Adventure with Purpose: a Recap of our 2023 Gala

Mountaineers gathered in person and virtually for our biggest Gala yet on April 1. No joke: we raised more than $600,000 in support of mission-driven programming and publishing. Read on to relive the evening and celebrate everyone who made it a night to remember.
The Mountaineers The Mountaineers
April 04, 2023
Adventure with Purpose: a Recap of our 2023 Gala

The Mountaineers adventure with purpose. We seek out places bigger than ourselves to uncover joy and be transformed by nature. We advocate on behalf of our lands and waters. We teach responsible recreation and break down barriers to belonging in the outdoors. And we flourish thanks to a culture of giving back. Those who volunteer empower others to confidently explore the Pacific Northwest and beyond. And those who donate help us go father. Donors provide resources to reach more people and preserve the outdoor experience for generations to come. Each act of giving strengthens our bonds with each other and with the natural world.

Each year, our outdoor community gathers at our annual fundraising Gala, Adventure with Purpose, to make a difference for people and place through the mission and vision of The Mountaineers. The funds raised in this single night represent more than a third of our charitable revenue for the year. Unrestricted funds raised through this signature event fuel mission and values driven initiatives across all branches and activities. Your support is vital for some of our most impactful programs such as youth outreach, scholarships, volunteer leadership development, non-profit publishing, conservation advocacy efforts, and more. We are excited to announce that at this year’s Gala, we raised more than $600,000 elevating the way we LEAD innovation in outdoor education, ENGAGE a vibrant community of outdoor enthusiasts, and ADVOCATE on behalf of the natural world.

First and foremost, the evening was a special opportunity to connect with each other in a joy-filled, mission-inspired setting. Members, volunteers, and donors from across the organization gathered along with partners from conservation organizations, sponsors, and members of the greater outdoor community. And with more than 300 viewers tuned in for a livestream, the 2023 Gala was our largest yet!

The Mountaineers Gala 2023 included many beloved favorites, such as the photo booth and wine toss, along with the crowd-pleasing Tyrolean Traverse, in which three intrepid teens from our Mountaineers Adventure Club raced across the ballroom above our heads. We had some unique additions this year, such as a special book-signing with honoree Steve Swenson for VIP guests. And attendees were delighted with some surprises, including a special performance from Kitsap Forest Theater and video greetings from some well-known climbing friends of Steve Sweson.

Mountaineers Board of Directors Youth Representative, Katie Strauzs-Clark, shared a heartfelt story of finding belonging in the outdoors and finding her voice as an advocate through The Mountaineers youth education programs. She asked attendees to give boldly in support of our mission and vision, and, within just a few minutes, our community gave more than $284,000!

We honored Steve Swenson with the Lifetime Achievement Award, presented by Conrad Anker. This award honors Steve’s achievements as a world-class alpinist, Mountaineers Books author, mentor, philanthropist, and service as a Board member and longtime volunteer at The Mountaineers.

And finally, in a presentation that captivated the hearts and imaginations of everyone in the room, Philip Henderson took the stage as our Keynote Speaker. Drawing from a legendary career as an adventurer and guide, he shared his life’s journey and the substantial impacts he’s had on the outdoor community. 

Mountaineers believe in the unwavering value of outdoor spaces and their power to change minds and inspire action. We are so thankful for this amazing night and all the support we received that will make it possible for The Mountaineers to offer more transformational outdoor experiences.


We envision a world where our adventures extend beyond the reach of our own personal enjoyment and where all people can confidently enjoy and are inspired to protect the natural world. The funds raised and enthusiasm garnered at our Gala on Saturday will fuel our efforts to accomplish big things together as we enjoy, share, learn about, and advocate for our natural world.


One week before the Gala, the online auction opened to an eager audience. Dozens of bidders jumped right in, with sights set on dreamy vacations, top-of-the-line gear, Pacific Northwest art, and unique experiences to last the whole year. Packages included top quality gear from brands like Petzl, Osprey, and Jones Snowboards; climbing and travel packages; beer brewing; mushroom hunting; and much more provided by our incredible partners. 

