Top 10 Mountaineers of Instagram: Inspiration for 2023

In this piece from Mountaineer magazine, we spotlight our ten favorite Mountaineers of Instagram - here to inspire your next year of adventure.
Skye Michel Skye Michel
Associate Communications Manager
December 31, 2022
Top 10 Mountaineers of Instagram: Inspiration for 2023
Lead image by Ryan Rodman.

One of the first impulses we have while recreating outdoors is to take a photo. We want to share the exhilaration of our alpine scrambles, the warmth of alpenglow on an early morning snowshoe, or the unexpected wildlife dotting our hiking trails. We photograph because we have a deep connection to these natural places and we want others to experience that connection, too.

The Mountaineers launched our Instagram (@mountaineersorg) in 2014 as a way for our community to connect with others and share the inspiration they find while exploring the natural world. Since then more than 170,000 photos have been tagged with The Mountaineers hashtag #OurPNW, which captures the beauty of the Pacific Northwest and the adventurous spirit of those who recreate here.

Luckily for us, there are a lot of Mountaineers who also happen to be incredible photographers. Somehow they manage to take their cameras up climbs, through mountains, and across waters so that they may photograph and share their moments of achievement, wonder, and joy with the rest of us.

To celebrate our digital community of outdoor-loving stewards and recreationists, we chose our favorite Mountaineers of 2022 to inspire you in the new year. Their photos celebrate the beauty of the Pacific Northwest and remind us why it’s important — now more than ever — to protect and advocate for the places we love most.

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Ryan Rodman: @RYANRADMAN

Ryan was born and raised in Washington and has always appreciated being surrounded by the mountains. He is a current Basic Alpine Climbing student and loves hiking, scrambling, trail running, and climbing.

“I grew up camping, exploring national parks, and doing small hikes with my family. That progressed as I got older into backpacking, scrambling, and now mountaineering and climbing. I have always enjoyed photography to capture memories. The weight of a full-frame camera and multiple lenses can occasionally be a burden but the extra weight has never prevented a summit and the photos are well worth having!”

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Ellie Bucknell: @ELLIEBUCKNELL

Ellie discovered The Mountaineers early on during her move from Massachusetts to Washington and was quickly drawn to the adventure and picturesque views that came with alpine climbing. She loves being able to learn, share her skills with others, and apply her knowledge to time outdoors.

“I had always known there was a bigger and more adventurous life for me outside of the town I’d grown up in. Right away, I felt a sense of belonging that I’d never felt before and sharing that world through photographs has made me feel even more connected. There’s something about being out in nature and being able to stop and look at a landscape and capture not only what I’m seeing, but what I’m feeling, and bringing it home to share with others, that absolutely draws me back every single time.”

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Mushtaque Silat: @KOHGASHTA

Mushtaque joined The Mountaineers in 2015. Through his involvement, he has gained confidence in the outdoors and learned invaluable skills to help him explore our mountains safely. To pay it forward, he volunteers as an instructor for our scrambling and navigation programs.

“My hiking and photography sort of feed each other, and The Mountaineers has helped me get to places where I can capture some beautiful mountain scenes. I'm fascinated by sunsets, and lead a sunset hiking group where I try to photograph Northwest sunsets from mountaintops. This year I was finally able to lead and summit Mt. Rainier and completed ascents of all five Washington volcanoes. I attribute this accomplishment in large part to the skills I attained being a part of The Mountaineers.”

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Jake Huddleston: @JAKE_HUDDLESTON

Jake is a dedicated volunteer instructor and trip leader for our canyoning program. Thanks to his background in video and photography he packs a camera on nearly every adventure, most of which involve canyoning and waterfall exploration.

“In my work I like to show how small we are in relation to nature, as well as the process of navigating difficult terrain such as steep canyons. My process typically involves packing a mirrorless camera in a well-padded waterproof case, which I often need to rappel, throw, and swim with. I’ve never ruined a professional camera while out exploring, although the same cannot be said for smartphones… I know I’ve ruined at least five of those!”

