Equity & Inclusion Update: 2024 Trail Markers & the Path Ahead

At The Mountaineers, we believe all people should feel belonging in the outdoors. This work is being led by our Equity & Inclusion Committee. Read on to learn more about where we’ve been focusing our efforts and our plans for the years ahead.
The Mountaineers The Mountaineers
June 29, 2024
Equity & Inclusion Update: 2024 Trail Markers & the Path Ahead
Photo by Iris Lieuw.

At The Mountaineers, we believe all people should feel belonging in the outdoors and everyone should have opportunities, knowledge, resources, and access to connect with nature. This work stems from our core belief that a diverse and inclusive outdoors inspires unity, respect, and passion for the places we love. Since our last Equity & Inclusion (E&I) Committee update, we’ve been focusing efforts and resources on continuing to lower barriers to get outdoors, providing ongoing training to our leaders, investing in the emotional safety of our participants and community, and more. 


We recognize that the experience of being outdoors is not the same for everyone, and we’re committed to working to create a Mountaineers where all people can see themselves and be seen as their full and true selves. 


One of the ways we work to reduce barriers is through our scholarships program, which awarded over $70,000 to youth and adults for courses, programs, and activities last year. Each scholarship we award helps to address financial barriers that people face to getting outside, and in some cases supports life-changing opportunities in the outdoors. 

While scholarships are a very tangible way we work to reduce financial barriers to participation in outdoor recreation, we also work to decrease barriers through policy development and updates, affinity groups support, partnerships with historically excluded communities, the development of our community-driven strategic plan, and more. 

Honoring Native Lands & Peoples

Native stories are largely missing from both historical and contemporary narratives of The Mountaineers and our legacy - something we are still grappling with today. One small way that we recognize and reflect on the fact that we are on Native land is through the practice of land acknowledgment. Land acknowledgments recognize and respect Native peoples’ historical and ongoing stewardship of and connection to the land, and can be a first step toward repairing the harm and trauma historically endured by Native peoples.

Land acknowledgments are especially important for us, as our programs, courses, and trips occur on the ancestral lands of Native peoples. That’s why we partnered with a local Tribal leader as we created an organizational land acknowledgment statement a few years ago. Our statement is meant to serve as a starting place for members of our community to shape their own personal acknowledgment.

In the years since, we’ve partnered with Sacred Lands Conservancy, an Indigenous-led nonprofit with strong ties to the Lummi Nation, to produce and share a series of pieces educating our community about action beyond acknowledgment and tribal treaties of the Northwest. We encourage you to check out the most recent pieces to learn more:

EMotional Safety

One of the unwritten core values at The Mountaineers is safety. When we go out together, we make every effort to return safely. And, safety is about more than just physical safety. Feeling emotionally safe - to ask questions, share concerns, and show up as your full self - is a key component to physically safe outcomes. 

Emotional Safety in the Outdoors eLearning Course

To support emotionally safe environments for our participants, in 2023 we published a new eLearning course, Emotional Safety in the Outdoors. Created by Tallie Segel, a long-time environmental educator focused on justice-oriented and community-centered environmental education curriculum development, this course addresses equity and inclusion through the lens of emotional safety in the outdoors. To date, we have more than 200 graduates, and we encourage you to sign up and join this community of leaders today.

Emotional Safety Committees at Branches

This year, several branches have created ad hoc or formalized committees to address Emotional Safety within their programs. In Bellingham, a Code of Conduct Committee has drafted a “Member Bill of Rights” which outlines the respectful behavior every member can expect to be treated with, and a commitment by the Branch to support that promise. The Seattle Branch has started an Emotional Safety Committee, who hosted an Emotional Safety Workshop in May.

Sexual Harassment, Sexual Assualt (SHSA) Committee

As part of our ongoing commitment to building a safe and respectful culture, we are committed to strengthening both the physical and emotional safety of our programs and activities. In February 2024, we launched a new sub-committee focused on preventing sexual harassment and assault. This is an ad hoc advisory committee chartered to develop recommended near-term and long-term improvements to our bylaws, behavior policies, and operational procedures to address the risk of sexual harassment and/or sexual assault of our members. The committee is charged with defining and understanding the risks of sexual harassment & sexual assault within The Mountaineers, identifying ways to prevent these behaviors, and identifying ways to respond to these behaviors. This committee is designed to be an organizational-wide complement to the branch-based emotional safety committee. By putting organization-wide policies and structures in place to support the work happening at the branches, the organization will grow holistically towards a culture of safety and belonging. We post regular updates on this committee’s work on the SHSA blog.

