Youth Outside | Taking the Reins: Tacoma MAC prepare for a future of outdoor adventure

In this piece from Mountaineer Magazine, learn about Tacoma's new MAC Leadership Series and hear from three recent MAC graduates about their experience in the program.
Sarah Holt Sarah Holt
Tacoma Program Manager
July 30, 2022
Youth Outside | Taking the Reins: Tacoma MAC prepare for a  future of outdoor adventure

Mountaineers Adventure Club (MAC) is a year-round club for teens, giving them access to education and skills rivaling many adult programs. Imagine an at-your-own-pace Basic and Intermediate Alpine Climbing course, taken over a period of four years with sport climbing, skiing, hiking, and backpacking thrown in. As a young member, you learn from upperclassmen, and as you gain more experience, you begin passing down that knowledge to others. Most importantly, you learn to take care of yourself and others in the mountains.

The Tacoma MAC Leadership Series

By the time they’re high school seniors, most MAC members have spent years crafting technical mountain skills. Realizing they needed a chance to hone their trip planning, route finding, and group management skills, Sarah Holt and a group of MAC students created the Tacoma MAC Leadership Series in the fall of 2021. Through the series, participants receive resources to develop their own trips, ultimately leading their MAC peers on a climb they’ve planned with adult mentorship.

We met with three recent MAC graduates - Carbon Marshall, Shelby Turner, and Tashi Quinn – to learn more about the program and what it’s like to be a Tacoma MAC member under the tutelage of Mountaineers staff member Sarah Holt and volunteer Kevin DeFields.

What was your planning process for the trips you designed and led?

Carbon: Everybody was supportive of helping me figure out different stuff. It was nice to be able to reach out and receive help where I needed. At the same time, I was able to do my own stuff wherever I wanted and felt comfortable doing it.

Shelby: I wanted the opportunity to prove myself as a leader. I wanted to make my styles, expectations, and goals clear for my trip. I wanted everyone to read my trip plan and bring the right stuff. I find if people know what to expect, they do better on the trip.

Tashi: Sarah showed me how to map on my phone with navigation apps. I didn't know how to download someone else's track onto your phone before that. Even though Mt. St. Helens is a pretty straightforward route, it was still useful.

Carbon Marshall_Location. Mt. Rainier_Credit.Kevin DeFields.jpgCarbon joined MAC in 2018 and graduated in 2021. He has spent many days helping newer MAC students learn climbing skills. Carbon planned and led his MAC peers on two consecutive weekend climbing trips up the Tooth.

You received robust training on technical and leadership skills prior to your trip. Was there a skill that you found to be especially valuable?

Carbon: It helped to be able to realize everyone’s different capabilities, what they've already learned, and understanding the support they would need on the trip. That was especially useful since I was dividing everybody into groups, putting a more experienced person with someone who's still learning skills

Shelby: Working with folks one-on-one was important. We talked a lot about what to do if someone is struggling and how to work with them. I also learned to be humble, and understand that you can take input from others; to ask the group questions versus the leader making all of the decisions. Groups feel better when we include them in discussions.

Tashi: One skill that I tried to exemplify is pacing. Looking back, I think I set a good pace in the beginning of the climb then went a little too fast for some of my peers. It also helps to check-in with people individually. Especially since it's easy to hide the fact that you're not doing well when you’re part of a group.

Was there anything on your trip that was unexpected or required problem-solving?

Carbon: When I had done a trip to the Tooth before my first planned trip, it was completely covered in snow. Near my trip date, it was completely melted out. I asked for everybody’s opinions on alternative options because we had to do a different route. It was difficult but there was no shame in asking people for different opinions.

Shelby: Half of my group were snowshoers and the other half were skiers. Skiers move faster, so keeping the group together was hard for me. Luckily I had an awesome mentor of mine with me, Kevin. He offered to walk down with the snowshoers so that there wasn't too much waiting for the skiers.

Tashi: It was definitely hard trying to keep everyone together. It's easy to see people a long ways away on Mt. St. Helens, but it's still not good practice to be too separated as a group. I had to be careful to maintain a consistent pace and take breaks. It wasn't an overwhelming obstacle as I was supported by Sarah and Kevin.

Shelby joined MAC in 2018 and graduated in 2022. During her Mountaineers career, Shelby has contributed to nearly every Tacoma youth program. Shelby led her MAC peers up Mt. Adams on a trip she planned.

What brought you joy from these trips?

Carbon: Finally getting the date down was a weight off my shoulders. Once we were actually on the trips, every time you get to the top of something and you can look at the beautiful landscape for miles, it’s just a wonderful feeling.

Shelby: Seeing how far I'd come in MAC, thanks to Sarah and Kevin for believing in me this whole time. When I first climbed Mt. Adams, I could barely do it. Seeing how I could lead and execute a trip successfully was the best feeling as a 17 year old.

Tashi: The opportunity to see myself grow. I saw myself accomplish things. I found myself having a lot of cool moments. There was a lot of introspection and self-realization. MAC has been a great way to get outside and do things with like-minded individuals.

Any words of advice for current or future MAC students?

Carbon: Just go for it. It's unique to have all of the resources that you have while you're in MAC. Try stuff, even if you don't think you'll like it. It’s a great opportunity to try things.

Shelby: If you're going to put all the effort in, you're going to get a great experience. Rely on your leaders to guide you through the program. Remember that Sarah, Kevin, and the group are there to support you. Push yourself and try new thing even if you think it's hard.

Tashi: If you're going to be part of MAC, be invested in the experience. Nothing is going to be fun if you go into it with the attitude that it is going to suck. MAC is a great opportunity to push yourself socially just as much as physically.

Tashi Quinn_Location.Frenchman Coulee_Credit.Kevin DeFields iii.jpgTashi joined MAC in 2019 and graduated in 2022. A gifted athlete and exceptional skier, Tashi brings his stoke for the outdoors on every trip. Tashi led his MAC peers up Mt. St. Helens on a trip he planned.

Is there anything else we should know about MAC?

Carbon: It’s very expensive to get into rock climbing. With MAC, I was able to buy gear progressively. I would buy my own shoes but I was still able to borrow a harness.

Tashi: MAC is an effective starting point for young people who are interested in outdoor recreation, but it's only the beginning. It’s a terrific gateway to independent recreation.

Shelby: Youth, as much as we're counted against a lot of the time, can be trusted to lead. Don't count us out. We're pretty darn strong and cool.

To learn more about Tacoma MAC, contact Sarah Holt at For Seattle MAC, contact Carl Marrs at

This article originally appeared in our summer 2022 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 participants on the summit of Mt. Adams, led by Shelby Turner.

Add a comment

Log in to add comments.