Leader Spotlight: Steve Payne

Leader Spotlight is a monthly blog to showcase our incredible volunteer leadership at The Mountaineers. Meet this month's featured leader: Steve Payne. He is a 15-year member whose deep volunteerism and leadership was inspired by participation in our Conditioning Hiking Series (CHS) program.
Sara Ramsay Sara Ramsay
Volunteer Development Manager
December 29, 2020
Leader Spotlight: Steve Payne

For our Leader Spotlight this month we talked to Steve Payne, a longtime volunteer with the Seattle Branch who recently moved to Olympia and has jumped right in!

Name: Steve Payne
Branch: Olympia & Seattle
Where do you live? Union, WA 
How long have you been in a leadership role at The Mountaineers? Trip leader and member since 2006; member, Secretary, and Chair of the Seattle Hiking Committee (off-and-on 2007-2020); Course Administrator of Seattle's Conditioning Hiking Series (2012-2016); and member of the Leadership Conference Planning Committee (2016-2017).
What activities do you lead? Hiking

Leadership Questions

What inspired you to take on a leadership role with The Mountaineers?

I joined The Mountaineers to take the Conditioning Hiking Series course, which was then in its second year. I was in awe of the CHS leaders and the amount of volunteer time they put in to teach us how to hike responsibly and safely. One of them saw a spark of leadership ability in me that I didn't know I had, and encouraged me to become a trip leader.

What is the best, favorite, or most memorable trip you've had with the club?

It was on a backpack to Flapjack Lakes/Black & White Lakes in the Olympics. When we got up to Black Lake it was just about done melting out and the remaining ice was thin and feathering out from the shore. That image is burned into my brain.

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

Depending on the difficulty of the trip, I try not to overtly lead as much as facilitate and empower the participants so they can make their own adventure. I've also become much more empathetic and think about the person struggling in the back, like I use to my first year in CHS.


I was leading a CHS trip to West Fork Foss Lakes near Skykomish. It was a nice day and we took a long lunch and a couple swims. A rainstorm came up on us quickly and washed out a huge chunk of trail ahead of us. We waited for the rain to let up and made it out just before dark, but the washout would have been well behind us if I had stuck to the plan. I am now much more strict about setting and sticking to turnaround times.

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

Go on lots of trips in your chosen activity. You'll eventually find a leader whose leadership style matches the one you'd like to adopt. That's your mentor. And lead trips that are no more than 80% of your ability - you can be a participant on someone else's trip to stretch that next 20%!


My wife, Rhea, doesn't hike, but she's been incredibly supportive of my volunteer work with The Mountaineers and Washington Trails Association. 36 years and counting - she's a keeper!

Lightning Round

What's your go-to place for a post-trip meal? So many! Basically anywhere with a good bacon cheeseburger and draft beer. Two of my favorite places are closed: Timberline Restaurant in Quilcene and Wallace Falls Cafe in Gold Bar.
How about your best trail snack? Chessmen cookies
What's your favorite close-to-home adventure? Alderbrook Nature Trails
Who is your Mountaineers hero? I have three: Kelly and Matt Cleman, creators of the Conditioning Hiking Series, and their partner in crime, the late guidebook author and "Hike of the Week" columnist Karen Sykes.
What's next on your bucket list? Now that I live closer, there are several Olympic classics I have yet to hike: Hurricane Ridge, High Divide/Seven Lakes Basin, and Elwha River are a few!

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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Peter Hendrickson
Peter Hendrickson says:
Dec 31, 2020 10:52 AM

Hurrah to Steve, a hike leader's hike leader. Thanks for your unstinting support across a broad sweep of the club. Your empathy and support of back-of-the pack hikers serves as a model to us all.