Tacoma Mountaineers Magic

If you live in western Washington and enjoy hiking, climbing, skiing, or sailing, you’re likely familiar with the Mountaineers.  I got started with the Olympia Mountaineers in 2005 by taking their Winter Travel Course and then the Basic Climbing Course.  In 2006 I enrolled in the Tacoma Mountaineers‘ Intermediate Climbing Course that I’ve been participating in since. Great training, incredible trips, and even better people.

The Tacoma branch of the Mountaineers celebrated their 100th anniversary in 2012.  This past year the club’s leaders realized a long term goal of renovating the meeting quarters in North Tacoma. Formerly called the Clubhouse, the Tacoma Mountaineers Program Center is a beautiful, functional space designed to take the organization into its next hundred years.

Although the building is complete, there is space reserved for both indoor and outdoor rock climbing walls.  Branch leaders decided to host a fundraising dinner to help raise the remaining money needed to complete the project.  I performed magic to kick the evening off.  I was in good company, as I was followed by famed mountaineers Dee Molenaar and Eric Simonson.

Dee Molenaar is a painter, historian, and author of several books on climbing including The Challenge of Mount Rainier.  He is a spry 95 years, but with his incredible memory of dates and stories you’d never guess it.  Eric Simonson is recognized as one of the world’s premiere mountaineering expedition leaders and is co-owner of International Mountain Guides located in Ashford near Mount Rainier.  Both climbers have donated their time and expertise many times to the Tacoma Mountaineers and have surely inspired many others with their stories, memories, and the ways that the Mountaineers influenced their careers.

Amazing little tidbits:  Dee’s first ice ax was a garden hoe, and Eric sharpened his skills by “climbing” local churches, schools, and bridges.  (“It’s hard to drill into brick to place a screw in the dark, but that’s when we had to do it so the campus security wouldn’t catch us!”)  With training like that, it’s amazing these guys survived to tell their tales!

The entire evening was supported and hosted by Tacoma Mountaineers members and club leaders.  Joy Parobek handled the catering and was assisted by Bill Hecker and his family. Huge kudos to all of the Tacoma Mountaineers leaders (Geoff, Marty, Jim, Mindy, Ed, and many others) who all donated their time and expertise to make this happen.  Now I’m itching to get out and climb something!

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