Expect the Unexpected: An AWE-inspiring Recap of our Annual Gala

On March 18, 2017, we hosted AWE: expect the unexpected - a special gala event celebrating our community and supporting the future success of our programs. Here's a recap in case you missed it.
The Mountaineers The Mountaineers
March 23, 2017
Expect the Unexpected: An AWE-inspiring Recap of our Annual Gala

In a moment of awe, your body responds viscerally. You get goose bumps and the hair on the back of your neck stands up. You feel small, yet powerful. As if you understand what matters in the world. As if you’ve been given a splendid gift – one that can never be taken away.

There we were - our Mountaineers family together again. At this incredibly busy time of year, our Mountaineers community chose to come together because what we stand for is what you stand for.

We’re so grateful to those who were able to join us for the celebration, and to everyone who has supported us throughout the year. We were honored to have the offices of Senators Murray and Cantwell, and Congresswoman DelBene in the audience and appreciate their continued efforts and focus to protect our public lands. We are all in this together.

During the evening we explored the idea of AWE and what it means to be a community that shares deep connections to the outdoors. To dive right in, we were surprised by an operatic interlude, raised our paddles to support another nail-biting Tyrolean Traverse, bid (like maniacs) on a smorgasbord of incredible live-auction experiences, honored legendary Mountaineer Dee Molenaar, shared a "mission moment" with 2015 Super Volunteer Maiza Lima, heard from from Seven Summits skier Kit DesLauriers, and capped off the evening with a toast to us – to another 111 years as fierce protectors of the outdoor experience. View all of the photos here.

A word from one of our attendees:

“As the room filled with people perusing silent auction items, I couldn’t help but notice the diverse group of attendees - from those whose faces showed signs of adventures-past to the new generation just picking up the torch for The Mountaineers. From the beautiful sound of a single tenor voice to the wild scramble of Tyrolean traverse, the night reflected a community that was firmly rooted in the past, while looking to the challenges of the future. The night demonstrated the endless possibilities when a community unites in a common goal. Congratulations Mountaineers on another amazing event.” --Jason Sellers, 3-year member


We came together to explore the idea of AWE: that feeling you get in the presence of something larger than yourself. As Mountaineers, we so often experience those moments of awe in the glorious wild places of the Pacific Northwest that we call home.

All the attendees experienced AWE in the opening minutes when Tacoma-native tenor Brendan Tuohy sang Nessun Dorma, an aria celebrating love at first sight. His awe inspiring voice left people with their mouths agape and goosebumps running down their spines. In a moment of complete “expect the unexpected” his voice rang clear and hopeful, and represented the love we all feel for the outdoors.

Brendan Tuohy - by Jason Sellers

PHoto by Jason Sellers


For 111 years, The Mountaineers has been a passionate group of bold explorers who welcome people from all walks of life into a community that shares deep connections to the outdoors. We’re adventurers driven by imagination, challenge, and the spirit of discovery.

Adventure is at the core of who we are as Mountaineers, but for us, it’s adventure with a purpose. That’s because we’re also fierce protectors of the outdoor experience and work to be a powerful voice of conservation and responsible access to our wild places. In this critical time, we are vigilant and ready to fight for our treasured public lands.

And we nurture the next generation of Mountaineers, who will carry forward our legacy of volunteer-led outdoor education and conservation advocacy to ensure our impact will be even greater than it is today, 111 years from now…and beyond.

Tyrolean Traverse

In what has become a Mountaineers staple, we opened the show with another nail-biting Tyrolean Traverse, all performed above the heads of our 300 attendees.

A Tyrolean traverse is used to move between two rock features. Developed in the Dolomites of the former Tyrol region, this method was used to approach and descend from spires. Nowadays, it’s commonly used to negotiate rivers or reach a detached pillar. Ropes are strung between points on each side of the span, allowing climbers to traverse through the air, attached to the rope. In our case, the traverse spanned the auditorium - more than 100' one direction (and racers have to go out and back!).

Tyrolean Traverse Chris - Photo by Jason Sellers

Photo by Jason Sellers


Our racers were ready and waited patiently as attendees raised their paddles to support the three funds: the Next Generation, Conservation and Advocacy, and Inspiration and Dedication. With $25 per paddle raise, we gathered funds to support our future ability to share the benefits of an outdoor lifestyle with our diverse youth, grow our community of powerful voices for our wild places, and support our coalition of highly trained volunteers to teach skills and lead trips.

With money in hand, the curtain dropped to reveal three racers: Jordan Tursi, Chris Spanton, and Keely Carolan who were off like a shot. Jordan charged ahead, with Keely then Chris hot on his heels. He made the turn first, but Chris surged at the corner and gave Jordan a run for his money to the bitter end. At the finishline, Jordan nearly DQ'd when his ribbon didn't break, but was ultimately announced the victor. Thanks to all of our racers who competed!

