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Rainier Speed Record Broken Three Times

Mt. Rainier (14,411′), Cascades, Washington. Willie Benegas made a round-trip speed ascent of the peak on September 17, 2008 in under five hours–4:40:59–the fastest unofficial record to date. The Rainier speed record had been broken two times prior this summer. [Photo]

This season the car-to-car speed record for climbing Mt. Rainier (14,411′), the famous peak southeast of Seattle, Washington, was broken three times. The first new record was set this summer on July 6 by Justin Merle with a time of 4:49:35. Merle was bested by Liam O’Sullivan on August 5 with a time of 4:46:20, then by renowned guide Willie Benegas, who clocked in at 4:40:59 on September 17. The round-trip climb from Paradise parking lot usually takes a fit climber two days.

Benegas timed himself, leaving the parking lot at 5 a.m. and reaching the summit by 8:20 that morning. It took him about 80 minutes to descend.

Benegas has summited Everest eight times and held the speed record on Aconcagua. The News Tribune reported him saying, “I didn’t even know about the record when I went up [to Rainier]… It seems like everybody else is more excited about it than I am… I think somebody could reach the summit in three hours, easy. I think somebody can do [the round-trip climb] in four hours.” He added that he may try to break the record again next season.

Willie Benegas and his brother, Damian, were interviewed by Doug Scott in an Alpinist 5 feature (“Nuptse!”) for their alpine-style climb, The Crystal Snake (5.9 M4 WI5, ca. 1500m), on the north face of Nuptse (7861m) in 2003.

Sources:, Hans Florine