The Mountaineers Leadership Conference - 2016

Outdoor Leadership Course

The Mountaineers Leadership Conference

A day reserved for current and aspiring leaders to foster new ideas and skills. Esteemed outdoor community speakers and interactive sessions punctuate a program designed to enhance your leadership and personal growth. Please come and participate in this fun and exciting event spotlighting what The Mountaineers have been best at for over 100 years: Leadership Development.

On Saturday December 3rd at our Program Center in Seattle, The Mountaineers will hold a one-day conference on leadership skill development with engaging and dynamic speakers that will help you enhance your own leadership abilities within our programs (and the outdoor industry at large). Breakfast will be available during registration and check-in and our opening keynote will begin the program at 8:30 AM. 

Just like last year, there will be a light breakfast, lunch, and hors d'oeuvres with beer/wine at the end of the day! 

Leadership conference 2016

Keynote Speakers

Mike Gauthier - Chief of Staff, Yosemite National Park

Since 2010, Mike Gauthier has served as Chief of Staff for the Superintendent at Yosemite National Park. Prior this assignment, Gauthier spent 11 months in an acting assignment to the park from the Office of Legislative and Congressional Affairs in Washington, where he was a Bevinetto Fellow. As a Bevinetto Fellow, Gauthier worked for the assistant secretary for the fish, wildlife and parks and also for the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

Before going to Washington, Gauthier oversaw the climbing and search and rescue programs at Mount Rainier National Park. He began his NPS career in 1985 at Olympic National Park as a backcountry ranger on the coast and along the way has also worked at Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska.

An avid rock and mountain climber, published photographer and author of the Mountaineers Books title,  Mount Rainier: A Climbing Guide, Gauthier brings more than 25 years of commitment and passion, as well as relentless energy and resilience, to Yosemite and the National Park Service.

Mike is heralded by the volunteers in Mount Rainier as always being willing to help and his outreach to groups like The Mountaineers has endeared him to our community. We are proud to welcome him and listen to his stories, which will inspire and inform our volunteers in their leadership and adventures. 

KARA STONE – General Manager, REI Seattle Flagship Store

Kara Stone is the General Manager of REI’s Seattle’s Flagship location, where she leads the co-ops largest team to inspire, outfit and educate Seattle’s outdoor enthusiasts.  She is proud to serve this outdoor community, the place where REI’s heritage dates back to 1938 when a group of 21 members of The Mountaineers came together to form, what is now, the nation’s largest consumer Co-op.  She has been with REI for almost 20 years, working in 6 different locations across the country throughout her career.  Kara has a B.S. from Michigan State in Commercial Recreation and Tourism and has a background in youth recreation programming through her time both working and volunteering for the YMCA.  She has a great passion for both serving and connecting the outdoor community through both her work and her volunteer time as a board member for The Mountaineers, and through past board seats with the YMCA and Pronto Cycle Share.  She is the proud mom to an amazing four year old outdoor enthusiast, named Kaelyn, who loves to ride her bike on single-track trails, “puddle stomping” on rainy days, and going on off trail “expeditions” into the woods.  Lastly, Kara is the lucky wife to the most amazing dude she knows, Jeff, who is legitimately concerned that she may elope with her new Mountain Bike whom Kaelyn has named “Robby”.  

Breakout Sessions

Josh Cole - North Cascades Mountain Guides 
Steve Smith - Owner, Experiential Consulting, LLC

Risk Management Best Practices


Part B: Building a Culture of Risk Management: Learning from near-misses

Josh is an owner and guide at NCMG and has worked previously as the Washington Program Director for Northwest Outbound School. He is a guide for North Cascades Heli-Skiing, a lead instructor for the Wilderness Medicine Training Center, and has spent more than 17 years in outdoor education and guiding. Steve has worked in the outdoor industry for over 20 years, specializing in program quality, risk management, and staff training. He has served as the Chair of the Wilderness Risk Management Conference (WRMC) for 3 years and has been a standing member of the WRMC Steering Committee since 2011.
Josh and Steve have worked together over the past fifteen years as their roles changed at a variety of organizations, including the Northwest Outward Bound School, The Student Conservation Association, North Cascades Mountain Guides, and Experiential Consulting. They have presented together (and separately) at the Wilderness Risk Management Conference and other national conferences. Josh’s presentation (Part A) will introduce essential concepts and a case study which Steve’s presentation (Part B) will build upon. Note: Part A & B are designed to be grouped together as one talk but they can also be taken as separate sessions.