2023 Gala ReceptionLeft: steve swenson signs copies of his book Karakoram: Climbing through the kashmir conflict. Top right: TJ King spins the wheel in support of Mountaineers Books. Bottom right: Guests enjoy a signature timberline vodka cocktail.

Then things really picked up when in-person guests began to arrive at Fremont Studios for the reception. VIP guests were treated to an opportunity to meet legendary author and adventurer, Steve Swenson, where he signed copies of his Mountaineers Books publication, Karakoram: Climbing through the Kashmir Conflict. Attendees were treated to a beautifully decorated evening, inspired by the vibrant artwork in Mountaineers Books publication Rise and Roar, and adapted for the event by author and illustrator Sharisse Steber. 

2023 GalaLeft: Amber Carrigan-Dygert participates in wine toss. Right: Vivian Wang and Phillip Tran get their photos taken at the photo booth.

Guests participated in the Wine Toss presented by REI Co-op, Spin the Wheel in Support of Mountaineers Books, and a photo booth to commemorate the evening. Meanwhile, auction competition was fierce, with online and in-person bidders driving up some of the favorite packages, like a signed Jimmy Chin print and a 4-night road trip with Cascade Adventure Vans.


2023 Galaila fabioun-dreessen sings Sound of Music celebrating 100 years for Kitsap Forest Theater.

Guests were delighted with a surprise performance by Kitsap Forest Theater to start the show. The Sound of Music was a fitting tune and familiar sentiment for those in the room. “I go to the hills when my heart is lonely, I know I will hear what I've heard before,” sang Ila Faubion Dreessen, accompanied by Jay Rauchenstein. The Kitsap Forest Theater/Mountaineers Players has been entertaining people in a magical wooded setting for 100 years ever since they debuted with Robin of Sherwood in 1923. The Kitsap Forest Theater is excited to be presenting The Sound of Music and Seussical the Musical for their centennial season. 


Manisha Powar, Vice President of the Board and co-Chair of the event, welcomed guests and reminded us that we were gathered on the lands of the Pacific Northwest Indian tribes, who have lived on and stewarded these lands since time immemorial. With over 500 guests in person, more than 60 Mountaineers staff and volunteers, and more than 300 viewers tuning in from afar, this year’s Gala was the biggest in Mountaineers history. After a limited-capacity event in 2022, it was a delight to once again be surrounded by a full house of members, conservation partners, sponsors, donors, family, and friends. 

2023 GalaBoard Vice President Manisha Powar delivers opening remarks.

Manisha also paid tribute to the first Mountaineers Gala 10 years ago, which celebrated the 50th anniversary of Jim Whittaker’s ascent of Mt Everest. Now marking 60 years since that achievement, we were honored to host Jim Whittaker and Diane Roberts as guests once again and recognize Tom Hornbein watching from Colorado. She also welcomed public officials who have served our state and country as supporters of public lands, including former governor and US Senator, Dan Evans, and former US Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell.


Named for the Tyrol region in Europe and developed for approaching the spires of the Dolomites, the Tyrolean traverse is an advanced technique used by mountaineers around the world to navigate unique situations. In our case, we also use it to raise additional funding for Mountaineers strategic vision areas: Lead, Engage, and Advocate.

2023 GalaMountaineers Adventure Club youth Sam Allen and Blake Bundesmann support one another before the race.

Three competitors from the Mountaineers Adventure Club (MAC) took to the ceiling in this Mountaineers signature matchup. Racing in red to support innovation in outdoor education was Blake Bundesmann. Blake is a senior at Garfield High School who started rock climbing as a middle schooler and is now leading trad routes in the alpine. Racing in blue to engage future outdoor enthusiasts was Sam Allen. Sam is a junior at Eastside Prep who enjoys experimenting as a mechanic, leading climbs, and rowing competitively. And at the last minute, Zoe Predmore jumped in for green to advocate on behalf of the outdoors. Zoe is a senior at Downtown School and loves climbing, napping at the crag, making dessert on their camp stove, and running their school’s drama department. Our original MAC racer, Ryan Welsh, had come down with COVID-19, so we were grateful for Zoe’s positive attitude and spontaneous spirit to take Ryan's place.