Live Auction Smorgasbord

Led by our Auctioneer Ken Carson and supported by Live Auction Reader Scott Burns, the paddles shot up for our first live auction item - a ski weekend in Bend, Oregon, with a complete Black Diamond ski and backcountry safety setup.

Item 2 was a breathtaking image of our special guest speaker Kit DesLauriers on the summit of Mt. Everest, as captured by Jimmy Chin and modeled by Kristina Ciari, our "Vanna" for the evening. 

Jimmy Chinn Photograph - By Jason Sellers

Photo by Jason Sellers


Our 14 auction items kept folks with their hands in the air. We had complete outfits for her and him from Fjallraven, modeled by Vanna and our "Manna" Garrett Arnold. One lucky gal won on a 7-night private adventure in Nepal, a group bid on a weekend in Wenatchee, one lucky climber will be joining Mike Gauthier to climb, hike, or float in Yosemite, and one very lucky bidder is going home with a priceless, limited-edition Ice Axe from REI autographed by generations of PNW climbers including Jim Whittaker, Tom Hornbein, Steve Swenson, and Fred Beckey. 

Garrett Arnold modeling Fjallraven

We want to extend a huge thanks to all of our generous supporters, including: adidas outdoor, Agrodolce, American Alpine Institute, Ann Dalton, Arc'teryx, Bill Borom, Black Diamond, Braided River, Canoe Ridge Vineyard, Cascade Bike Club, DeLille Cellars, Don and Natala Goodman, Feathered Friends, Fjallraven, Fred Beckey, Fremont Brewery, Fremont Studios, Gail Sanderson, Georgetown Brewing Company, Hans and Jacki Adams Florine, Jimmy Chin, Jim Whittaker and Dianne Roberts, John Howie Steakhouse, Julbo, Kaspars, Kenmore Air, Kicking Horse Coffee, Loni Uchytil, Michele and Rick Steckler, Mike Gautheir, Mount Bachelor, Mountain Hardwear, North Cascades Mountain Guides, Old School Brewery, Outdoor Research, Pagliacci Pizza, Paul Bannick, Petzl, Red Lantern Adventure, REI Co-op, Rich and Martha Draves, Seapine Brewery, Seattle Bouldering Project, Seattle Tilth, Shakti Vinyasa Yoga, Smart Cell Insoles, Stanley, Steve Swenson, Steven Kazlowksi, Steven's Pass Mountain Resort, Theo Chocolate, The Goat's Beard, The Mountaineers Board of Directors, Thermarest, The North Face, The Oxford Hotel, Tom Vogl and Mariana Burceag, Treeline Coffee Roasters, Uncruise Adventures, Vertical World, and W Hotels.

DEE MOLENAAR, with Mike Gauthier and Tom Hornbein

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.   

This year we were proud to honor 98-year old Dee Molenaar with a lifetime achievement award. In so many ways, Dee exemplifies the values of The Mountaineers.  His love of Mt. Rainier and dedication to sharing his love of “the mountain” with others, and his bravery and selflessness are almost as legendary as his art and his book, The Challenge of Rainier, first published by Mountaineers Books over 45 years ago.

Dee Molenaar AWE

Born to Dutch immigrants in June 1918, Dee spent much of his youth discovering the mountains of Southern California. He ventured northward to explore the glaciated peaks of the Pacific Northwest, where he served as a park ranger and mountain guide at Mt. Rainier National Park. After climbing Mt. Rainier over 50 times, he authored The Challenge of Rainier - long considered the definitive work on the climbing history of Mt. Rainier.

During World War II, Dee served in the U.S. Coast Guard in the Aleutians and Western Pacific. In 1950 he earned a degree in geology at the University of Washington and served as civilian adviser in the Army’s Mountain & Cold Weather Training Command at Camp Hale, CO. His career in geology took him across the western U.S., where he retired from the U.S. Geological Survey in 1983.

He's has climbed peaks throughout the western U.S., Canada, Alaska, Himalayas, New Zealand, and Antarctica. He has participated in major expeditions to Mt. St. Elias in Alaska in 1946, Mt. Kennedy in the Yukon, and in the ill-fated 1953 American expedition to K2 in the Karakoram Himalaya.

An essential item in Dee’s pack has been a box of watercolor paints. He has painted mountain landscapes from Death Valley to 25,500 feet on K2. His artwork and maps have appeared in books, exhibits, and art shows all over the world.

Most important, Dee is a Mountaineer (capital M). Throughout his life, Dee put others before self, getting as much satisfaction helping others achieve their mountain goals, as achieving his own. And like Mike Gauthier, who presented Dee’s award, Dee served and supported the mountaineering community for many years, as a climbing ranger at Mt Rainier National Park.

Mike Gauthier AWE

Accepting the lifetime achievement award on behalf of Dee, was Tom Hornbein – a fellow Mountaineer and longtime climbing partner to Dee. At 99 year's young, Dee wasn't up for a trip on the stage.

