having to be rescued myself so after that trip I came home and I essentially gave up guiding, worked at a climbing gym for a few years then got into the fire service in 2020,” he said. McDowell is a firefighter for the Lakewood Fire Department as well.

“This was just a chance to go back and see if I still had it in me to do it and face kind of the fears that were associated with going back so it was a fantastic opportunity to work for a company I’ve worked for, for years now,” he said. For each of his summits of Everest, he always brings a small piece of the Pacific Northwest with him.

“In 2016 I took a 12th man flag up and in 2017 I took a Richard Sherman jersey and then he very quickly after that left the team and then this last year I took a Mariners flag to the top,” he said.

McDowell is also guiding this year on Mount Rainier and shared his expert advice on how people, no matter what they’re doing can stay safe on the mountain.

“I’ve seen a lot of people in flip flops, jeans, a sixteen-ounce little gas station water bottle no backpack,” he said. “So yeah, making sure you have enough food and water for however long you’re planning to be out and extra set of layers of clothing, rain gear.”

He also said people should have trekking poles, a headlamp and make sure their cell phones are charged if they need to call for help. He also recommends having a basic first-aid kit.

“Something with some Band-Aids, some gauze to stop major bleeding and mole skin,” he said. He also said it’s vital that people know how to navigate.

“Even on the Muir Snow Field, the fall line doesn’t go straight down to Paradise, it actually goes down to the Nisqually Glacier, so if you were in a white out and just went straight downhill, you’re going to walk onto the glacier as opposed to Paradise where you want to end up so it’s really important to be able to navigate in bad weather.”

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