2023 GalaZoe Predmore steps to the stage to race in the Tyrolean Traverse.

Throughout the reception, and once again in the ballroom, guests had the opportunity to cheer on the racer of their choice with $25 donations. These donations would go toward supporting the cause represented by the racer who finished first.

2023 GalaThe beginning of the Tyrolean Traverse.

With a drumroll and a countdown, the curtain dropped and the racers began their ballroom traverse. All three racers had a strong start with Blake initially taking a slight lead. On the home stretch, Blake and Sam pulled just ahead of Zoe and fought neck-and-neck until the end. It was a close race to call, but Sam just nearly pulled across the finish line ahead of Blake. In the end, the judges crowned Sam as our 2023 Tyrolean Traverse Champion! Representing ENGAGE, Sam garnered a total of $18,125 to support the many ways in which The Mountaineers engages a vibrant community of outdoor enthusiasts.

Watch the Tyrolean Traverse Replay


The first live auction item got things off to a competitive start. Paddles flew up to bid on “Date Nights for a Year,” featuring a curated collection of interesting and romantic experiences around the Pacific Northwest. Auctioneer Fred Northup, Jr. and emcee Tiernan Madorno kept the room lively as Mountaineers in the room as well as those tuning in from home won trips across the globe to Maui, Chamonix, Everest Basecamp, the Sea of Cortez… and beyond.

2023 GalaLeft: Maureen Long Raises her Paddle to bid on the Super VIP experience for the 2024 Gala. Right: Volunteer Marty Rubin shows off live auction swag increasing bids in support of The Mountaineers.

One guest will spend five days ice climbing in Canmore, Alberta with the night’s honoree, Steve Swenson. Another will get all-access passes to the Banff Mountain Film Festival, thanks to Rab and Alaska Airlines. And with a special nod to the 60th anniversary of the first American summit of Mt Everest, a Dianne Roberts print featuring the famous peak, signed by herself, Jim Whittaker, and Tom Hornbein, went to its new home. 

2023 GalaAuctioneer Fred Northup, Jr. calls attention to signatures of Jim Whittaker and Tom Hornbein.

The most talked-about table of the night was the Super VIP table: the ten best seats in the house. Complete with gifts from Outdoor Research, Mud Bay, REI, and specialty cocktails and desserts, this was the ultimate Gala experience. Ten guests were able to indulge in the extravagance, and you have until next April to make friends with this year’s winner, Matt Ray.

2023 GalaMatt Ray raises his bid card to claim Super VIP for 2024 gala.

And those who couldn’t bear to let the party end raised their paddles to bid on a seat at the following night’s private dinner with Philip Henderson and Steve Swenson. Nine guests joined for an elegant evening at the home of Ann and Bruce Blume on Sunday evening to continue the storytelling and celebration along with fresh, seasonal flavors catered by Ethan Stowell himself.


2023 GalaBoard Youth Representative Katie Strausz-Clark delivers a passionate speech about her Mountaineers Experience.

After a successful auction, Katie Strausz-Clark took the stage while the crowd hushed. Katie is a former counselor-in-training at The Mountaineers summer camp and is a youth representative on The Mountaineers Board of Directors. Katie is passionate about ensuring all people have opportunities to adventure safely on our public lands, and was enthusiastic about sharing why Adventure with Purpose is so important to her.

As a community you’ve supported me through tremendous growth.  You have inspired me to build my life centered around the outdoors, which has become my favorite place to rest and recharge… as much as to grow as a leader. 

As a senior at Ingraham High School, Katie shared the incredible tragedy of gun violence that she and her classmates experienced in 2022. Her educational experience through The Mountaineers taught her what it means to organize community and engage in successful activism. Thanks to the training and support provided by The Mountaineers, Katie was equipped to rally her community and demand that elected officials take legal steps to protect people and place.

