Leader Spotlight: John Gilbert

Leader Spotlight is a monthly blog to showcase our incredible volunteer leadership at The Mountaineers. Meet this month's featured leader: John Gilbert. He is a 29-year member who loves hiking, scrambling, and pedaling his kayak!
Sara Ramsay Sara Ramsay
Volunteer Development Manager
December 29, 2019
Leader Spotlight: John Gilbert

For our Leader Spotlight this month we talked to John Gilbert, a volunteer leader with the Foothills Branch who loves both close-to-home and more remote adventures. He has hiked Tiger Mountain more than 100 times, and is also working his way through the Rainier 100!

Name: John Gilbert
Branch: Foothills, formerly Seattle
Where do you live? Sammamish, WA
How long have you been a leader? 15 years (member since 1990)
What activities do you lead? Scrambling, Hiking, Snowshoeing, Nordic Skiing, and Navigation

Leadership Questions

What inspired you to lead trips for The Mountaineers?

Initially it was so I could go on the trips I wanted to go on and when I wanted to go. Over time, the “giving back” perspective grew on me and that is now much of the reason. I really enjoy showing other club members new trails/routes and helping them learn new skills.

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

An especially memorable trip was a 2013 Winter Scramble that I led to Bryant Peak. It was a blue bird day on which we started with microspikes on the icy trail, switched to snowshoes for the middle section, and used our crampons for the summit. And if 3 types of footwear was not enough, we also wore Teva sandals to cross Denny Creek. Not often that we wade creeks in the winter! Fun fact: My profile photo was from that day.

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

I have learned not to “over lead”. I try to provide just enough direction so that the trip is safe and successful, but not be “that leader” that keeps telling everybody what to do.

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

Keep an eye on the folks in the back, especially when you have summit fever and are pushing your own limits. If it is hard for you, it is probably too hard for some others. Also, on scramble trips, pull out your rope more often. I learned the hard way that simply looping your rope around a tree will make a slippery slope much safer. Ouch!

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

Navigation! When you go on other leader’s hikes or scrambles, don’t just follow along. Research the trip ahead of time, highlight the route on your printed map, set waypoints in your GPS, and then ask the leader if you can set the route. Most leaders would be happy to hang out in the back and only speak up if you are off-route.


In addition to my mountain pursuits, my wife Tracey and I are avid fair-weather sea kayakers. Every spring and summer we spend a several days each month working on our quest to pedal our double kayak through every named bay and waterway between Olympia and the Canadian border. Do you love both biking and kayaking? Try a self-rescuing Hobie kayak and use your strong legs - not your weak arms. You will never be satisfied with just a paddle again. 

Lightning Round

What's your go-to place for a post-trip meal? Any convenience store for a Diet Coke and a big bag of chips.
How about your best trail snack? PB&J – Duh!
What's your favorite close-to-home adventure? I have hiked Tiger 100+ times. I suppose that must be it.
Who is your Mountaineers hero? Andy Cahn. He leads more trips in an average year than most leaders do in their career.
What's next on your bucket list? The 24 peaks remaining on my “Rainier 100” list.

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!

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Danielle Graham
Danielle Graham says:
Dec 29, 2019 08:43 AM

Nice work, John!

Jacob Lopilato
Jacob Lopilato says:
Jan 03, 2020 08:25 AM

Miss going on scrambles with John! Great guy, and great leader!