Mountaineer of the Week: Andy Zavada and Sheila Reynolds

Meet Andy and Sheila, hike leaders and Conditioning Hiking Series administrators who believe that hiking in the backcountry "brings out our best and truest selves."
Michelle Song Michelle Song
Volunteer Development Manager
July 28, 2023
Mountaineer of the Week: Andy Zavada and Sheila Reynolds

Each week we bring you a personal story from one of our members and volunteers. For our volunteer profile this week we talked to...

Name: Andy Zavada & Sheila Reynolds
Branch: Seattle
How long have you been volunteering with The Mountaineers?  10 years
What activities do you participate in with The Mountaineers? We are hike leaders and current administrators for the Conditioning Hiking Series (CHS)



We met as CHS participants in 2011. Andy became a hike leader in 2013 while also assisting Steve Payne with some CHS admin duties. Sheila became a hike leader in 2014.


It was in 2011 and consisted of a double dose of fabulous, starting off with a fantastic CHS hike followed by the first after hike "date" for me and Sheila. Our hike was up to Navaho Peak that day and we both recall heading up the trail on the approach to Navaho Pass. As you head up the final stretch to the Pass you will see nothing until you clear the ridge and then BOOM! There is the Stuart Range right in your face looking just majestic and magnificent. I remember releasing a truly spontaneous "Oh WOW!" as I came up and saw that view. It was stunning. We also bagged Navaho Peak and were in awe the whole time. Back at the trailhead, Sheila and I begged off the after-hike get together as we had tickets to see Bruce Hornsby at Chateau St Michelle! We were late and missed the opening act but had a great time with Mr. Hornsby and each other. The rest is history and Sheila and I are now married and working hard at continuing the legacy, and keeping CHS the fabulous program that it is.


At the trailhead Sheila and I stress that while our #1 priority is everybody's safety, we also insist that a close second to safety is for everyone to have FUN! We strongly emphasize togetherness, community, camaraderie, supportiveness all combined with our shared love and enthusiasm for the great outdoors.

What is one surprising thing you've learned while volunteering with the mountaineers?

After all these years, we are always amazed at just how light and easy people become when they are in the wilderness and hiking together. In that shared space of hiking and being "out there" there is often a pure openness and bonding that occurs among fellow hikers that may not be as easy to tap into in different situations. We find that hiking in the wilderness really brings out our best and truest selves time and time again. It's a great equalizer and it's so satisfying to participate and watch as our hikers revel and thrill at the adventure that they are on with each other.

What advice do you have for aspiring volunteers?

Andy: Stay true to the love you have for what you do "out there," no matter what it may be. Work hard to hone your leadership skills via the many fabulous leadership trainings and seminars that The Mountaineers offer. Yes, be sure to develop those skills. But above all, as you lead, always think back and tap into that love and enthusiasm that brought you to wanting to share, lead, and teach others in the first place.

Sheila: Go for it! I was such a nervous "newbie" when I first joined CHS, and I am just amazed at all the things I have done since 2011, things I never would have thought I would or even could do, and now I get to share my experiences with new friends through CHS every year, and part of me is always kind of amazed that people are asking me for advice and suggestions, and "looking up" to "little old me." 


What is your favorite close-to-home adventure? A simple walk in the "woods" (local park)
What 11th Essential do you bring on most trips? Dark Chocolate!
Post-trip meal or go-to place of choice? Salmon or chicken burger and sweet potato fries.
What's next on your bucket list? Global backpacking adventure in New Zealand, Iceland, or Patagonia...
If you could be adept at any outdoor activity overnight, what would it be? Sheila: I wish I could have infinite endurance and energy! Andy: Skiing!


Mountaineers volunteers come in all shapes and sizes, varying widely in age, outdoor experience, and length of time involved in The Mountaineers. Part of what makes our community so unique is the broad diversity of our leadership, and we hope these weekly features highlight how our trip leaders, course instructors, and committee and branch officers support our community. We are always seeking self-nominations for our Mountaineer of the Week, and we invite you to share your story. Trust us, we want to hear from you!


If you’re a leader (or want to nominate a leader to spotlight), send an email to Michelle Song to make a recommendation.

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Peter Hendrickson
Peter Hendrickson says:
Aug 01, 2023 08:18 AM

Pure energy, bottomless support for others and such joy Andy and Sheila. How lucky that you found The Mountaineers and each other.