Remembering Mountaineer Norm Winn

Legendary outdoor advocate and former Mountaineers Board President Norm Winn has passed away. His contributions to the outdoor experience are immense, and we are incredibly grateful that he shared so much of his time and talents with The Mountaineers.
The Mountaineers The Mountaineers
February 11, 2022

Norm Winn, a legendary outdoor advocate and former Mountaineers President, passed away on December 31, 2021. Norm served as President from 1975-1977, during which time he lobbied Congress with Washington State Governor Dan Evans to help to create the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. He also served on our Conservation Division for 25-years, and leaves behind a long legacy of advocacy for the outdoor experience. He was 82.

Norm's early life took him all over the globe. His family eventually landed in Iowa, where he graduated from high school. He completed his undergrad at Harvard and graduated from law school at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, where he met his wife Karyl. Together they joined The Mountaineers in 1968, shortly after moving to Seattle. They were married for 51 years.

Winn3.jpgNorm and Karyl. Photo by Mike Dole.

Norm quickly became involved in our climbing programs, and later with kayaking. He is listed on many Mountaineers climbs, including a number of first ascents. His name appears on a 1970 trip report, where he and others are credited with a new route variation on Bears Breast Mountain. He also led trips to Mount Logan in 1972 and a traverse of the Inspiration Glacier in 1973.

Over the years, Norm traveled around the United States to climb with The Mountaineers, both as a climb leader and as a participant. In our 1975 Annual he writes a three page trip report of a 10-day trip to the Wind River Range in Wyoming, culminating in a helicopter rescue of an injured climber. He later traveled to the Sawtooths in Idaho and led a trip to Mt. Waddington in British Columbia, where the climbers reached the summit.

His favorite place to climb was right here in Washington, in the North Cascades, where he is credited with a number of first ascents.  

norm.jpgNorm Winn in the North Cascades. Photo courtesy of Norm Winn.

As respected as Norm was in the mountains, he earned equal reverence as a great defender of the outdoor experience in the Pacific Northwest and beyond. As an attorney, advocate, and lobbyist, he fought for decades for the protection of more than a million acres of forest and wilderness. He was extremely effective, helping to pass the 1984 Washington Wilderness Act and the Olympic National Park ocean strip additions in 1988, in addition to the his work for Alpine Lakes Wilderness.

He was a strong supporter of Mountaineers Books, leveraging a number of our titles to inspire protection. Working with Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, the award-winning  Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: Seasons of Life and Land by Subhankar Banerjee played a pivotal role in temporarily protecting the Arctic Refuge from oil drilling.

Norm was a member of the The Mountaineers Conservation Division for 25 years and its chairman on two separate occasions. While Mountaineers President in 1976, he lobbied Congress for the passage of the bill creating the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Act. And, Norm wrote many of The Mountaineers position papers, particularly those pertaining to forestry and salmon. 

image73146E2.jpgPhoto by Harry Morgan.

Rick Munsen, Norm's longtime climbing partner and 40-year Mountaineers member, admired Norm's advocacy and ethics. "Norm was my close friend and climbing partner for 48 years of safe and injury-free climbing. He was such a good leader, organized and fun to be with on any trip," said Rick. "Norm was an exemplary citizen. He was a principled man, and I so admire his character. We all know of his pro bono lobbying efforts to protect wilderness areas and our environment from overuse and climate change. He practiced what he preached regarding conservation and the environment."

Norm was one of the first Mountaineers to raise the alarm about climate change, and we are honored to continue to carry forward his vision today. Perhaps the legacy Norm leaves behind is best summed up by Norm himself, as written in the 1983-90 Annual, summarizing the work of the Conservation Division:

The Mountaineers has been a leader in protecting the environment since the club was formed in 1906. Some environmental themes are new, such as concern about hazardous waste and energy conservation. Other issues, such as protection of our national forests and parks and enjoying the recreation opportunities of the Northwest, have continued over the years. Thanks to the leadership and volunteer participation of many of our members, The Mountaineers remains a leading environmental force in the Northwest and continues to "preserve and protect the beauty of Northwest America."

Thank you Norm for your tireless efforts to protect the outdoor experience. You will be missed.

A Public Memorial

A celebration of life will be held in the spring or when COVID allows. More details to come.

Main image by Mike Dole.


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Cindy Hoover
Cindy Hoover says:
Feb 15, 2022 07:43 AM

Norm was a great guy and I remember him and Karyl fondly.

Doug Stauffer
Doug Stauffer says:
Feb 20, 2022 05:20 PM

Thanks for sharing this reflection of Norm and his accomplishments. He certainly did a lot to help promote and conserve outdoor spaces here in the PNW