Mountaineer of the Week: Catherine Killien

Meet Catherine, a 7-year volunteer for our climbing program who cherishes those championing steps of a first summit.
Michelle Song Michelle Song
Volunteer Development Manager
December 23, 2022
Mountaineer of the Week: Catherine Killien
Catherine on Mt. Blackburn

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: Catharine Killien
Branch: Seattle
How long have you been volunteering with The Mountaineers?  7 years
What activities do you participate in with The Mountaineers? Climbing

VOLUNTEER LEADERSHIP QUESTIONS

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO VOLUNTEER WITH THE MOUNTAINEERS?

I had a great SIG in the Basic Alpine Climbing Course taught by Jim Pitts (I even got to take basic for two years because I tore my ACL the first year). He was so committed to teaching, and made me fall in love with climbing. Seeing his commitment to giving back inspired me to do the same.

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

Cliché, but my first summit of Rainier was one I will always remember. The feeling of joy reaching the summit, knowing all the hard work I had put in to get there, was one that I don't always feel reaching summits now. The first steps you take on mountains and the first summits are sometimes the most special - going to a brand new place that so few people ever get to go.

WHAT IS ONE THING YOU DO ON TRIPS TO CREATE AN INCLUSIVE EXPERIENCE FOR PEOPLE OF ALL SKILLS AND BACKGROUNDS?

I make sure everyone knows they have veto power - if anyone feels uncomfortable they have the right and the obligation to speak up. If someone says something, I always try to make sure we stop and assess and make a decision as a group, with all voices considered.

IT'S OFTEN SAID: "GOOD JUDGMENT COMES FROM EXPERIENCE; EXPERIENCE COMES FROM BAD JUDGMENT." CAN YOU DESCRIBE A LEARNING EXPERIENCE, SUCH AS A TAKE-AWAY FROM A CLOSE CALL OR A NEAR MISS, TO HELP OUR COMMUNITY BUILD THEIR GOOD JUDGMENT?

I consider myself a very fair weather climber so I am generally able to mitigate weather-related risks. I did get stuck in an unexpected/un-forecasted whiteout on Camp Muir once that taught me you should always be prepared for any weather circumstance, regardless of what the forecast predicts for that day. Always bring a GPS, a friend, and extra snacks.

WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR ASPIRING LEADERS IN THE MOUNTAINEERS COMMUNITY?

Start small - volunteer at a field trip at the Program Center for a class you took last year. You'll get the teaching bug quickly. There are also great opportunities to become a frontcountry leader now - those are great opportunities to get involved.

LIGHTNING ROUND

What's your go-to place for a post-trip meal? Base Camp Bar & Grill in Ashford
How about your best trail snack?  Trader Joes Sour Scandinavian Swimmers
What's your favorite close-to-home adventure? Paddleboarding with my puppy in Union Bay
What 11th Essential do you bring on most trips? Kindle
What's next on your bucket list? Mt Logan in Canada

NOMINATE YOURSELF FOR MOUNTAINEER OF THE WEEK

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!

SHARE YOUR EXPERIENCES

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