Leader Spotlight: Jacob Wolniewicz

Leader Spotlight is a monthly blog to showcase our incredible volunteer leadership at The Mountaineers. Meet this month's featured leader: Jacob Wolniewicz. He is a Seattle-based volunteer who joined to gain technical skills and stayed for the community!
Sara Ramsay Sara Ramsay
Education Manager
May 29, 2018

For our Leader Spotlight this month we talked to Jacob Wolniewicz, a volunteer leader with the Seattle Branch who currently chairs the organization's largest committee ... Seattle Climbing!

Name: Jacob Wolniewicz
Branch: Seattle
Where do you live? Seattle, WA
How long have you been a leader? 2 years (member since 2015)
What activities do you lead? I am a climb leader, the Seattle Climbing Chair, and I am leading this year's Intro to Mutipitch Trad A course.

Leadership Questions

What inspired you to become a Leader for The Mountaineers?

All the volunteers who gave their time to teach climbing inspired me to get involved as a leader. Once I saw how much effort volunteers put into the club, and the open invite to be a volunteer, as well - I knew I wanted to get involved.

What is your favorite trip that you've led for The Mountaineers?

It was one of my mentored leads on a basic rock climb up Mt. Cruiser in the Olympics. You camp at Flapjack Lakes, which has giant boulders in the lake that you can swim to, boulder on the side, and then jump down into the lake. The next morning, you get to do a thousand feet of scrambling up some of the most solid rock I've ever touched, followed by two easy - but extremely exposed - rock pitches. Combine all of this with clear skies, and it has made a memory I've had a hard time beating!

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

How much I delegate. When I started leading basic climbs, I read all the beta, planned all the details, and did all the work to make sure things went smoothly. As I've become more confident as a climber and a leader, I've been able to delegate more of the responsibilities to the others on the climb, which eases the requirements for me and gives others a chance to learn by making more decisions on how the trip goes.

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

Mt. Hood has an ice climb up the Reid Headwall that has humbled me with take-aways - more so than any other route. 

The first time I went to climb it, the weather was looking clear and perfect. When my partner and I arrived at the base, it was 40+ mph winds and we retreated. I learned to always look at the wind, its an easy thing to glance over when looking at the weather and seeing that it will be sunny. 

On my second attempt, a chunk of ice fell and hit my face on the eyebrow while I wasn't wearing my goggles. It gave me a beautiful gash and I was fortunate it didn't hit my eye. Always wear eye protection when ice climbing, even when it is hard to see due to goggle sweat!

As we continued to ascend, the snow and ice suddenly turned rotten - the pickets and ice screws weren't solid, which made retreat impossible without down climbing the whole thing. My partner and I were feeling fine and climbed to the summit, but if the route had been beyond our skill level, we would have been in real trouble.

When climbing in the alpine, only climb routes within your technical skill level, as you can never be sure that retreat will be available.

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

Jump in and get involved! We always have spots for volunteers of ranging skill levels. Don't wait until you think you're ready for the role, go ahead and let others know you are interested. Very quickly, you will find other volunteers offering to mentor and help you succeed as a volunteer. The easiest way to start learning where you can help out is to start attending committee meetings for the activity you are most interested in.

Is there aNYTHING ELSE WE SHOULD KNOW ABOUT YOU?

I got my start backpacking and scrambling in the Colorado Rockies. Coming out to Washington, I learned that to continue peak bagging, I'd need to learn technical skills - which brought me into The Mountaineers. While a lot of what I do now is technical roped climbing, I still have an interest in getting to new summits that I've never been to before. That, and gummies always taste better on a summit.

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!