Leader Spotlight: Karen Wallace

Leader Spotlight is a monthly blog to showcase our incredible volunteer leadership at The Mountaineers. Meet this month's featured leader: Karen Wallace. She is a 3-year member with an adventurous spirit, a keen attention to detail, and a passion for sharing her love of the outdoors with others.
Sara Ramsay Sara Ramsay
Education Manager
June 29, 2019
Leader Spotlight: Karen Wallace

For our Leader Spotlight this month we talked to Karen Wallace, a volunteer leader with the Foothills Branch who is inspired to get newer members out on the trail, encouraging them to become advocates for the outdoors!

Name: Karen Wallace
Branch: Foothills
Where do you live? Kent, WA
How long have you been a leader? 3 years (member since 2016)
What activities do you lead? Hiking & Scrambling

Leadership Questions

What inspired you to become a Leader for The Mountaineers?

Getting outside matters. It energizes the spirit, calms the mind, and keeps us active which results in better health. There are a lot of people who have yet to experience these effects. That is why I enjoy leading day hikes for newer members and casual-paced hikers. If I can show them an enjoyable time, hopefully that will springboard them into more outdoor activities and make them advocates for the outdoors.

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

A casual-paced day hike to Annette Lake in mid-October of 2017 with "surprise" snow was my favorite. I thought I had checked the weather, but apparently not well enough. As I drove out on I-90, I could see snow on Mount Si and then as I got closer to my exit, there was quite a bit of snow on Granite Mountain, too. I said to myself, "uh-oh" because I had not instructed the participants to bring traction devices for their boots/shoes. Thank goodness I did request that they bring trekking poles.

As we gathered in the parking lot, I checked with each participant to make sure he or she was comfortable hiking in the snow. Everyone was good with it, so we went for it! About a third of the way up, we got into the snow. Farther up the trail, one participant started to get uncomfortable. I noticed the rubber ends were still on his poles and once he removed those, he was much better and decided to continue up. Upon arrival to the lake, we were rewarded with sunshine, blue sky, and breathtaking views of the lake and snow-capped peaks! After we basked in the sun while eating our lunches, we safely made it back down the snow and to our cars. The trip was a little more adventurous than I had planned, but that's probably why it is my favorite. 

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

I try to dial in the trip description and leader notes as tightly as possible to limit misunderstandings. That way, if I state something like, "Having lunch at the lake for 30 to 40 minutes before heading back!", the expectations are clear. Any disappointment that we only stayed at the lake for 30 to 40 minutes is on the participant, and not me.

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

Really pay attention to each participant and hang off the back or in the middle if necessary, as it can be hard to see what's going on if you're off the front. On uneven terrain or slippery surfaces, remind participants to pay attention to footing and balance. Recommending trekking poles can be beneficial for tired legs on descents and can prevent scrapes and bruises.

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

Keep things as simple and familiar as possible for your first lead. If you have done all your homework, communicated your intentions well, and executed your checklists, pick one action or mindset to focus on before setting off on the hike. This can calm down any anxiety because you now only have one thing to think about. I generally choose "engage" because I know how to hike and I'm just there to take everyone on an enjoyable outing!


I ran for Lieutenant Governor in 2016 on a very grassroots level and somehow still managed to end up 6th place out of 11 candidates. It was from that experience and receiving emails from all sorts of people with all sorts of interests and opinions - including holding their votes for me hostage until I answered their questions - that I decided I should start volunteering more, but for something I really like. That is when I starting looking into The Mountaineers!


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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Shelley Beuviere
Shelley Beuviere says:
Jul 05, 2019 02:58 PM

Karen is an amazing leader. Her passion, knowledge and enthusiasm for the wilderness (matched with her keen attention to everyone in the group)ensured that all skill levels has a very enjoyable hike to Poo Poo Point for sunset. As an new hiker I learned so much; from equipment tips to information about the landscape along the way. She inspired and informed me to further my skills for future pursuits and encouraged stewardship. This hike lead me to volunteer for my first WTA party, I am signed up for two more. I look forward to gaining the necessary skills to one day be a hike leader. Karen would be my model to aspire to.