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Aaron Wilson: @AWILSONDC

Aaron is a master at capturing long-exposure shots of dreamy, star-filled skies. He is an avid climber and welcomes the extra weight of his camera to capture stellar mountain shots.

“I've been hiking and climbing mountains for around 20 years and currently think of myself as two parts peak bagger, one part landscape photographer. I got into photography as a way to capture the memories of the peaks I climb and it's really grown on me. Most of my trips into the mountains are to climb peaks, and of course I'll usually bring my camera along, but occasionally I'll head out just to shoot some photos and enjoy nature.”

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Sarina Pizzala: @SARINA_PIZZALA

Sarina is an adventure and elopement photographer who can be found exploring Washington by foot, by ski, or through climbing. After taking the Basic Alpine Scrambling course in 2017, she fell in love with scrambling and mountaineering and enjoys adventuring to all the wild and remote places that Washington has to offer.

“Spending time in the mountains makes me feel alive, and I want that joy to translate into my photography. I've combined my passion for photography and mountains to capture some of the most remote parts of Washington in their best light. My photography has also evolved to capture couples in the mountains on their wedding day in remote places, sometimes requiring glacier or climbing skills. I've recently joined efforts with a few others to start the Queer Mountaineers, an LGBTQIA+ climbing and hiking social group aimed at increasing community and access to outdoor recreation.”

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Kathleen Neves: @_THEHUNGRYHIKER

Kathleen joined The Mountaineers in 2016 to immerse herself in an outdoor community and has since become a dedicated volunteer confident in wilderness navigation, snow travel, winter camping, and backpacking.

“As a Mountaineer, I’m not only a student but an educator and mentor. I’ve been a co-mentor for the B3 (Backpacking Building Blocks) class and have taught the Long-Distance Backpacking Course online over the last three years. As a former PCT thru[1]hiker, avid day hiker, and solo long-distance backpacker, I try to capture some of my favorite moments of my outdoor adventures through photos. My hope is that they will motivate and inspire other hikers and backpackers to want to explore these incredible places themselves.”

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Kristy Sharkey: @KRISTY.SHARKEY

Kristy has lived in Washington since 2005 and is an avid naturalist and nature photographer. She began learning about photography four years ago and was immediately hooked.

“I joined The Mountaineers when I learned they had outings that were focused on photography. I’ve enjoyed meeting a lot of like-minded people who love being outdoors but also love making art while being there. I also love learning about the natural world, and love that The Mountaineers offers naturalist classes. For me, photography is often the thing that draws me to nature, the adventure is what follows!”

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Jess Merchant: @JESSEXPLORED

Jess first fell in love with Washington on a hiking trip in 2018. She felt immediately at home and luckily her husband did too, so the following year they packed their bags and moved from Pennsylvania to Seattle. Since then they’ve spent countless weekends exploring the Northwest by foot, snowshoe, or ski.

“There are a lot of people in my life who don’t have the ability to hike difficult trails or do multi-day backpacking trips, so along with capturing memories of my adventures for myself, I photograph these stunning places for them in hopes that they can experience even a fraction of the joy I feel when seeing these places in real life.”

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 Jacob McHenry: @JACOBMCHENRYPHOTO

As a Pacific Northwest transplant, Jacob went from a reluctant shoulder season hiker to avid outdoorsman through the skills he found in The Mountaineers. He was quickly drawn to the high peaks in Washington and is now an active scrambler, mountaineer, and rock climber.

“Initially my photography was about landscapes only, but after sharing and printing photos for friends and family it shifted to capturing more of my adventures. I’m often the one lugging a camera to the top of the climb or in horrible weather conditions, but it’s the photos from those experiences that can turn out the best. I love being able to capture these moments in the outdoors.”


This article originally appeared in our winter 2023 issue of Mountaineer Magazine. To view the original article in magazine form and read more stories from our publication, visit our magazine archive.