10 Essential Questions: Michael Toyama

Meet Michael Toyama, a 2-year member who enjoys tray surfing and moments of fear that change your life.
The Mountaineers The Mountaineers
March 10, 2017
10 Essential Questions: Michael Toyama
Photo by Noam Keider.

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

Name: Michael Toyama
Hometown: Aiea, Hawaii
Member Since: October 2015
Occupation: Test Engineer
Favorite Activities: Tray surfing, climbing, mountaineering, scenic sundays, and glissading

10 Essentials: Questions

How did you get involved with The Mountaineers?

Ever find yourself saying, "I've always wanted to," over and over again and never doing it? For years, as I went on day hikes around the Pacific Northwest, I would look around at these beautiful, terrifying, more technical mountains and say "I've always wanted to learn how to get the tops of those!" In 2015, I decided to stop dragging my feet and made a commitment to learn how to climb. With no climbing experience (I had never even scaled a climbing wall), I joined The Mountaineers and enrolled in the 2016 Basic Alpine Climbing Course.

What motivates you to get outside with us?

When I first joined, the motivations were mostly about personal goals. I wanted to push out of my comfort zone through climbing and The Mountaineers provided the framework for me to learn to do that. Over time, as I went on a bunch of official outings, I began to grasp the special sauce of The Mountaineers: its unparalleled community of folks who love the outdoors and have utmost respect for the beautiful, wild places surrounding us. "These are my people," I would think to myself.

I never lost my initial motivation of learning how to pull down some rock, but the prospect of getting outside every weekend with a new set of "my people" certainly helped get out of bed at 4am to drive out to a Park and Ride.

What's your favorite Mountaineers memory?

In an odd way, I reflect fondly on the some of the negative-at-the-time early experiences in the climbing class, because it helps me realize how far I've come. During one of the first field trips at the Seattle Program Center, I had to climb up one of the outdoor walls, set up a rappel (while being watched by an instructor), and rappel off the wall (after being checked by an 

instructor). I had never climbed anything so high before, never rappelled off of anything so high before, and was still really afraid of heights. It took forever for me to climb the wall. The ledge was horrifyingly tiny and made me very uncomfortable. I didn't PA in tight enough to be able to lean against the anchor so I felt like I was going to fly off the ledge. As I fumbled about, making anxious comments about my discomfort, the instructor up on the ledge watched silently with the slightest of smiles on his face. No words of encouragement. Here I was, at one of my weakest moments, and I got nothing from him. It was perfect.
Besides being hilarious in retrospect, this moment is one of many in which I stepped a little bit further out of my comfort zone under the watch of someone in The Mountaineers community. If I had only known, at that moment of fear where I was questioning why I was even in the class, how far the climbing course would take me in the outdoors and even in life.

Who/What inspires you?

People who commit their lives to doing good in the world.

What does adventure mean to you?

Getting out there, leaving your comfort zone, and experiencing the unknown.

Lightning Round
Sunrise or sunset? Smile.
Smile or game face? Sunrise.
What's your happy place? The climbing gym.
Post-adventure meal of choice? Teddy's Bigger Burgers.
If you could be a rock star at any outdoor activity overnight, what would it be?  Climbing photography.

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