The most profound way the Mountaineers has impacted my life is by teaching me how to be an advocate. I first learned about advocacy and outdoor conservation as a summer camper…. It was there I began to understand that my voice, especially when joined with others, can become a powerful tool for change. Using the tools that I learned through The Mountaineers, I joined fellow students to demand real change— by making meaningful progress in gun control legislation and mental health support for young people. 

2023 GalaKatie Strausz-Clark invites the audience to pledge their support by Raising the Paddle to support The Mountaineers.

Katie invited the room to join her as advocates for our natural world and supporters of our vision to adventure with purpose. 

To many, adventure is about seeking personal benefit, but it is so much more than that. To me, it is about believing in the unwavering power of outdoor spaces. It is the ability to change minds and inspire action. It is about carrying forward the tradition of community-based education, so that all people have the opportunity to feel belonging in the outdoors. It is about protecting these beautiful outdoor spaces that I am lucky to experience. 

And when all of that protecting and creating and bettering becomes difficult, it is about being able to turn to the outdoors as a restorative place for mental well-being–and to our community to cheer us on and begin again.

Our community responded; we raised our paddles high. With contributions ranging from $100 to $25,000, in less than 20 minutes, 216 donors raised more than $284,000 to Adventure with Purpose

Watch Katie’s Heartfelt Appeal


The Mountaineers Lifetime Achievement award is an annual honor given to a member of The Mountaineers community for their lifetime of contributions to the outdoor community.   

2023 GalaLeft: Award Recipient Steve Swenson. right: Conrad Anker Presents Lifetime Achievement Award. 

This year we honored Steve Swenson, world-renowned alpinist, respected Mountaineers Books author, past Board President of the American Alpine Club, former Mountaineers Board member, and longtime volunteer. Steve has been climbing for more than 55 years and is known for big-mountain expeditions to the Karakoram range. He led and summited the second successful American expedition to K2 and made a solo ascent of the North Ridge of Everest–both climbs without supplemental oxygen. In 2012 he and his partners made the first ascent of Sasser Kangri II (7518 meters), the second highest unclimbed mountain in the world, a feat for which they were awarded the prestigious Piolet d’Or. Together with his partners, including Graham Zimmerman, Steve was awarded a second Piolet d’Or in 2020 for their successful first ascent of Link Sar (7,041 meters) in 2019. He is one of only a few people to receive a Piolet d’Or, let alone two, an award considered mountaineering's highest honor.

Steve’s award was presented by Conrad Anker, one of the most prolific climbers of his generation. But before presenting the award, Conrad introduced surprise video messages from Steve’s friends and climbing partners; Jimmy Chin and Graham Zimmerman.

Steve received a standing ovation as he accepted the award. It’s no surprise that he thanked his family first as he stepped up to the microphone. Steve’s family came out in full force on Saturday night, filling multiple tables in the ballroom. Even his 95 year-old father joined us for the evening. Steve shared how the values of love, resilience, and generosity helped shape him into the person he is today. He talked about the impact this community has had on inspiring and encouraging him to seek new heights and continue advocating for the protection of our natural world.

Watch Steve’s Award and Acceptance Speech


2023 GalaConrad Anker introduces Philip Henderson.

The evening wrapped up with an extraordinary presentation by Keynote Speaker, Philip Henderson. 

Philip has been making history as a groundbreaking adventurer, climber, mountaineer, and outdoor educator for nearly 30 years. Through his passion for outdoor recreation and education, Philip has had the opportunity to travel, climb, and ski around the world. But his true passion is connecting with people and setting a course for the next generation of adventurers.

2023 GalaMountaineers Gala Keynote Speaker: Philip Henderson.

Philip started his talk by making a connection between two significant events that occurred during his early childhood. The year that Philip was born, Jim Whittaker became the first American to summit Mt. Everest. And just days after Philip’s birth, more than a quarter million people marched on Washington in the historic civil rights demonstration. These two events, Philip shared, set a course for his life. 