Leader Tools and Trainings

E&I Leader Toolkit

We first debuted our E&I Leader Toolkit in 2021, and we’ve continued to iterate on it since. Designed specifically with a Mountaineers volunteer in mind, the toolkit encourages volunteer leaders to consider fostering feelings of belonging at every step of the planning and implementation process. Volunteers are emboldened to infuse their activities with these principles, all without altering their activity’s core goals.

Leadership Development

In addition to providing a toolkit for leaders, we host regular leadership trainings through our annual Leadership Conferences and Leadership Development Series (LDS). This year, we saw 460 total attendees in 32 sessions facilitated by 19 presenters for our LDS. Of those sessions, nearly half (15) were focused on Equity & Inclusion. Learn more about this year’s Leadership Development Series and view recordings of past presentations in our 2023-24 recap blog

We also dedicated an Equity & Inclusion track at our Mountaineers Seattle Leadership Conference in December 2023, and at our inaugural Tacoma Leadership Conference in March 2024. Learn more about our conference presenters and breakout session in our Leadership Conference is Back blog. 

Affinity Based Courses

An affinity group is a group of people linked by a shared identity. Affinity groups are often formed around gender, age, race, body size, or sexual orientation, but they can also be built around a common goal, like staying sober. The unifying characteristic of an affinity group is usually an identity that has been traditionally underrepresented or historically excluded, which can make people feel isolated or uncomfortable in a larger group.

BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) Canyoning Course

This summer, for the first time ever, we are able to host a BIPOC specific course. Since its founding five years ago, the Canyoning Committee has prioritized inclusive programming. From providing loaner gear for students’ first season to promoting scholarships, the committee has worked to reduce barriers to participation. The Canyoning Committee has also worked hard to create clear pathways to leadership, including objective skill assessments along the way, with facilitated practice sessions to prepare students to succeed in the assessments. 

This year, the committee has enough BIPOC-identifying leaders, assistant leaders, and instructors to host a BIPOC Basic Canyoning course. Through support from Climbers of Color, the instructors participated in a training about holding space for affinity demographics to prepare for the course. The course kicks off at the end of June.

Women’s Scrambling and Glacier Travel Courses

In 2024, both the Seattle and Foothills Branches were able to offer women’s cohorts for our regular courses, with women-identifying climb leaders hosting a women’s Intermediate Glacier Travel course in Seattle, and women-identifying scramble leaders offering a women’s Alpine Scramble course in Foothills. In one review, a volunteer commented:

“I hope the women’s scramble course is offered again in the future! There was such a sense of empowerment and emotional safety in this course that I personally did not feel as a scramble student in my co-ed course last year.”


In addition to focusing on initiatives outlined in our community-driven strategic plan, which sought to integrate E&I at every turn, we are looking ahead to a few key initiatives that we hope will bring greater unity and respect for each other and the outdoor experience. We hope that by narrowly focusing on a few opportunities, we can have a large-scale impact. For example, with the work of the SHSA Committee, we have broad overall objectives (emotional safety for our members) with a narrow focus (preventing sexual harassment/assault). Through the sharpened focus, we believe that the work will have the broader intended impact.

Deeper Partnership with Branch Leaders

One way we’re thinking about future work is through better partnership between the E&I Committee and our volunteer leadership structure. As a volunteer-led nonprofit, we have more than 100 committees and 3,000 volunteers leading our programs. We’re deeply grateful to our committed volunteers, and recognize that it creates a power-structure which is broadly dispersed. By better partnering with the existing leadership structure, we can better understand and address concerns, and we can provide resources which will have built-in support and buy-in for adoption. 

Renaming to Equity & Belonging

The language of this work has evolved as the collective cultural experience has evolved. SuJ’n Chon, a founding member of the E&I Committee, described how the committee landed on the words of Equity & Inclusion to describe our work at The Mountaineers in a blog from 2021. And today, the current committee is leaning toward adopting the language of ‘equity & belonging’, in keeping with current trends. Our goal is not to make changes like this often, but after seven years, our work has also evolved, and soon we may choose to change our language to better align with the intent and outcomes of these efforts.

Learn More

To learn more about the E&I Committee, visit our committee page. To become a part of this work, you’re invited to join the E&I Community Forum. Established in September 2018, the forum offers a way for our members interested in contributing to The Mountaineers work to connect and share resources in order to increase equity in the outdoors. To get involved, fill out an interest form on the Community Forum page.