Foothills Volunteer Spotlight: Luis Zuniga

This month, the Foothills Mountaineers would like to recognize the contributions of Luis Zuniga. Luis is a new Mountaineer who, with his wife Karla, has developed a passion for the outdoors and all things Mountaineers.
The Mountaineers The Mountaineers
March 08, 2021

This month, the Foothills Mountaineers would like to recognize the contributions of Luis Zuniga! Luis is a new Mountaineer who, with his wife Karla, has developed a passion for the outdoors and all things Mountaineers. He quickly became a Foothills hike leader, is already seeking his backpack leader badge, and has volunteered to be a mentor for the Backpacking Building Blocks course. We're thrilled to have Luis on the Foothills volunteer team!

What brought you to the Pacific Northwest, and how did you discover The Mountaineers?

I was born and raised in Mexico. I moved to the PNW in 2014 thanks to a job offer in the tech industry.

Back in college, I met a very good friend who lived in Bellingham. On our work breaks, he used to show me pictures of his adventures in the PNW and talked a lot about The Mountaineers. I fell in love with the area through those stories and pictures, so when the opportunity arose to live here, I jumped in immediately.

In 2019 I started to become interested in mountaineering, so I joined the club. I wish I had learned earlier that The Mountaineers have many more activities and courses than alpine climbing.

How did you get started volunteering with The Mountaineers? 

The Mountaineers changed my life! Ever since moving here in 2014, I spent countless hours daydreaming about camping and discovering the outdoors. I didn't have much exposure to the outdoors back in my home city; people are either hardcore explorers/mountaineers or not outdoors people, usually. I was concerned about safety. The world here is very different than back home. I didn't know how to safely camp in bear country. Hypothermia was something I knew about from books, but it is not something people have to look out for [in Mexico]. Those were the things that came to mind, and even more scary were the things that I didn't even know about!

The Backpacking Building Blocks course allowed me to learn how to safely spend the nights out and allowed me to build confidence by going out with experienced people who were happy to show me the ropes. 

So, to answer the question: I would love to help others gain skills, confidence, or simply to share the joy of nature. Seeing another person enjoy an experience makes it that much more enjoyable.

What is your favorite Mountaineers experience and your favorite volunteer experience so far?

Mountaineers experience: A two-nighter on Baker Lake. The weather was perfect, we had great views of Mt. Baker and Mt. Shuksan. The lake was warm (I love swimming) and there were some big logs on the lake shore. My wife Karla and I floated for hours on one of them in the lake. The camaraderie in the group was great and we had one of the most restful nights in our lives.

Volunteer experience: A hike I lead to Mt. Si. For a long time I wanted to hike up Mt. Si, but most of the trips posted were conditioners aimed to summit in under two hours. I posted a trip for a low-key hike where we'd go at a steady pace and wait for anybody who needed a break. The people who attended were happy for the trip and half of them expressed that they avoided the other trips, just like I did, for fear of slowing down the group!

What's next for you in the outdoors and with The Mountaineers?

I'm training to climb Mt. Adams this winter/spring with the friend mentioned earlier. The goal is to climb and snowboard on the way down. I'm on the Alpine Scrambling course and I'm working towards getting both the Snowshoe Leader and Backpacking Leader badges.

I'm also looking forward to being part of the community and building friendships!