Youth Outside | The Impact of MAC

In this piece from Mountaineer magazine, hear about the impact of our teen outdoor club Mountaineers Adventure Club (MAC), and find out how you can get involved.
Michelle Song Michelle Song
Associate Volunteer Development Manager
September 28, 2021

From climbing Mount Baker to cragging weekends at Smith Rock, members of our teen club, The Mountaineers Adventure Club (MAC), have been busy this past year! Backpacking, cross-country skiing, and alpine climbing are just a few activities these active outdoorspeople have ticked off.

Although the program is staff-led, MAC members plan their own outings and work together as they learn, grow, and explore throughout their time in MAC (many stay on for several years throughout high school). To celebrate this accomplished group of young people, we sat down with retiring MAC member Kaelen Moehs, as well as his mother and volunteer leader, Lisa Newcomb.

Lisa + Kaelen top of Liberty Bell 2019.jpg
Kaelen and his mother Lisa on Liberty Bell, North Cascades National Park. Photo by Brian Kelleher.

Kaelen Moehs is a 4-year member of MAC and its current President. As current President and past Vice President of Trips and Skills, he facilitated and wrote much of the skills curriculum for the club. The curriculum gives members the opportunity to learn skills equivalent to that of our Basic Alpine Climbing Course and beyond. Kaelen also planned and helped lead a number of ambitious trips, including several grade IV alpine climbs and a Rainier summit in 2018. Since joining MAC in 2017, he has become more involved in The Mountaineers, attending two of our Leadership Conferences, working with our Mountain Workshops program, and earning the status of Super Volunteer in 2019. In the fall of 2021, he is attending Wesleyan University in Connecticut.

His mother, Lisa Newcomb, climbed extensively as a young adult, but after marrying and having a family she found herself distanced from the sport. When she and her husband Max initially exposed Kaelen and his older brother Tristan to climbing, the boys weren't interested. Fortunately, that wasn’t the last time they gave it a shot. On a family trip to the Sierras several years later, Kaelen (then 12) found himself enamored by climbing, and by the end of the week his dad and a family friend took him on his first multi-pitch climb – West Country on Stately Pleasure Dome in Yosemite National Park’s Tuolumne Meadows.

In 2017 Kaelen joined MAC at age 14, and the next fall Lisa chaperoned her first trip to Vantage. The kids were welcoming and encouraging, inspiring Lisa to begin a joyful journey back into climbing. She enjoys spending time with MAC members and volunteers on as many rock climbing and cross-country ski trips as possible, while also trying to give Kaelen space to make his own way in the club.

A Member’s Perspective

Kaelen, what has MAC meant to you?

What MAC has meant to me is an open door. When I joined, it felt like there was the possibility of doing everything I’d dreamed of achieving in the outdoors. But I think more than just climbing, MAC has been an opportunity to grow as a person. Looking back four years ago, I was an incredibly different person. Definitely less confident, and a lot less comfortable both climbing and being part of this community. I think MAC has really been a space where I feel that I'm welcome and contributing something important.

What is a lesson you would like to share with future MAC participants?

You should be appreciative of the people around you. Try to connect with them in a deeper way. MAC is a place where everyone comes from a whole different set of backgrounds. You discover that not only can you get along despite those different backgrounds, but you discover a lot of things that bring you together. What I've learned is to take an open approach to meeting people and knowing people, and also just working with people. Put yourself out there as a person and be your authentic self, and you’ll find success and acceptance. And keep in mind that you always get back as much as you give in. MAC is a place of endless possibilities; you can climb any mountain here. There’s no guarantee that you’ll be handed a spot in every activity you want due to the high number of prerequisite skills. But if you have self-responsibility for your own learning, you’ll be able to do some incredible things.

What’s one of your favorite moments?

I guess it's rather cliché for a Mountaineer, but watching the sunrise from the summit of Rainier. As we were crossing the crater, we caught a glimpse of crimson so far underneath what would normally be the horizon. So, we were caught staring directly at it, entranced by its color and visible shape that could appear before us without hurting our eyes. A 180-degree turn in the opposite direction yielded an equally impressive view – the shadow of the mountain in a cone shape, stretching for a hundred miles. But looking back at the sunrise, we felt a visceral sense of wholeness and completion. That muted and glowing sun was like a mirror of all the challenges we faced, granting a retrospective showing we were capable of the challenge of the climb.

What achievement are you most proud of?

Being recognized as a Super Volunteer at the Volunteer Dinner at the start of 2020. I’ve done so much miscellaneous volunteering (too much to list here), and it was nice to know that it was all appreciated.

A Parent’s Perspective

Lisa, what has being a parent of a club participant meant to you?

Community. I was thrilled that Kaelen found a community where he really felt at home and which was a good fit for him. And it's also a community for me. I've formed some of my best friendships with other parents.

Is there an activity, or even a moment, that stands out to you?

I think what stands out the most to me is when I climbed the Beckey route on Liberty Bell with Kaelen. Kaelen and I swapped leads and it was the first alpine climb that I had done in 14 years. It was really special to be climbing with Kaelen. It was monumental to me because I realized that I still had a head for leading, and I just loved being out there.

What motivated you to volunteer with The Mountaineers and MAC?

There’re really two things. The first and foremost is the MAC students themselves. They’re a lot of fun to be around, and very inspirational. The other thing that motivated me to volunteer is being able to do the things that I love to do, while still helping out other people.

Now that Kaelen has completed his time in MAC, what will you do?

Continue volunteering with MAC. It's a lot of fun and very rewarding. I would also like to thank Kaelen for sharing MAC with me.

JOIN MAC OR VOLUNTEER WITH YOUTH

A new enrollment window for MAC at the Seattle and Tacoma branches is kicking off in September for youth ages 14-18! Youth must be 14 years old by January of the school year in which they join to be eligible. We also offer Junior MAC at our Seattle branch for youth ages 12-13. For more information about MAC, Junior MAC, and volunteering in Seattle, please reach out to Associate Program Manager Carl Marrs at carlm@mountaineers.org. For more information about joining MAC and volunteering in Tacoma, please reach out to Tacoma Program Manager Sarah Holt at sarahh@mountaineers.org.


This article originally appeared in our Fall 2021 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 Kaelen Moehs on the Southwest Rib of South Early Winters Spire, North Cascades National Park. Photo by Carl Marrs.


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