Youth Outside | Favorite Moments with Mountaineers Youth

In this piece from Mountaineer magazine we revisit some of our favorite moments from our youth clubs, and reflect on the power of community.
Andy Bassett Andy Bassett
Youth Education Manager
August 22, 2020

When my partner and I moved to Seattle two years ago, we both felt pretty lucky. Here we’d found a place with year-round outdoor activities, a cohort of adventure partners, and views of the mountains from every angle. I was warned that winters could be tough in the Pacific Northwest and to be prepared to go a while without seeing the sun. I steeled myself for this reality, checking the weather app every morning with my coffee to see how many minutes of daylight we’d be gifted that day.

Instead of tracking our daily allotment of light, this spring I found myself spending time with photos of past adventures and dog-eared guidebooks. These months have been challenging for our youth department. Our usually bustling programs have been halted, trips into the mountains postponed, and events cancelled, as we all do our part to help combat the spread of COVID-19. It’s offered an opportunity for reflection, and I’ve found myself looking back on the past few years I’ve spent at The Mountaineers and all that we’ve accomplished.

Putting our regular activities on pause is challenging, especially for young people; having an anticipated camping trip or your final climb cancelled isn’t easy. For that reason I want to take a moment to celebrate our programs and the incredible kids who make them happen by highlighting a few of my favorite moments here at The Mountaineers.

Gear Library 2 Chrysalis Outdoor Club.jpgChrysalis's Outdoor Club at Dungeness Spit on a trip supported
by the Gear Library.

The Mountaineers Gear Library

During my first year at The Mountaineers I had the opportunity to work with staff, our community, and corporate partners to create a library of outdoor gear for youth in the Puget Sound. We spent the majority of the year getting infrastructure in place: designing the library space, determining gear needs, establishing relationships with partner organizations, and more. In the two years since we’ve provided gear for over 1,000 youth experiences while continuing to add to our supplies and educate partners on running their own programs. We are thankful for our fantastic partnership with the Washington Trails Association, the King County Youth and Amateur Sports Grant, and funding from the REI foundation for helping us make the Gear Library the success it is today.

Gear Library Ombraz Product Shot.jpgMountain Workshop participants in Lake Washington.

Mini Mountaineers

In the fall of 2018 we were searching for new family
programming, hoping to provide options for younger
children. That November, six families accepted our
invitation for a nature walk through Magnuson Park, and
Mini Mountaineers was born! Families with children aged 2-5
can join us in Seattle, Tacoma, or Olympia to explore local parks, learn about the natural world, and develop a sense
of wonder for the Pacific Northwest. It’s always a delight to
see a gaggle of Mini Mountaineers in the Program Center
painting rocks, talking about the mushrooms they found on
their hike, and cultivating a community of engaged outdoor
parents and children.

Mini Mountaineers.jpgMini Mountaineers on a nature walk in Magnuson Park.

MAC climbs Tahoma

In July of 2018, four Mountaineers Adventure Club (MAC)
members stood at the highest point in Washington with
five Mountaineers leaders for a summit picture in the rising
sun. All of our MAC students spend months mastering the
skills required to safely adventure in our wild places, and it’s
deeply gratifying to see them accomplish a big objective.
But back in the office, I’m always a little nervous until we get
word that everyone has safely returned from a trip. A text
from one our leaders allowed me to breathe a sigh of relief
when they got back: “It was an awesome trip! Really great to
see everybody working together to make it happen!”

Birthday on South Early Winter Spire

As a Cancer I never had to go to school on my birthday, but as
I began to work in outdoor education I was often in the field
or celebrating away from home. Birthday cakes were made
over a Whisperlite, I sometimes didn’t have to make dinner or do dishes, and in a few rare instances, I got to do something
pretty unique and fun. Last summer MAC spent 10 days in the
North Cascades splitting time between backpacking, multipitch
climbing on Washington Pass, and cragging in Mazama.
When my birthday rolled around, our Clubs Manager Carl had
me slated to climb South Early Winter Spire with three MAC
students. Climbing has always been a challenge for me - I was
scared of heights and trusting my feet was hard to do, but I
loved the feeling I got when I pushed through these fears. For
this reason I’m always so humbled when I spend time with our
youth, who are self-aware, comfortable in the mountains, and
learning challenging skills at a young age. We roped up for
a delightful ascent of the spire in mid-July, swapping leads,
discussing strategy, and eventually reaching the summit. To
spend your birthday with three competent, kind, thoughtful,
and funny humans in a beautiful location is to truly feel lucky.
We also made sure to get ice cream once we got back to town,
as it seemed like the right thing to do.

South Early Winter Spire.jpgRylee Bundesmann coming down South Early Winter’s Spire.
Photo by Andy Bassett.


Our youth programs wouldn’t be possible without donor support. Thank you for helping to get kids outside – to learn more, please visit  mountaineers.org/donate.

This article originally appeared in our Summer 2020 issue of Mountaineer Magazine. To view the original article in magazine form and read more stories from our publication, visit our magazine archive.

LEAD IMAGE of MAC students on the summit of Tahoma. Photo courtesy of The Mountaineers.