The nols leadership model and managing group challenges

Join John Abel for a presentation on how NOLS, a leader in the outdoor industry, conceives and implements its leadership curriculum. Rejecting phrases such as "born leader" or "natural leader," NOLS believes all individuals can expand and improve their leadership capacity in the outdoors and beyond.  John has been a NOLS instructor since 1991. He has a master’s in leadership and organizational development from the Leadership Institute of Seattle. Currently, John works for NOLS Custom Education, teaching leadership seminars for NOLS instructors, and facilitating various leadership training programs for its organizational clients. He will begin by reviewing the NOLS 4-7-1 leadership model, and then see what help it might offer for difficult situations leaders face in the outdoors. This seminar offers tools that will help you navigate these and other interactions more effectively. 

Brendan Madden - National Director of Operations, Outward Bound Canada

Blindspot: near miss trauma

As the National Director,  Brendan oversees a team of regional directors and managers across all of Canada. He is responsible for risk management, program quality, educational excellence, business management, and staff engagement and creates and maintains systems to effectively monitor and manage the school's operations. Brendan will discuss the often-overlooked part of incident-management: the emotional consequences that can arise from near misses. Many times, there is little response or debrief after disaster is avoided. People who could have been seriously hurt move on, thankful that no harm was suffered.  However, there are still practical and emotional consequences that can influence the level of future risk for a program. Proper debriefing and analysis can help retain leaders who may doubt their skills or abilities after such an incident, allow others to benefit from lessons learned, and improve the long-term well-being of everyone affected by the trauma of a near miss. 

Cliff Mass - Professor of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Washington

How you can be a good consumer of weather forecasting information

Cliff Mass is a widely-known expert on weather patterns with a large following on his popular blog and news appearances. Cliff and his students have systematically studied the weather of the western U.S., completing over seventy papers on West Coast phenomena. 

For a number of years he has been chief scientist of the Northwest Modeling Consortium, a group that facilitates state-of-the-art prediction over the U.S., and is active in improving the Weather, Research, and Forecasting (WRF) model.  Based on a strong interest in improving operational weather prediction, he has written a number of papers examining the strengths and weaknesses of the National Weather Service.

Cliff has been involved in a number of other initiatives, including the acquisition of coastal radar on the Washington coast, improving the infrastructure of the National Weather Service, the use of smartphone pressure observations for weather prediction, and the improvement of K-12 math education.  He is the author of the 2008 book “The Weather of the Pacific Northwest” and broadcasts a weekly weather information segment on KPLU, a local public radio station.   

Come listen to Cliff explain how you can improve your use of weather prediction tools to help plan and manage your outdoor adventures. 

Tom Unger, Mountaineers Kayak and Climb Leader

Positive Group Dynamics as a Foundation for Successful Trips

More than weather, location or other factors, group dynamics can make or break a trip. Tom Unger has been hiking, climbing, skiing, paddling and sailing throughout the west since 1992. From day trips to 3-week expeditions, Tom has taken a variety of companions into the wilderness. As a Mountaineers Leader, he is widely praised by students and participants for his communications, facilitation, instruction and collaborative leadership. Join Tom as he shares his comprehensive approach to fostering positive group dynamics as the foundation for a successful trip. This presentation is suitable for new leaders and for seasoned leaders interested in taking students on longer and more committed trips. 


Not all avalanche risks are created equally and there are strategies for making more informed decisions about any trip into avalanche terrain. What’s the difference between high and considerable avalanche ratings, and how do I choose the best (and safest) terrain for my day out in the backcountry? These, along with a host of others, are critical questions; yet, providing answers often leaves the average backcountry trip leader with further questions about what precautions and decisions should be made based on the information provided by an avalanche forecast. Keeping your avalanche skills up-to-date is the foundation for your safety and the safety of your group in this world of ever changing forecast products.

Scott Schell is the Executive Director of the Northwest Avalanche Center. He will present an overview of the current state of avalanche products in the Northwest and how to make the most out of your day leading others in the backcountry. He is a certified AMGA Ski Mountaineering Guide who has guided throughout the US, Alaska, Canada, and Europe. He is also a former AMGA ski discipline instructor. An avid ski mountaineer, Scott has been involved in avalanche and guiding education for over 18 years.  He is an Instructor and Instructor Trainer for AIARE. Scott is also the co-author of "Backcountry Skiing, Skills for Ski Touring and Ski Mountaineering." People who will benefit the most from this session will have had formal avalanche training or a few years of experience leading trips into the backcountry (or else some topics may touch on unfamiliar concepts).

