Youth Outside | Where Are They Now? Following Up With Former MAC Leaders, Katy And Isabel

In this piece from Mountaineer magazine, follow former MAC members and find out where life led them.
Becca Polglase Becca Polglase
Director of Education
March 09, 2019
Youth Outside | Where Are They Now? Following Up With Former MAC Leaders, Katy And Isabel

In August of 2017, our sixth class of Mountaineers Adventure Club (MAC) reached graduation. MAC is a year-round outdoor club for teenagers in The Mountaineers. With about 30 participants a year, many join in 8th grade or as freshmen, and grow into outdoor leaders through their senior year in High School. Some of our MAC kids come up through Explorers, our middle-school outdoor club.

Looking ahead to our seventh year, we now have 26 alumni who are in college, or have graduated from college, who still come back to visit and volunteer. They are using their Mountaineers outdoor and leadership skills to do amazing things. We asked two of our past MAC presidents to tell us about what they’re doing now. Here’s what they had to say:

Katy Snyder

Katy was one of the founding members of MAC. She joined the MAC leadership team in 2011, and was president from 2013- 2014. She spent most of her summers volunteering and then working for Junior Mountaineers Camp, and she’s been a regular volunteer with our Mountain Workshops.

Which Mountaineers volunteers do you remember having a positive impact on your MAC experience?

All of my interactions with Mountaineers volunteers have been wonderful. Adam Hollinger taught skills ranging from leading to anchor building to cleaning and rappelling. One particular memory I have with Adam that instilled a sense of confidence, trust, and responsibility within me was on my very first multi pitch climb. It was June 2012 and I was going to be climbing on Groundhogs Day with Adam as well as a few other MAC members. As Adam’s lead belayer, before we began the climb, he made sure I knew all of the commands necessary for multipitches so we could stay safe. He always explained things in a step-by-step manner so I could easily understand what we were doing and why. I need to take things in baby steps and process everything, so I need a patient teacher. Adam is patient. After climbing the three pitches, we made it to the top and the five of us started snacking and taking in the view. My treat of choice on trips is Swedish Fish. I pulled the snack-sized Ziploc of Swedish Fish out of my bag, took a couple for myself, and offered them to the others. Adam and I were buds after that. All future trips, Adam would always ask if I had my Swedish Fish because as everyone should know, they are the necessary treat at the summits of climbs.

Mercedes Pollmeier volunteered on one trip I went on to Leavenworth to assist with the bouldering, but she also taught a weekly bouldering class for a group of us from MAC. The beginning of my senior year of high school (2013), Mercedes introduced me to indoor bouldering. She learned very quickly that I was a timid person, but with her years of experience in coaching climbing, she was able to slowly get me to build trust and push my limits. I would often get partway up the wall, freak out, and give up. Mercedes would see and look at me with that expression of “Why’d you give up? I know you can do it. Try it again.” And point at the wall. I would take a deep breath and try again, often making it farther because of the external motivation. Not just anyone is capable of getting me to push my limits and step so far out of my comfort zone. Mercedes taught me to push myself and how empowering climbing can be. It’s so rewarding to push through and conquer the wall, especially when the problem is harder than you think you are capable of!

What are some things you learned in MAC?

When joining MAC, I was very quiet. Talking in front of people was not something I voluntarily did and stepping up to be in charge of a group is something I stayed as far away from as possible. MAC got me to come out of my shell and learn to enjoy leading trips, teaching others both hard and soft skills, and being a welcoming face that other members felt they could talk to. This is a skill that I have witnessed many of the MAC members develop. I have watched some of the younger members grow so much in their years in the program.

I also learned that herding cats is difficult! As a youth trip leader, I had to be the one reaching out to others to sign up, pay, get me the information they said they would get for me, and much more. High school students (and people in general) are notorious for procrastinating. I learned how to politely pester everyone so they would complete the tasks that needed. This has transferred over to the many leadership skills I also gained through being a part of MAC.

What are you doing now?

I’m currently a senior at Pacific University majoring in Integrated Media (graphic & web design) and minoring in Outdoor Leadership. I work on campus at the Center for Civic Engagement and as of this year, I also work with MarCom (marketing & communications department) as the design intern. On the weekends, I’m often leading rock climbing, mountaineering, or backpacking trips for Pacific University’s Outdoor Pursuits program. On all of these trips, I bring my camera, capturing memories and the beautiful wilderness in which we live. If I did not join The Mountaineers, I don’t think I would be as outdoorsy as I am now and I’d be more reserved. The Mountaineers put the adventuresome bug in me and I learned to share my passion for the outdoors with others. Each year I lead Freshman Voyages for my school.

On the Voyage I led this year, my co-lead and I took our group of eight on a five-day trip to Leavenworth, WA — the location where I first learned to climb! On day three, we took the group to some of the boulders along Highway 2. They were loving projecting and problem solving together. My co-lead was at the base of The Warm-up Boulder, base managing, as I was at the top, capturing pictures as well as coaching. One of my participants got one move from the top and froze in fear. She looked me dead in the eyes without saying anything, but her eyes said everything. Calmly, I began to encourage her as well as coach her as to where to put her feet so she could reach the final jug. She made it up and sat with me for a little bit to decompress. This moment brought flashbacks to when I was learning to climb. The whole time, I was remembering what the volunteers at The Mountaineers did for me and how impactful it was.

