Leader Spotlight: Chase Gruszewski

Leader Spotlight is a monthly blog to showcase our incredible volunteer leadership at The Mountaineers. Meet this month's featured leader: Chase Gruszewski. He is a 10 year member and active climb leader who says the Kitsap Branch is his Mountaineers hero!
Sara Ramsay Sara Ramsay
Volunteer Development Manager
September 29, 2020
Leader Spotlight: Chase Gruszewski
Mark Goodro

For our Leader Spotlight this month we talked to Chase Gruszewski, a volunteer leader with the Kitsap Branch who chairs the Kitsap Climbing Committee and once did a 25 hour epic of Shield Wall on Mt. Washington.

Name: Chase Gruszewski
Branch: Kitsap
Where do you live? Port Ludlow, WA
How long have you been a leader? 9 years (member since 2010)
What activities do you lead? Climbing

Leadership Questions

What inspired you to lead trips for The Mountaineers?

It's a great opportunity to meet new people from across the club, safely get out on the routes I was interested to climb with a strong climbing team, and help others get out and progress their climbing goals.

What is the best, favorite, or most memorable trip you've led for The Mountaineers?

It's really hard to pick a favorite. The most memorable climbs tend to be the ones where things don't quite go according to plan. During a climb of Shield Wall on Mt. Washington (in the Olympics), a series of routes finding difficulties plus the overall size and challenges of the route kept us moving on the mountain for 25 continuous hours. The whole party remained in high spirits (or at least put on a good show) throughout the epic, making good decisions and supporting each other throughout the climb and descent. Those sort of experiences and the friendships they build are pretty awesome.

How has your leadership style evolved as you've gained experience?

I've become much more trusting in the decision making of my assistant leads and other members of the climbing party. The Mountaineers generally does an excellent job of inculcating a culture and mentality of safety in our activities, and I've found that I can generally depend on that attitude to drive good decisions throughout the climbing party, throughout the climb.

Any learning experiences you can share, such as take-aways from a close call or a near miss?

  1. Don't drive tired. (You know you've all done it - and it wasn't worth it.)
  2. Keep the group close together in areas of bad rockfall (momentum is not your friend).
  3. Always knot the belayer's end of the rope at the crag.

What advice do you have for aspiring leaders in The Mountaineers community?

Leadership is not a lonely endeavor in The Mountaineers. Fellow leaders, assistant leaders, and participants on your trip are there to help you with the decision making and group management. If you're not 100% confident in you leadership abilities - that's a good thing, it means you're not overconfident. Know that when you step into a leadership role, you'll still have the support of all the same awesome people that helped you progress into a position of leadership.


The range of experiences that The Mountaineers offers to its membership is astonishing. Looking back on all the people, places, and activities that the club has afforded me - joining up, and sticking with it, has been a tremendous experience.

Lightning Round

What's your go-to place for a post-trip meal? The Grub Hut
How about your best trail snack? Dried Strawberries
What's your favorite close-to-home adventure? Mt. Constance
Who is your Mountaineers hero? The Kitsap Branch!
What "luxury item" do you bring on most trips? The song stuck in my head.
What's next on your bucket list? Cathedral Peak

is there Someone that you'd like to see in the spotlight?

Send an email to Sara Ramsay to make a recommendation for one of our upcoming Leader Spotlights!