10 Essential Questions: Bam Mendiola

Meet Bam Mendiola, a 4-year member and new volunteer. What motivates Bam to get outside with us? "When queer people of color—minorities—see me outdoors, I want them to know they’re not alone. When they see me climbing, I want them to see themselves as climbers too."
The Mountaineers The Mountaineers
February 01, 2018
10 Essential Questions: Bam Mendiola
Photo courtesy of Bam.

Each week we bring you a personal story from one of our members. For our member profile this week we talked to....

Name: Bam Mendiola
Hometown: "The Palm Springs of Washington" (Yakima)
Member Since:  October 2013
Occupation: Social Worker
Favorite Activities: I’m enjoying learning and calling mountains that I hike and climb by their Native names and recognizing my responsibility as a settler on occupied land. I’m also beginning to discover that my body is not separate from the outdoors—that my body IS nature.

10 Essentials: Questions

How did you get involved with The Mountaineers?

I erroneously found myself on the Pacific Crest Trail one night the summer that I discovered hiking.  It wasn’t until I met a thru-hiker wearing a storied beard that my fears were confirmed: I had unknowingly walked past the Kendall Katwalk and was many miles away from the trailhead. I ran back the other way but the sunset eventually caught up to me. When I couldn’t see the trail beneath my feet, I was met with the tangible possibility of spending the night on the trail without extra food, water, or a bivy. That night I learned the value of the Ten Essentials and decided to join The Mountaineers. 

What motivates you to get outside with us?

I want underrepresented communities to see their faces reflected in nature. When queer people of color—minorities—see me outdoors, I want them to know they’re not alone.  When they see me climbing, I want them to see themselves as climbers too.

What's your favorite Mountaineers memory?

On July 23, 2017, I realized one of my wildest dreams and stood 14,411ft in the air on a monolith of rock and ice. Howling winds swept away my tears and delivered them back to the mountain in the form of snow. On this day I stood on the summit of Tahoma (known by settlers as Mt. Rainier). I went on to climb all 5 major volcanoes in Washington last year with either The Mountaineers or friends that I met in the club.

Who/What inspires you?

I am inspired by plants and animals that serve as shields in their communities. Devil’s club, for example, is a plant that grows in old growth forests in the Pacific Northwest. They grow sharp yellow spines that serve to protect them from danger. The Northwest is also home to many birds that have unique alarm systems that alert the forest of predators (especially humans). As a benefactor of many unearned privileges (cis-male privilege for example) I find myself advocating for and standing in solidarity with the most vulnerable members of our community. By centering this ecological niche, I see myself reflected in the spines of the devil’s club and the alarm system of many birds. These plants, animals, and I each serve a similar purpose in our habitats and I find that transcendence of our differences inspiring. 

What does adventure mean to you?

Adventure is the risk we take to discover how small we are. I have been conditioned by systems and society to feel larger than life. When I hike under giant trees, stand on the summit of a mountain, or fall asleep under a blanket of stars I understand that I am small. Realizing that I am a part of something larger than myself has been the greatest adventure. 

Lightning Round
Sunrise or sunset? Yes, please! 
Smile or game face? Can I pick side-eye?
What's your 11th essential? The pop song stuck in my head.
Post-adventure meal of choice?  Veggie burger, fries, and a cinnamon roll from the Stehekin Pastry Company. Oh, and can we stop at the Sultan Bakery if they’re still open?
If you could be a rockstar at any outdoor activity overnight, what would it be? I hope to become a rockstar (or pop-star, rather) at trad climbing. I’m currently an Intermediate Alpine Climbing student and won’t become proficient overnight, but I’m actively working on my goal. Shout-out to all the volunteers at The Mountaineers who have helped me get this far!

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