Growing up in a segregated San Diego neighborhood during the 1960s was when Philip first discovered his passion for the natural world. In order to avoid racially-charged harassment as he walked to school, he would shortcut through trails where he encountered plants, snakes, and birds. When he faced some unexpected hardships as a young adult, the engagement and passion he discovered in the natural world as an 8 year-old re-emerged and he found himself saving up for his first NOLS course.

“It opened my eyes up to a world that I didn’t know existed of climbing and skiing, caving, horse-packing, kayaking, all those things that I had never seen before.”

2023 GalaImages from Philip Henderson's Keynote Presentation.

From leading interpretive hikes as a ranger to becoming a salesperson at REI to picking up a job as a whitewater guide, Philip took every opportunity to learn new skills and carve out new experiences. 

But he also found himself disappointed, at every turn, by the lack of representation.

“What I noticed when I came into the outdoor industry is that it looked very much in 1992 as the world looked for me back in 1972. It was like I was taking a step forward and then 20 steps backwards.”

Philip led an impressive guiding and climbing career, where he gained an in-depth understanding about the mountaineering industry in Nepal, Kenya, Tanzania, and Chile. Through his experiences with clients, and by connecting with the local guides and porters around the world, Philip was inspired to find ways to help other communities find belonging in outdoor spaces.

In 2012, Philip was a member and team leader of the North Face/National Geographic Everest Education Expedition, and in 2013 he became one of only a few African Americans to summit Denali. He also led an all-African American ascent of Mt. Kilimanjaro in 2018 and served as Expedition Leader of the successful Full Circle Everest Expedition, which saw the first all-Black American team summit Mt. Everest in 2022. 

2023 GalaFull Circle Expedition team, 2022.

Philip has worked tirelessly to increase representation in outdoor spaces, promote justice for the guides and porters working in the outdoor industry, advocate for those affected by climate change, and empower young leaders. We were honored that Philip shared his experiences and story telling as part of the Gala this year and the audience responded with a standing ovation for his moving presentation.

Watch Philip’s Keynote Address


At the end of the evening, Fred and Tiernan shared a preliminary total of $566,000 raised for The Mountaineers mission and strategic priorities, sailing past our goal of $535,000. After closer review and a few more gifts in the door, we’re thrilled to announce a record-smashing success of over $600,000 through this year’s event. 

Throughout our history, volunteerism has been at the core of The Mountaineers. Volunteers make it possible for us to carry on our legacy of outdoor education, integrity, and action. And we couldn’t have nearly the depth of impact without the generosity of donors like you. 

We are truly grateful for the generosity of this community– your time, your knowledge, your passion, and your donations. Each of you plays an important role in making the mission of The Mountaineers a reality and we thank you for supporting our work. And thank you, once again, for making this fun party one to remember!


We want to extend a huge thanks to our sponsors, without whom the Gala and auction would not have been possible.

Gala Co-Chairs: Roger Mellem and Manisha Powar

Signature Youth Sponsor: REI Co-op.

Supporting Sponsor: Rainier Recruiting. 

Contributing Sponsors: BakerHostetler, Greg & Mary Moga

Table Sponsors: Brown & Brown, Crystal Mountain Resort, Cyrca Strategy, Mithun, Petzl, Port Blakely, Ryan Swanson, Umpqua Bank, Vertical World, Waypoint Outdoor

Event Sponsors: United Airlines.