 Leone Kraus – The Mountaineers

Women’s Experience in the Outdoors – an open discussion

Women’s experiences in the outdoors are inherently different from men’s – from physical and emotional safety to a need to for respect and confidence as women leaders to managing physical differences like menstrual cycles and lactation. Join Leone for an open discussion on the uniqueness of women’s experiences in the outdoors. We invite both men and women to participate in the discussion, and we’ll explore what we can do to improve women’s experiences in the outdoors.

Larry Colagiovanni – Chair, Seattle Mountain Rescue

Avoiding and Dealing with Accidents in the Backcountry

Larry Colagiovanni is the Chair of Seattle Mountain Rescue (SMR), a volunteer organization of seasoned alpinists dedicated to saving lives through search, rescue, and mountain safety education. He also helped teach the Washington Alpine Club's Basic Mountaineering, Intermediate Climbing, and Backcountry Ski Courses for several years.  Drawing on his 10 years of teaching and mountain rescue, Larry will talk about the most common accidents he's encountered, how many of them can be avoided, and how to effectively deal with them should you find yourself in that situation

Imran Rahman & Miles McDonough - mountaineers and mountain rescuers

22 Unintended Hours on Mt. Stuart: The Accident, Rescue and Lessons Learned

On 9/7/2011, Mountaineers member Miles Mcdonough took a 65' tumbling fall at the 9400' level of Mt. Stuart while on a personal alpine climb. It took nearly a day to effect his rescue and deliver him to definitive care. Join us for a presentation facilitated by both Miles and Imran Rahman (mountain rescue member involved in the rescue). We will consider the accident, the rescue and the decisions that were made with the goal of identifying distinct take-aways you can apply on your own backcountry trips.

Major Rob Marshall - US air force pilot

Innovation, leadership and the healing effects of nature

Major Rob Marshall, a US Air Force pilot and leader of the first US Military climb of Mt. Everest, will speak about the challenges of innovating in restrictive organizational environments, leading teams vs. individuals in high-risk endeavors, and on lessons learned directing teams climbing the "7 Summits". This presentation will also discuss in depth the healing effects of nature on military members and the efforts at hand to reduce PTSD, suicide and dependency through the creation of a national outdoor resiliency program for service members and their families. Beautiful and exciting photos, videos and stories from mountaineering trips across the world enhance this inspiring presentation.

Belinda Chin,Seattle Parks and Recreation; Victoria Santos, Young Women Empowered; Josh Gannis, The Mountaineers

An Outdoors for Everyone: Conversations on Inclusion

The incredible natural beauty and power of the Pacific Northwest should feel accessible to all, and we want our community to thrive as a healthy and inclusive home for people of all backgrounds. But right now there is imbalance and inequity. While many are drawn to outdoor recreation and adventure through finding a welcoming, supportive community, groups like The Mountaineers do not feel welcoming or accessible to everyone. There are cultural and historical realities for people of color, women and others that create barriers to entry, to participation and to connecting with the richness of our natural world. How can we go beyond a welcoming spirit to become an active part of cultural change? How can our community become broader, deeper and more inclusive?  In our white-dominant society, can we reflect on human diversity with the same large-hearted awareness that we bring to biodiversity?  Join Belinda Chin, Victoria Santos, and Josh Gannis for a conversational journey. In open respectful dialogue, we will explore issues of culture, diversity and inclusion. We will make space for diverse perspectives, and we invite your open mind, curiosity, the willingness to learn from others’ experiences and to share your own.  All are welcome.  


Keeping the Learning Process as Interesting as possible for the outdoor adventurer

Matty P (Matt Palubinskas) is a high school science educator and Mountaineers volunteer and climb leader.  He has been recognized as Volunteer of the Year and the Seattle Branch Climb Leader of the Year for his service within the Mountaineers community.  He is an avid mountaineer, skier, backpacker, hiker, and ice and rock climber who is active with Seattle Mountain Rescue, is a certified EMT and ski patroller at Snoqualmie Pass. He is  widely praised for the lectures he provides in our climbing courses. Matt will discuss how to (1) keep students engaged, (2) convey necessary factual information in a way they retain, and (3) excite them to engage in what is being taught! When students are engaged in meaningful activities, they retain and recall the information and skills more effectively, and ultimately are better prepared for the outdoors. 

