Leader Spotlight: Laurel Geisbush

Leader Spotlight is a monthly blog to showcase our incredible volunteer leadership at The Mountaineers. Meet this month's featured leader: Laurel Geisbush. She is a leader with the Everett Branch who says that joining The Mountaineers to take the Basic Climbing course is one of the best decisions she's made in her life!
Sara Ramsay Sara Ramsay
Volunteer Development Manager
March 29, 2021

For our Leader Spotlight this month we talked to Laurel Geisbush, a volunteer leader with the Everett Branch who encourages aspiring leaders to ask other leaders  questions about their experiences, listen deeply, and learn from them.

Name: Laurel Geisbush
Branch: Everett
How long have you been a leader? 4 years (member since 2016)
What activities do you participate in? I love participating in climbing and scrambling activities. In the winter snowshoeing is a favorite activity.

Leadership Questions

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO volunteer WITH THE MOUNTAINEERS?

Joining The Mountaineers is one of the best decisions I've made in my life. At the time I joined, it was to take the Basic Climbing course with Everett. I had no idea how much being part of The Mountaineers would impact my life. I have developed new skills, gained new friends, and have found a community of people who love exploring. All of this has made me want to be part of the community and continue participating.

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

This is a difficult question because I love every trip. One memorable moment that comes to mind is my first glacier climb as a BCC (Basic Climbing Course) student, directly after Snow 2 at Mt. Baker with Doug Sanders leading. We woke up at midnight for an alpine start at 1am. We climbed up the Easton Glacier under the cool air, stars, and moonlight, reaching the sulfur near Sherman Peak and the Roman Wall as the sun was coming up. The sky was shades of pink with a mountain shadow on the horizon behind us. We reached the summit just after sunrise and had the entire area to ourselves. The splendid views of North Cascade peaks in every direction and deep mountain layers was incredible. We made it back to our camp before 10am, took a quick rest for the tired feet, then packed up our tents and headed back to the cars at the Park Butte Trailhead. I learned about strength that day and got my first glimpse into how far and high mountaineers can travel in one day.

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

As I've gained more experience leading in the outdoors, I have gotten comfortable with the fact that everyone is on their own journey outdoors. Each person is comfortable with various parts of the terrain or skills and there may be other parts that they aren't as comfortable with. Knowing how I can best support others as they are learning (understanding their goals) and for them to know I am there to support them when needed (ideally, knowing how they want to be supported) is part of my leadership style.

I've also learned that you can have a plan and timeline to guide you, but you won't really understand how it all comes together until you see the terrain, weather, and how everyone is doing on that individual day. Being flexible is super important.

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

I make sure that everyone gets the chance to meet and introduce themselves at the beginning of a trip, individually sharing their name and goals for the particular event. I also share my intentions for the trip in advance of sign up and then again at the trailhead. I let the group know what to expect and to let me know how they are doing throughout the trip. I want to know how people are feeling as we move through the trip.

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?

A few years ago in the early winter, I was doing a day hike to Gothic Basin with a scramble up to Gothic Peak. My climbing partner and I were enjoying travelling the snow covered route when we hit a section that hadn't been warmed yet by the sun. It was very icy and my partner slipped, sliding down to a flat shelf below. Luckily we both escaped unhurt, but it was a wakeup call. We talked about how the outcome would have been different without the flat section below or if the rocks hadn't been covered in snow. We had gotten so comfortable travelling together that we had stopped talking about potential hazards regularly. After debriefing this close call, we have continued to bring the topic up on future trips so we can remain aware of current conditions, not continuing through sketchy terrain and taking time to discuss the route while it's laid out in front of us.

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

Go on lots of trips and meet as many Mountaineers as you can. Ask leaders (and other experienced Mountaineers) questions about their experiences, listen deeply, and learn from them. Think about the positive leadership experiences that have shaped you and adapt what you can to define your personal leadership style. Be yourself, we all have unique gifts to offer. When you meet leaders that have decades of experience, like so many of our wonderful leaders, go out with them as much as you can.

What keeps you volunteering with The Mountaineers?

The people keep me wanting to volunteer with The Mountaineers! Also, all the beautiful mountains to explore here in Washington (and beyond). We can stay busy for years with so many peaks and areas to explore.

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

I have gained the appreciation of each person bringing something different to a climb. Together we all make a team to work on the current goal. Each person offers a different piece from a technical skill, humor on the long stretch of trail carrying heavy packs, insight and thoughts on the plan, ability to scout the route, help someone who needs a pick up, etc.

Is there aNYTHING ELSE WE SHOULD KNOW ABOUT YOU?

I joined the Mountaineers in 2016 to sign up for the Basic Climbing course in 2017. I didn't get into the Seattle course and my work friend (and fellow Mountaineer) Andrew Monko encouraged me to take the course with Everett. I've am thankful for Andrew's recommendation to join Everett. I've really enjoyed the small community feel that we have within Everett. As a BCC student, I was able to meet all of my classmates and get to know the climb leaders. I started volunteering in 2018 on the Climbing Committee as the Records Keeper. Then in 2019 I became a Scramble leader and in 2020 I became a Snowshoe leader. This year I am the Basic Climbing Chair for Everett and I've been enjoying making our course successful in a virtual environment through Microsoft Teams. I am working on gaining my Glacier Climb leader badge here in 2021 with one more mentored climb.

Lightning Round

What's your go-to place for a post-trip meal? Mondo's. Warm burger or spicy teriyaki.
How about your best trail snack? Chips. I love salty and spicy!
What's your favorite close-to-home adventure? Any of the Snoqualmie 20 Peaks. They offer easy access and are incredibly beautiful for the day or overnight adventures.
Who is your Mountaineers hero? Rodica Manole. She's an inspiring, supportive leader and has amazing adventure every weekend!
What 11th Essential do you bring on most trips? My DSLR camera. I love capturing the scenery to remember forever.
What's next on your bucket list? Rainier and Olympus!

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!