10 Essential Questions: Helicopter Crew Engineer Bobby Geiger

Meet Bobby Geiger, a 67Y20 Helicopter Crew Chief and 21-year member and climb leader who maintained Cobra Gunships in Vietnam. He dedicated his life to serving and connecting others as a third generation Mail Carrier. Today he's a staple of our Stevens Pass Lodge and is full of stories, big and small.
The Mountaineers The Mountaineers
November 11, 2017
10 Essential Questions: Helicopter Crew Engineer Bobby Geiger
Photo courtesy of Bobby.

Each week we bring you a personal story from one of our members. For our special Veteran's Day member profile this week we talked to Helicopter Crew Chief Bobby Geiger....

Name: Bobby Geiger
Hometown: Third-generation Seattle local
Member Since: June 1996
Occupation: Retired Letter Carrier, 67Y20 Helicopter Crew Chief for the Vietnam Conflict
Favorite Activities: Skiing, skiing, skiing, skiing, and skiing. I was a climb leader in a past life. 

10 Essentials: Questions

How did you get involved with The Mountaineers?

I enlisted in the army in 1966, but was rejected for being "too small." I was drafted over Christmas in 1968 and spent two years serving on the helicopter maintenance crew for Hueys and Cobra Gunships. I was trained for Huey repair, but my MOS was changed when I got to Vietnam and was sent to the 1st Cav A Btry 2/20th Arty ARA. We had 12 gunships and one was mine. I was on an artillery outfit, which meant we would fly in aerial rocket artillery when necessary. When I got out, I joined my brother in Michigan for his wedding, then made my way back west to continue exploring in my home town.

I first started scrambling with a friend Harold (Hal) McKeever who I knew from my time in the service. I went out on a couple of scrambles with him wearing jungle boots, which are not well suited for this terrain, but we had a number of fun adventures together, including a memorable scramble together on Mt. Challenger via Beaver Pass. On the very last day of a 7-day trip, we saw a crack in the ridgeline that led us to the glacier. It was on Harold's bucket list, and we decided we had to explore. All we had was an old hemp rope and I was wearing a Jansport pack with an external frame. We made it in, and out, safely. With all the changes in gear now, the average person can go farther now and get into trouble a whole lot quicker than you used to be able to.

I finally joined after chatting with John Ramuta at a shoe shop. I delivered parcels to him almost every day, and we'd always spend a few minutes talking about skiing and hiking. John was doing a lot of resoling of climbing shoes at the time and he encouraged me to join. 

What motivates you to get outside with us?

There’s nothing like the high country. Being above 4,000ft, in meadows or on the snowfield, is the driving force. The solitude is always the best part. 

I mostly get outside these days through skiing at Steven's Pass, where I'm a PSIA Level 3 Ski Instructor for Lyon Ski School. I spend my weekends helping out at The Mountaineers Lodge and love the opportunity to catch up with old friends even though we don't go climbing together anymore.

What's your favorite Mountaineers memory?

I have way too many stories.... The ten best years of my life were when I was climbing with The Mountaineers on a regular basis! I retired as a mail carrier and started focusing more on fixing up my house and taking my ski certification further. I've been a Level 3 certified instructor since 1984. That’s my claim to good health. 

Thinking back on some good memories, I almost had my Intermediate course done in one year, but the alpine ice climb needed to graduate is infamously hard-to-get. The next year I made it to Chiwawa on the Lyman Glacier with Jeff Bowman, where we both completed our graduation climb. I turned 50 in the same year! Jeff and I became fast friends, with Jeff teaching me how to climb and me teaching him how to ski. I remember one trip to the North Ridge of Mt. Baker with Jeff. With three parties ahead of us, we took an unconventional and steeper route that got us ahead. On our return to camp, one of our team stated, “That was a lot of walking for one pitch of ice!”

I had another pretty memorable climb on Mt. Baker, this time on the Boulder Glacier. We summited, but got caught in a white out on the way down. The poor visibility caused us to miss our wand and hike down too far. We eventually realized our mistake, and "lucky" for us one member in our party had cut himself on a crampon, so we just followed the blood trail back up looking for our wand. We still didn't find our wand and hiked up past it, then started down a different direction. Again, we were on the wrong glacier. 

Someone slipped and went down this ice chute, but we were able to get him back with the rope. I started leading for a while at the direction of the climb leader and suddenly stopped due to a sinking feeling in my stomach. I waited for a moment, and then the fog briefly cleared. I could see that I was standing right on the ledge where the crevasses peeled off - one more step and I would have taken a big fall.

The fog cleared long enough for us to jump over and run across the glacier to get back to where we needed to be. We struggled on to find our tent in the dark and the rain that decided to start pouring on us, but we finally got out at 2am, more or less in one piece.

Truth be told it was fun. We had everything we needed and we were safe. Everyone knew exactly what to do and we did it, even though it wasn't pretty. An adventure like that is just crazy good fun.

Who/What inspires you?

Fred Beckey, may he rest in peace. His longevity, his passion for what he was doing, and his drive to share it with younger people are all truly inspiring. He inspires me to keep up with younger people and to make younger friends to keep me healthy and young. His legacy reminds me to always keep that passion for what I’m doing.

What does adventure mean to you?

At this point in my life adventure to me often means solitude. It also means skiing slopes that not many people ski: steep and deep.

Lightning Round
Sunrise or sunset? Sunset.
Smile or game face? Smiling with tears. I believe tears of deep, inner joy are an expression of your heart overflowing. When you realize what is going on around you and listen, it can just happen. For me it's such an overwhelming sense of fulfillment. There's nothing better. 
What's your 11th Essential? A pen and my journal. When I'm out there and get inspired, I like to write it down and capture the magic in the moment.
Post-adventure meal of choice? Pizza!
If you could be a rockstar at any outdoor activity overnight, what would it be? Snowboarding. They told me it was going to be easy. It wasn't. I gave up. 

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