Inclusion Panel– Glenn Nelson, Elyse Rylander, Julie Fonseca de Borges and Rebecca Bear

Larry Colagiovanni, Moderator

implicit Bias – Barriers to a Welcoming Outdoors

Glenn Nelson, a former Seattle Times reporter, founded The Trail Posse which, in partnership with High Country News, regularly covers race, diversity and inclusion in the outdoors. Elyse Rylander is founder and Executive Director of OUT There Adventures, an outdoor adventure program for queer youth. Julie Fonseca de Borges is the Chief of Interpretation for Seattle Area National Park Sites, which includes Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park and Bainbridge Island Japanese American Exclusion Memorial. Rebecca Bear, founder and former director of Outward Bound Mexico and founder of Girls Rock!, is the current Director of Education and local Community Development at REI. Larry Colagiovanni, Chair of Seattle Mountain Rescue, has been leading inclusion efforts at SMR and in his day job at ebay. Join Glenn, Elyse, Julie and Rebecca in a discussion about ways our outdoor communities can become exclusive despite our efforts at being welcoming. The panel will explore implicit bias as an unconscious barrier to inclusion and ways to acknowledge and overcome these biases with intention. 

Optional pre-work: An online Implicit Association Test provides a series of 10-minute activities designed to help participants identify intrinsic bias. There are multiple tests available, it’s free, and an interesting way to explore your own implicit bias. 

Youth Panel - Mountaineers Adventure Club

The emerging leader

The teenagers that participate in our youth programs have a wealth of insights and feedback on what styles of outdoor training and education work best for them. As instructors and leaders, take a minute to think what it is like to be a newcomer to the outdoor world and learning completely new skills in an environment with lots of risk. Our youth leaders will discuss what it was like as they transformed from high school students with an interest in the outdoors to young adults with reliable outdoor skills that have equipped them for the future in a variety of ways. They can explain the motivational and pedagogical strategies that worked best, as well as those that did not, and help you hone your own leadership and instructional skills. 

Conservation Panel – Joe Sambataro, Access Fund; Tom O’Keefe, American Whitewater; Yvonne Kraus, Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance; Josh Cole, North Cascades Mountain Guides

Moderator: Becca Polglase, Education Director

At the Intersection of Conservation and Access – Stewarding public lands to protect the outdoor experience.

The Mountaineers works closely with local, regional and national partners to protect wild places and ensure access. We believe that access is critical and responsible recreation will inspire future generations to protect these wild places. We also believe we have a responsibility to use our strength and skills to steward the land and our voices to advocate for protection of these places. Join partners from the Access Fund, North Cascades Mountain Guides, WTA and Evergreen Mountain Bike Association to learn about current key issues and how you as a Mountaineer can get involved. In this session, Joe Sambataro from the Access Fund will introduce an exciting new project at Washington Pass, Tom OKeefe from American Whitewater will discuss our collaborative efforts on Mountains to Sound Greenway, Josh Coal will share progress on the Methow Headwaters Campaign and Yvonne Kraus of Evergreen Mountain Bike Association will share an innovative approach to shared access.  After hearing an overview of each of these projects, we’ll have time for questions and answers.

Tom Vogl, CEO, and Becca polglase, education director, The Mountaineers

“Progressive Climbing Education”

Earlier in 2016, The Mountaineers Board of Directors voted to allocate funds to a project we’re calling Progressive Climbing Education. The goal is to dedicate resources to advance the goals and initiatives  of our passionate volunteers. Done well, these strategic investments will make our suite of volunteer-led Climbing Programs more fun for volunteers to run, easier to recruit volunteers for, more attractive to new climbers (especially those coming out of the gym), and more advanced for our highly-skilled volunteers and students. After six months of intensive conversations with both internal and external constituent groups, we’ve identified some key investments that can take our climbing programs to the next level. Join Tom and Becca to learn what the process has been and what the recommendations are for going forward.

This is a day of professional development and fun meant to inspire our Mountaineers volunteers! 

Course Requirements

This course has no scheduled activities.

Required Equipment

Bring your enthusiasm, desire to learn, and your experience to share and learn with other leaders from a variety of backgrounds. Lunch will be provided, along with light snacks and coffee for breakfast. In the evening there will be a social hour with food and drink as well.

Course Materials

You must register for this course to see course materials.