10 Essential Questions: Twyla Sampaco

Meet Twyla Sampaco, an instructor for rock courses who is focused on centering QTBIPOC outdoor perspectives and adventures.
The Mountaineers The Mountaineers
September 10, 2021
10 Essential Questions: Twyla Sampaco

Get to know this week's member spotlight!

Name Twyla Sampaco
Hometown The Greater Seattle area. Ok fine, Bellevue
Member Since September 2015
Occupation Artist Adventuress! I write and do analog film photography.
Favorite Activities Backpacking and moderate trad

10 essential questions:

How did you get involved with The Mountaineers?

I took the navigation course in preparation for a long, off-trail scrambling trip. It was like drinking from a firehose, the field trip was a rainy sufferfest, and the other students were loving it. Obviously, I was hooked. I signed up for the Basic Alpine Climbing Course and have suffered outside with you sickos ever since.

What motivates you to get outside with us?

Mountains, please. I'm bipolar, so I never know when my joy and contentment will be pulled out from under me by a depressive episode. Going outdoors and taking photos helps by keeping me active and full of endorphins, and by providing undeniably gorgeous things to take photos of. Even depressed Twyla can't argue with photographic evidence of delicious splitters and good company at Indian Creek.

I also like that for the most part, I can trust the people I meet through The Mountaineers to have a basic technical understanding of safety and systems.

What's your favorite Mountaineers memory?

Climbing the DC route on Rainier. At the time, Rainier felt like an easy, though time-intensive, conga line compared to some of the wilder adventures that year that required more navigation. Now that I don't really do glaciers anymore, I can recognize the achievement of climbing so hard that season that Rainier felt like a walk in the park.

Who/what inspires you?

I focus on building a more inclusive outdoor environment for QTBIPOC [Queer, Trans, Black, Indigenous, and People of Color] and WOC [Women of Color]. I also like to reassure new mountaineers that you don't have to be sending the gnar to be a valid climber. Climbing culture was built on colonialist and patriarchal attitudes of "conquering" and "claiming." It feels like resistance to exist happily and unapologetically as a little, queer, brown, Asian lady who wants to climb moderate trad. I'm not trying to tame or conquer a thing, because none of this belongs to me — we’re recreating on stolen land. I'm not unique in this perspective, but when I was new to climbing, I found the dominant culture pretty stressful and antithetical to who I am.

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've volunteered as an instructor for rock courses, and coordinated Beta & Brews. From those experiences, I've decided to spend this winter developing a new event series focused on centering QTBIPOC outdoor perspectives and adventures.

What does adventure mean to you?

Going into the world and enriching my experience and my art with an element of chaos. Sometimes that means fighting my depression and doing Tiger Mountain. Other times, that means the Sierra High Route.


Sunrise or sunset? Sunset
Smile or game face? Smile
What's your 11th Essential? My Minolta XD, Xena.
What’s your happy place? Sleeping in the back of my Subaru! Clearly something iconic is happening in the morning!
Post-adventure meal of choice? Of choice, Laphroiag. In practicality, eating too much at München Haus and asking if anyone wants to go across the street for gelato.
If you could be a rockstar at any outdoor activity overnight, what would it be? Aid and big wall climbing. It sounds time consuming and expensive, so if I could get it out of the way in one night, I'd like that.

This article originally appeared in our Fall 2021 issue of Mountaineer Magazine. To view the original article in magazine form and read more stories from our publication, visit our magazine archive.

Lead image of Twyla Sampaco. 

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