Leader Spotlight: Gretchen Ta

Leader Spotlight is a monthly blog to showcase our incredible volunteer leadership at The Mountaineers. Meet this month's featured leader: Gretchen Ta, a volunteer leader deeply involved with various committees through the Kitsap Branch.
Sara Ramsay Sara Ramsay
Director of Leadership & Operations
June 29, 2021

For our Leader Spotlight this month we talked to Gretchen Ta, the Chair Elect for the Kitsap Branch Council, and Kitsap First Aid and Conservation & Stewardship Committee Chair. Gretchen also serves as a Volunteer Leader for the Kitsap Branch Climbing Program! 

Name: Gretchen Ta
Branch: Kitsap
How long have you been volunteering with The Mountaineers? 2 years (member since 2017)
What activities do you participate in? Climbing, Stewardship, First Aid, and Branch Leadership 

Leadership Questions

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO volunteer WITH THE MOUNTAINEERS?

I've learned so much thru my local branch over the past few years, and have seen the same volunteers giving of their time over and over. I feel like giving back is the right thing to do, and I've found that I enjoy teaching others in the process.

WHAT IS THE BEST, FAVORITE, OR MOST MEMORABLE experience YOU'VE HAD WITH THE CLUB?

I have really enjoyed the Intermediate Alpine Climbing course. Learning how to lead climb has really opened up a whole new world for me! During the pandemic, we've been able to continue our class because of how small our group is. One of my favorite experiences was this past summer - we made a weekend of sport/trad climbing field trips. We learned sport lead climbing on Saturday at Vantage, and then camped out and learned trad lead climbing on Sunday at Tieton. We also definitely enjoyed soaking in the river after it got too hot to climb! It really was one of the highlights of my year - being able to still learn new skills and get out during this crazy year.

Overall though - I'd have to say my favorite adventure with the club was tackling Mt. Cruiser for one of my "Basic" rock climbs. It was great way to get over my fear of heights in a weekend! 

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

I used to try and make all the decisions myself, but now  I lean towards a collaborative leadership style so everyone on the team gets to have a voice during a trip. There might be times where I am more direct though, such as if a safety issue comes up.

As a trip leader, I've also learned the importance of being clear up front when setting boundaries/expectations. Trips, projects, and tasks operate much smoother when everyone on your team knows what to expect from the beginning.

What is one thing you do on trips to create positive experiences for people of all skills and backgrounds?

I try to make a point of spending time during the trip with new people and learning about them a little while we hike/run. I think it fosters a better group cohesion when people branch out of their small cliquey social groups on bigger group activities. I also like keeping groups together during hikes/runs so that everyone in the group feels part of conversations/decision-making.

IT'S OFTEN SAID: "GOOD JUDGEMENT COMES FROM EXPERIENCE; EXPERIENCE COMES FROM BAD JUDGEMENT." ANY LEARNING EXPERIENCES YOU CAN SHARE TO HELP OUR COMMUNITY BUILD THEIR GOOD JUDGEMENT?

  •  Always carry duct tape. You never know when you'll be repairing a broken tent pole, a huge blister, or your rain shell.
  • Don't drive tired. It's not worth it.
  • Always speak up if something doesn't feel right instead of waiting until you are over your head.
  • When you are walking on a rope team and accidentally punch hip-deep into a snow covered crevasse, make sure to yell "Falling!" to the rest of your rope team, instead of "Hey guys, hold up a second ..." The former works much better/faster!

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

All great leaders know how to be a great follower as well, so take your time being a great follower as you progress towards a leadership role.

When you finally take that leap and take on some leadership roles, know that you are not alone. You have a lot of people who want to see you succeed. I am very thankful to be part of a branch that has a lot of experienced volunteers to answer questions and be great mentors.

What keeps you volunteering with The Mountaineers?

A big part of what keeps me volunteering is  respect for those who taught me. A mantra for learning new skills that I remember from my days as a Navy Nurse is "watch one, do one, teach one." I watched and did, so now it's my turn to teach and lead. I hope to encourage the next group of students who learn with us to become volunteers and help lead too.

What is one thing you've learned or gained through volunteering with The Mountaineers?

I am slowly becoming a better teacher and public speaker (although it never feels that way when i'm up in front of everyone!). I still have a lot to learn and practice as far as leadership goes, but I welcome the challenge.

Is there aNYTHING ELSE WE SHOULD KNOW ABOUT YOU?

I'm a mom of two kiddos. I work as a nurse practitioner and volunteer with our local medical reserve corps and mountain rescue team. I'm working on finishing a fellowship in wilderness medicine (FAWM). And in the rest of my spare time (LOL), I'm a race director for my local trail running group's 50k trail race - this year will be our 4th year running!

Lightning Round

What's your go-to place for a post-trip meal? The Copper Creek Inn
How about your best trail snack? Cold Pizza
Who is your Mountaineers hero? Too many to pick favorites ;)
What 11th Essential do you bring on most trips? Down puffy pants for winter trips - total game changer!
What's next on your bucket list? Baker and Rainier

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

Send an email to Michelle Song to make a recommendation for one of our upcoming Leader Spotlights!


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Peter Hendrickson
Peter Hendrickson says:
Jun 29, 2021 12:23 PM

Gretchen, you're living the ethic that makes our club special -- stated so clearly (Navy style) -- "watch one, do one, teach one." And you've demonstrated the power of shared Kitsap Branch leadership with your support of the current chair. We're all volunteers and we lend a hand when another leader has a conflict.

Tina Fox
Tina Fox says:
Jun 30, 2021 12:02 PM

Awesome, Gretchen! It has been a wonderful ride with you in the Kitsap Branch. I look forward to you teaching me in the future.