Last year, I studied abroad last spring in Limerick, Ireland. I don’t know if I would have thrived like I did if I hadn’t learned the leadership skills I did through MAC. Being in MAC taught me how to grow through putting myself out of comfort zone: rock climbing was terrifying to me, but I continued to try climbing; leading trips and being in the spotlight was nerve-wracking, but friends and leaders continued helping me develop those leadership skills; and being social was also something difficult, as I used to be very quiet. I was definitely very much out of my comfort zone, but I was able to integrate quickly with the Irish and their culture. I got to know the Irish in the Outdoor Pursuits Club at University of Limerick. Through forcing myself to step out of my comfort zone and talk, they provided me with many opportunities that most international students didn’t have: competing on an Irish climbing team in Belfast, Northern Ireland; climbing Carrauntoohil, the tallest peak in Ireland, rather than hiking it with the rest of the club; and going climbing for a week in El Chorro, Spain. This all happened because I have learned the little bit of discomfort usually opens doors for many more opportunities.

My long-term dream would be to work at an organization similar to The Mountaineers. I would ideally like to be in charge of website upkeep and/or creating marketing materials, but also get to lead trips, teach classes, and/or photograph trips.

Anything else you’d like to say?

The Mountaineers is a huge portion of the foundation for who I am today. All of the volunteers, employees, and fellow MAC members have had a huge impact on who I am today and I am thankful for all their patience and encouragement, slowly helping me come out of my shell. This is definitely a community I will always value. For anyone of any age considering taking their first steps into the outdoors or wanting to continue advancing their skills for bigger endeavors, I highly recommend The Mountaineers; it’s a wonderful community that I am happy to consider myself a part of!

explorers 128.jpgKaty. Photo by Becca Polglase.

Isabel Suhr

Isabel was MAC President from 2011-2012. She took the Basic Climbing Course in 2010 and has taken the Crag and Sailing courses as well. She helped start our Junior Mountaineers Camp and volunteered and worked for camp for four summers. Since going off to college, Isabel has been an active participant in our partner organizations, volunteering at both the Mazamas and Colorado Mountain Club.

Which Mountaineers volunteers do you remember having a positive impact on your MAC experience?

I’m always impressed with how much time Mark Scheffer spends with MAC, teaching skills and leading climbs. My first rope lead was on a climb he led of South Early Winter Spire, and he was so dedicated to getting us our summit that we waited out half an hour of rain before leading up the rock pitches. I also really enjoyed learning varied and important life skills from John Rijhoff, from how to throw a lasso figure eight to how to hang by our toes at the aquatic center in Squamish. John is also great to spend time with because he really knows how to have fun; he put prizes at the top of climbs in Squamish and brought glowsticks and harmonicas to play with at camp in the North Cascades.

What are some of the things you learned in MAC?

I was trip leader for the MAC trip to the North Cascades in 2012, the first of the now-yearly summer trips. While planning and leading that I learned a lot about all the logistics involved in such a major trip, from deciding on climbs and routes to recruiting volunteers to how to pack a lot of stuff into a small car! I also did a lot of my first rope leads with MAC. Getting to climb with MAC members and volunteers I already had experience with was a great way to step into more of a leadership role. There are a lot of new things to think about as you transition from getting your own act together to being responsible for the safety of others, and I’m glad I had peers and mentors who trusted me to do that.

What are you doing now?

I am a software engineer at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, where I work on data collection and networking for field projects. I love my job because I get to help scientists understand the atmospheric system, and I get to travel to some pretty exciting places! In my free time I’m exploring the Rockies on foot, exploring Boulder by bike, making new friends at the Colorado Mountain Club, and getting into backcountry skiing. My outdoor experiences with The Mountaineers both sparked my interest in earth science and the mountain world and gave me the experience to pursue it. In summer 2015, I got to test out my glacier travel skills by spending seven weeks doing glaciology research and traversing the Juneau Icefield, an opportunity I would never have taken without realizing — while climbing in the Cascades--that glaciers are the coolest thing ever! After that, I was sure I wanted to work in earth science, which led me to my current job in Boulder. I also discovered my love of teaching outdoor skills at The Mountaineers, which I’m still doing as well with Colorado Mountain Club. My goal for next summer is to visit all the named glaciers in Colorado (which, granted, isn’t that much of a challenge). In the coming years I’m interested in getting a master’s degree in meteorology and I would really, really love to visit Antarctica.

Anything else you’d like to share?

I highly recommend volunteering with MAC. I led a backpack trip to Cape Alava last fall and was expecting to have a good time but was surprised by just how much I enjoyed it! I didn’t know any of the MAC participants, but I really liked getting to do a little teaching and a lot of hanging out with such dedicated, thoughtful, goofy, and all-around great people.

SAM_5498.jpgPhoto by Isabel Suhr.

We’re proud of the work our MAC graduates are doing, and value their commitment to their Mountaineers family. Keep an eye on our blog for future featured MAC alumni!

This article originally appeared in our Winter 2018 issue of Mountaineer  Magazine. To view the original article in magazine form and read more stories from our publication, click here.

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