Remembering Mountaineer Scott Shafer

With great sadness we share news of the passing of Scott Shafer, a Mountaineers climb leader, SIG leader, Super Volunteer, teacher, mentor, climbing partner, and friend to many during his 26-years as a Mountaineers member.
The Mountaineers The Mountaineers
June 29, 2023
Remembering Mountaineer Scott Shafer
Scott Shafer on the Northwest Ridge of Mount Sir Donald, British Columbia. Photo by Pete Erickson.

We are devastated to share that Scott Shafer has passed away. He was a widely beloved and respected member of The Mountaineers community as a climb leader, SIG leader, Super Volunteer, teacher, mentor, climbing partner, and friend to many during his 26-years as a Mountaineers member. He passed away on June 26, 2023, after a four month battle with cancer.

Scott grew up in Michigan with nothing but horizon everywhere he looked. He visited the Pacific Northwest in 1995 to climb with Rainier Mountaineering. He described seeing Mt. Rainier for the first time as “something out of a fairy tale.” Returning home in St. Louis after that trip, he decided to move to Seattle.

Scott joined The Mountaineers in early 1997 to take our Basic Alpine Climbing Course. Upon successful graduation, he enrolled in the Intermediate Climbing Course in 2000, graduating in 2005. His early climbs took him to the peaks of Shuksan, Cutthroat, Mt. Adams, Ingalls, and Eldorado, among others.

Grateful to the volunteers who had taught him, Scott began volunteering as an assistant leader in 2003. His first trip was a successful climb of Sahale Peak. As a newly minted Climb Leader in 2008, Scott led five participants up the south side of Mt. Hood. Scott frequently took students up Sahale Peak, Ingalls Peak, Yellowjacket Tower, Forbidden Peak, and Mt. Hood.

Scott became a Small Instruction Group (SIG) Leader for Basic in 2012, shortly after the program was created. A school teacher by trade, Scott took his role as outdoor teacher seriously and relished the opportunity to serve as a mentor to a new class of students. Since becoming a climb leader in 2008, Scott has taught more than 350 students outdoor skills. He was a prolific and well-loved leader. Here are just a few things Scott's students have said about his passion for sharing knowledge:

  • Scott Shafer's enthusiasm for not only climbing, but teaching others, makes learning from him a fantastic experience. I appreciate that he is extremely knowledgeable about the techniques we are learning, and always seems to have a relevant story about why a certain approach works better on real climbs. At the same time, he is always open to learning new techniques as the sport changes, and I appreciate the focus on thoroughly understanding why we pick one approach over the other rather than just sticking with tradition for tradition's sake.
  • Scott is a true leader and teacher. Having someone who understands the importance of consistent teaching and immediate feedback so bad habits are not formed is a great thing.
  • The weather did not give us any breaks and Scott maintained a positive attitude the entire day. He showed great leadership by continually evaluating the situation to decide if we could safely continue. When checking in with the group he clearly outlined the plan and opened the floor for any feedback before continuing on. This was a very valuable day in the mountains for me to see his thought process and constant evaluation of conditions.
  • Scott was conscientious of the different participants' skill and comfort level. I saw him give intermediate students leadership opportunities. We all had a great time climbing!

Scott also loved climbing beyond Washington, organizing annual trips to Red Rock Canyon, Nevada with current and former students. Multi-day trips were also part of the tradition. Climbing in the Bugaboos, The Grand Teton, and excursions to climbing mecca's around the country. A favorite climb in recent years was the Northwest Ridge of Mount Sir Donald in British Columbia. In his final days, he looked from his house towards Mount Phelps on the North Fork of the Snoqualmie River, ever planning new destinations.

53008808245_623fb9b813_c.jpgPhoto by Pete Erickson.

While he loved climbing, Scott had many outdoor interests. In addition to navigation and first aid, he took a number of Nordic (Cross-country) Skiing Courses with both the Seattle and Everett branches. He became a ski instructor just before COVID shut everything down in March 2020. During the pandemic, he graduated from a Digital Navigation and Trip Planning Course and kept his fitness and skills sharp through a virtual course, Stay Fit and Flatten the Curves, and by attending various other webinars. He was interested in trips near and far, investigating to learn more about Ama Dablam, Denali, Patagonia, and the Dolomites. He began teaching Nordic ski courses, and resumed his SIG group with the Basic Climbing Course in 2021.

All told, Scott participated in more than 185 activities in his 26-year tenure, leading 76 different scrambles, climbs, hikes, and skis. It is difficult to overstate the magnitude of Scott’s impact on our community.

53008430401_44290a81a6_c.jpgPhoto by Pete Erickson.

When we profiled Scott in 2018, he said, “I was one of the slowest people in my basic class. I had medical challenges that required extensions in both the basic and intermediate climbing programs. I had two kids and a divorce during the same time. To new people today, I want to say, don't be afraid to go for it. If I can do it, you can. The mountains are my place and have kept me safe. The people I have met are now my best friends. I'll be here for a long time.”

We regret that Scott didn’t have more time to spend with the people and the places he loved. Our deepest sympathies go out to Scott’s friends and family, especially his wife Rachel, who is also a longtime Mountaineers member and ski leader.

We’d like to leave you with one of Scott’s favorite quotes by Ellen Johnson Sirleaf:

“If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough.”

Sip and Reminisce

An informal get together for friends, students, and climbers is currently being planned. Please check back for more information.

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Peter Erickson
Peter Erickson says:
Jun 29, 2023 01:40 PM

I miss him already

Ted Baughman
Ted Baughman says:
Jun 30, 2023 03:55 PM

Scott was on my II climb of El Dorado, and despite it being a grind he later asked me to mentor him for a climb of SEWS. He was just as good a leader as he was a student: graceful under pressure, steady and thoughtful. I told him after the climb that he didn't need more mentoring, he just needed to keep doing what he was doing. He was a warm guy, with a wry sense of humor and an indomitable spirit. My deepest condolences to his family and friends, he will not be forgotten.

Monica Pfister
Monica Pfister says:
Jul 06, 2023 10:09 AM

Having Scott as a mentor and leader for basic was an amazing experience. He always had a playful and positive spirit. I appreciated that if a trip was going to be a sufferfest that he would pivot plans to ensure we all had an enjoyable time. My sincere deepest condolences go out to his family.

Todd Enos
Todd Enos says:
Jul 08, 2023 06:57 AM

Scott and Pete helped me reach my goal of climbing Mount Rainier in 2012, pictured above. I will forever be grateful to Scott and the Mountaineers. I am fortunate that our paths crossed for a momentous climb.