Mountaineer of the Week: Deborah Anderson

Meet Deborah, a 50-year member whose favorite memories include unknowingly being featured on the cover of the 1987 Mountaineer Bulletin and learning that "party separation" doesn't actually mean getting left behind on the mountain.
The Mountaineers The Mountaineers
March 17, 2023
Mountaineer of the Week: Deborah Anderson

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

Name: Deborah Anderson
Hometown: Wellesley, MA
Member Since: 1973
Occupation: Retired. Former social worker (MSW) developing community-based programs for older adults.
Favorite Activities: Favorite activities have varied throughout the years but include mountaineering, climbing, hiking, snowshoeing, sea kayaking, going on extended walks, and cross-country skiing.

How did you get involved with The Mountaineers?

Following my time in the Peace Corps I did some climbing in Africa (Kilimanjaro and the Rwenzoris). I loved those experiences and decided I would really like to continue climbing and live near mountains. I had a wonderful cousin who was active in The Mountaineers and a Peace Corp friend who told me all about the North Cascades. Through them I was encouraged to move to Seattle. I moved to Seattle to go to graduate school at the School of Social Work (1973-1975) and joined The Mountaineers.

What motivates you to get outside with us?

I have always been physically active, having played competitive tennis in high school and college, but I hadn’t had exposure to climbing and mountaineering. I took the Basic Alpine Climbing Course and Intermediate Alpine Climbing Course and learned to be comfortable and competent in the mountains. I loved the courses and appreciated the quality of the leaders. Through the many climbs offered by The Mountaineers I made lifelong friends, and even met my husband on one of the climbs. Soon my husband and I will have gone on two Global Adventures cross-country ski trips. In 2019 we went to the Canadian Rockies which was spectacular and well-run, and in March 2023 we are going to Norway with the same leaders.

What's your favorite Mountaineers memory?

I have so many favorite memories. On my first rock climbing field trip to Mt. Erie, the leader called “party separation” as we were hiking up to the base of our first rock. I thought “oh my gosh, they are already separating the weak from the strong.” I had no idea it meant for the women to go to one side and the men the other so we could relieve ourselves. I was indeed relieved when I understood what it meant.

Another favorite memory is being on the cover of The Mountaineer Bulletin in August of 1987, which featured a climb of the West Ridge of Forbidden. I had no idea who the hard[1]hatted person was until I looked inside the cover and saw my name. I was actually top roped by my husband Michael but he couldn’t be seen in the picture.

Who/What inspires you?

Being up high, looking down on glaciers, and negotiating up rocky pinnacles in the North Cascades inspires me. I love the thrill of the physical and mental focus it takes to get to the top. I’ve climbed all the volcanoes in Washington and some serious peaks in the North Cascades, Argentina, and Idaho.

In the late seventies I met Phyllis Munday and loved hearing her describe her and her husband’s exploration of the Unknown Mountain (now known as Mount Waddington). I told Norm Winn, a fellow mountaineer, that if he ever led a trip to Unknown Mountain I would love to go. A few years later he did and invited me. It was an amazing, awe-filled experience to be in the expansive wilderness and I ended up being the only woman on the trip. We successfully summited the northeast face and climbed several other lesser peaks in the area.

While that was the last major climb of my life, I have continued to love hiking and doing more modest climbs in the North Cascades with friends. In my mid-seventies I continue to be thankful for making a pass or summit and being able to gaze out over mountain upon mountain.

What does adventure mean to you?

There are many types of adventures in life, like getting married or having children, as adventure involves some risk-taking and no assurance of success. Physical adventures usually involve some discomfort, extra effort, and, in my case, an unplanned bivouac. My adventures through The Mountaineers have led me to amazingly wild and beautiful places. In the words of John Muir, “As long as I live, I’ll hear waterfalls and birds and wings sing. I’ll interpret the rocks, learn the language of flood, storm, and the avalanche. I’ll acquaint myself with the glaciers and wild gardens, and get as near the heart of the world as I can."

Lightning round

Sunrise or sunset? Sunset
What's your 11th Essential? My Sony Alpha camera
What’s your happy place? Cozy in a tent
Post-adventure meal of choice? I hate to admit it, but a cold beer and a hamburger
If you could be a rockstar at any outdoor activity overnight, what would it be? It’s a toss-up between being able to “look” like I can skate ski without effort or being able to roll a kayak


Mountaineers 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 membership, and we hope these weekly features highlight who we are and why our community plays an important part in feeling belonging in the outdoors. 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!


Want to nominate a friend? Email Skye Michel to make a recommendation.