10 Essential Questions: Sierra Kaplan-Nelson

Meet Sierra Kaplan-Nelson, a recent Basic Alpine Climbing Course graduate who is a multi-generational Mountaineer and a big fan of spicy enchiladas.
The Mountaineers The Mountaineers
January 07, 2022
10 Essential Questions: Sierra Kaplan-Nelson

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

Name: Sierra Kaplan-Nelson
Hometown: Seattle
Member Since: November 2019
Occupation: Software engineer for a political nonprofit
Favorite Activities: Mountaineering, backcountry skiing, and backpacking


How did you get involved with The Mountaineers?

My parents were members and graduates of Basic Alpine Climbing. I remember staying in the Baker Lodge as a little kid. When I moved back to Seattle in 2019 I wanted to learn more climbing skills and get involved with the outdoor community so I applied for the Basic Alpine Climbing course and it was the best decision!

What motivates you to get outside with us?

Most of my happiest memories are backpacking with my family or friends, eating wild blueberries, or skinny dipping in mountain lakes. When I was 16, I convinced my dad to take me up Mt. Tahoma and I was stunned by the awe-inspiring beauty of glaciers and the incredible feeling of being that high up. Climbing mountains is very empowering for me and always reminds me that I can do things that feel uncomfortable or hard or look insurmountable at first. I love being part a community that feels the same way, and also values teaching each other new skills and building confidence outside.

What's your favorite Mountaineers memory?

The first alpine rock climb I went on was Kangaroo Temple with my SIG in 2021 (led by Garrett Arnold and Skye Stoury). Because of COVID-19, all of our activities had been delayed a year, so I'd been looking forward to being on a multipitch climb for 2 years. It was a beautiful day fall day and our leaders made it feel very safe. It was so exciting to reach the top of something I couldn't have climbed before the class. I definitely wanted to learn to lead climbs after that experience.

Who/what inspires you?

I'm inspired by the indigenous women hikers who recently hiked the Nüümü Poyo and work to rebuild the relationship between the land and its original people. I grew up believing there was a divide between "wilderness" and land where people lived and unlearning this has been really impactful. I want to work to preserve or rebuild biodiversity in more areas than just the protected forests and mountains, even in cities like Seattle.

As a donor and volunteer-supported organization, The Mountaineers is based on community support. How have you paid it forward, or how have you benefited from someone else paying it forward?

I'm excited to pay it forward this year by volunteering with the Basic Alpine Climbing Course since I got so much out of it the last couple of years. Climbing has a lot of upfront costs and can be pretty inaccessible. I love that The Mountaineers works on changing that through volunteer lead courses and scholarships (and the growing Gear Library). I hope to continue contributing to a world where anyone who wants to learn can learn.

What does adventure mean to you?

Adventure means an experience that pushes me out of my comfort zone where I have to rely on my own strengths and the people around me, and where I get to see the world in a new way. Usually it means having Type 2 fun and things that don't go according to plan, but also moments of pure joy and connection. 


Sunrise or sunset? Sunrise
Smile or game face? Smile
What's your 11th Essential? A book (or really one of my favorite people)
What’s your happy place? A lake surrounded by wildflowers and pointy peaks
Post-adventure meal of choice? Spicy enchiladas
If you could be a rockstar at any outdoor activity overnight, what would it be? Something that involves rock climbing up and skiing down would make me feel like I'd achieved stardom.