As Tom was accepting Dee’s award, he talked about their friendship and the influence Dee had made on Tom's life. Dee inspired tom, just that morning, to hike Tiger Mountain in the rain. While hiking, Tom thought, "what kind of an idiot does this?" When he got to the top, Tom found he was "in the company of a whole lot of idiots!" Tom is 86 and, like Dee, is still serving as a motivator to us all. He chose to live much of his life the Pacific Northwest because this part of the country is home to truly wild and rugged places to play. Tom said that, “In all the mountainous places in the world that I've spent time, there is nothing like the Cascades.“ We couldn’t agree more.

Lifetime Achievement AWE

A Life Transformed

We heard how Maiza Lima’s life-changing experiences with The Mountaineers inspired her to give back to her community – her new family – so that more people will have awe-inspiring, transformative experiences in the outdoors like she did. She moved to the PNW from Brazil to escape a life of domestic violence. When she arrived, she didn't know anything or anyone. 

Maiza Lima AWE

She eventually heard about The Mountaineers through friends. "When I was looking for a change in my life, I turned to The Mountaineers, where I found a community that welcomed me into a world of outdoor fun and adventure," she said. "My mountaineering friends inspire me. The mountains and the beauty of the PNW inspire me too. There's just so much to explore - it's overwhelming and makes my heart smile to think how blessed I am to be part of this."

Kit DesLauriers

Two-time world champion freeskier and global The North Face athlete Kit DesLauriers delivered the keynote address. An accomplished ski mountaineer, Kit is the first person to have skied off of each of the Seven Summits. Kit first realized she wanted to ski the big stuff while standing atop a mountain in Sikkim, India, in 1998. Looking around at the majestic Himalayan peaks where so many others had come in search of life-changing moments, Kit had her own epiphany when she couldn’t shake one thought: Why didn’t she bring her skis?

It was then she decided to focus on ski mountaineering and began refining her skills so that she could ski anything, anywhere in the world. And focus she did: she now has several first descents to her name, including the first ski descent of the Polish Glacier on Aconcagua in Argentina, first female ski descent of Vinson Massif in Antarctica, and the first woman to ski from the summit of Mt. Everest in Nepal, making her the first person to ski the 7 Summits. In addition to being an accomplished skier and ski mountaineer, Kit is an experienced rock climber and stone mason.

Kit DesLauriers AWE

However, rather than recounting her descents off the top of each of the world's highest peaks, Kit focused on her exploration of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, a place she says has the "wildest silence." During that fateful 2010 ski expedition to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, Kit skied the highest mountain in the Brooks Range/Arctic Refuge and then 60 miles north to the Beaufort Sea. Of this journey Kit says, “It is the one place in the world that I have been that I know I will go back to. The Arctic Refuge has the wildest silence of anyplace I’ve visited and I believe strongly in protecting the entire ecosystem with a wilderness designation.”

She described how her first trip to the Refuge had left her yearning to experience that sense of pure wild again.  Kit took the audience along on her 2010 expedition, then on the family rafting trip when she brought her two young girls on their first Arctic adventure. She talked frankly about risk. And, she spoke of the connections we make to the wild places "in our backyard," which in her case is the Teton range, and how that love of wild places transcends to other wild places in need of protection. Kit was a leading voice for the Arctic during the nationwide "We Are the Arctic" campaign, and she encouraged Mountaineers to support the work of organizations, like our own Braided River, who are working to protect this sacred, wild place.

When she’s not skiing, climbing, biking, or fighting for our wild places, Kit is busy raising her two young daughters in a way encourages their appreciation for the natural world.

A Toast to YOU

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. But we couldn’t have nearly the depth of impact without you and your amazing generosity.

Paddle Raise AWE

Because of your support in the past year:

  • The U.S and Canada signed a Joint Arctic Leaders Statement to protect 125 million acres of Arctic Ocean, a successful campaign victory that was strongly supported by the distribution of 40,000 copies of We Are the Arctic, published through our Braided River conservation imprint. 
  • We’ve created new volunteer recognition and training programs to better enable our volunteers to do what they love to do most – introduce people to the wonders of the outdoor world. 
  • Mountaineers Books staff and Seattle Navigation Committee volunteers such as Peter Hendrickson, piloted a highly-successful and innovative e-learning pilot. This course combines the curriculum of our volunteer-led Wilderness Navigation class with one of our best-selling Mountaineers Books in an interactive, online environment. Feedback from students and volunteer leaders alike has been terrific.
  • More than 1,600 youth, over half underserved, developed deep connections to the outdoors with more than 7,000 outdoor experiences, largely provided by volunteers.

We're proud of what we’ve achieved together, but our work is not complete. Your sustained commitment and investment will ensure our shared success. Together, we have new summits to reach.

This next year, we'll turn our attention to writing Vision 2022, our next strategic plan. It will be built on the foundation of our mission and core values and will guide our actions and investments in the next five years. Our long-term aspiration is to be thriving for another 111 years so that future generations of Mountaineers have the same awe-inspiring outdoor experiences that sustain ALL of us today.


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