Food & Beverage Sponsors: Georgetown Brewing Company, Ghostfish Brewing Company, Rolling Bay Winery, Seattle Cider Co, Timberline Vodka, Tinte Cellars

Gala Committee: Gabe Aeschliman, Petra & Bill Barclay, Alex Bogaard, Patti Brooke, Amber Carrigan & Seth Dygert, Serene Chen, Doug Grady, Tom Helleberg, James & Melissa Henderson, Peter Hendrickson & Nancy Temkin, Brynne & Ryan Koscianski, Takeo Kuraishi, Geoff & Peg Lawrence, Carry Porter & Nick Brown, Alex & Kelly Pratt, Matt Ray, Betsy Robblee, Steve Swenson & Ann Dalton, Matt Vadnal, Bri Vanderlinden & Anvesh Reddy Yedugundla, Tom Vogl & Katie Koepke, Anita Wilkins, Siana Wong & Marko Pavela

Table Hosts: Jerry & Carolyn Bosch, Rich & Martha Draves, Martinique & Eliot Grigg, Dave Haavik, Rich & Tami Johnston, TJ & Tanya King, Gala & Brian Lindvall, Maya Magarati, Liz Marzolf, Steve & Colleen McClure, Craig McKibben & Sarah Merner, Greg & Mary Moga, Brad Near & Krystle Gomez-Near, Amanda Piro, Vik & Jessica Sahney, Steve & Ann Marie Schreiber, Paul Stevenson & Megan Davis, Gavin & Sara Woody

Auction Supporters: Alaska Airlines, Alpacka Raft, Sean Ardussi & Susan Sayers, Ascent Outdoors, Baker Lodge, BioLite, Bruce and Ann Blume, Bogs, Megan Bond & Walter Friesen, Cascade Adventure Vans, Cascade Bicycle Club, Cascade Endurance, Crown Bees, Rich & Martha Draves, Edgeworks, Kiana Ehsani, Tom Eng, Ethan Stowell Restaurants, Evenfall Photographers - Alison Mehravari & Sean Gorton, evo, Evoke Endurance, EXPED, Feathered Friends, Frame Central Issaquah, Georgetown Brewery, Ghostfish Brewing Company, Goat's Beard Mountain Supply, Danielle Graham, Grayl, Gregory Mountain Products, Molly Hashimoto, Dixie Havlak, Helly Hansen, Jimmy Chin Productions, Jones Snowboards, Jordan Hanssen, K. Brooke Designs, Kitsap Forest Theatre, Klean Kanteen, Kong, Martha Kongsgaard and Peter Goldman, Brynne and Ryan Koscianski, Geoff and Peg Lawrence, Gretchen Leggitt, Lifestraw, Moa Lim, Limmer Boot Company, Lorna Corrigan/Windigo Lodge, LLC , Amelie Mabbutt and Edward Monrad, Madison Mountaineering, Meany Lodge, Roger Mellem, Miller Nash LLP, Mioposto, Ellen Monrad, Yasu Mori, Mountaineers Books, Mt Baker Ski Area, MT Sobek, Mud Bay, Napa Valley Bike Tours, Nemo, North Cascades Mountain Guides, Ortlieb USA, Osprey, Outdoor Research, Inc, Pagliacci Pizza, David Parent, Pass Life Workspace, Patagonia Seattle Store, Petzl, Adele Piro, Amanda Piro, Byron Piro, Carry Porter & Nick Brown, Manisha Powar, Alex Pratt, Pro Guiding Service, Rab USA, Rack n Road, Corey Rich, Melanie Riddick, Dianne Roberts, Barry Roitblat, Rolling Bay Winery, SBP, Sea Creatures Restaurants, Seattle Aquarium, Seattle Symphony, Semi-Rad, She Moves Mountains, Sherpani, Smartwool, SMC, Stanley PMI, Skye Stoury & Garrett Arnold, Sunski, Steve Swenson, United Airlines, Tom Varga & Christine Martin, Vasque, Vertical World, Tom Vogl, Vera & Jon Wellner, Vanessa Wheeler, Michael Wynne-Jones & Isobel Coney, and Brian & Amy Young. 

Additional Support provided by: Fremont Studios, Kaspars Catering, K. Brooke Designs, Sharisse Steber.

Save the date for next year's event: Saturday, April 6, 2024. If you are interested in receiving benefits as a Gala Sponsor or have any questions, please contact Development Director. Bri Vanderlinden at

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