Despite his work with a booming business, Chuck Haigh still finds time to get himself and his family into the mountains.
Those who come of age in the Puget Sound region often do so as avid outdoor recreationists. With its natural beauty and communities of skiers, climbers, kayakers, cyclists, hikers, and the like, the area is a magnet for outdoor enthusiasts.
Over time though, those days spent on the trail and nights sleeping in the dirt give way to work demands, family life, and a host of other responsibilities that come with adulthood. That’s exactly what happened with Chuck Haigh, a director of project development who works out of Mortenson Construction’s Kirkland office. But rather than lamenting the decreasing frequency of his outdoor pursuits, Haigh finds joy in the new adventures he takes with his children while making time for the occasional return to the backcountry with his friends.
Mortenson is a large national firm that works in a wide variety of industries, constructing everything from data centers to sports facilities to offices, hospitals and schools. It built several Bellevue College buildings, University of Washington’s Bothell campus, several Microsoft campus buildings, and Group Health Medical Center in Bellevue, among others. Haigh spends much of his working life with client industry organizations to stay abreast of trends and best practices as well as with the design partners and subcontractors.
“We often talk about alternative deliveries where we can help a client with qualifications-based selection,” Haigh says. “We try to be more than just a builder. We help our clients improve their business, whether related to an actual construction project or not.”
Haigh often finds himself on the road for work, traveling up and down the West Coast and occasionally elsewhere in the U.S. to meet with current and potential customers and to craft the firm’s strategic direction. When he’s home in the Northwest, however, Haigh likes to forget about the stresses of work life by getting into the mountains and forests to hike and backpack.
Haigh’s passion for the mountains was born at Western Washington University in Bellingham. He was already a mountain biker when he began attending school and immediately fell in love with nearby trail networks such as those on Galbraith Mountain.
“The Bellingham area is just loaded with opportunities to take advantage of the great outdoors,” Haigh says. “Mountain biking led to hiking and rock climbing and eventually mountaineering.”
While attending Western, Haigh learned of Beyond Malibu, a camp hosted by the evangelical ministry Young Life in the Princess Louisa Inlet in British Columbia, Canada. Excited by the chance to explore the rugged peaks of the Sunshine Coast, he signed up as a volunteer. Too young to be a mountain guide, Haigh got his start as a camp boat driver. When he was 21, he went through the necessary training and spent the next two summers leading campers as a volunteer mountain guide.
By then, his love for the outdoors had grown into full-blown passion. Haigh brought his new skills back to Western, where he taught some mountaineering and rockclimbing courses as a student.
In the years since, Haigh has gone backpacking and climbing all around the western United States. But to him, there’s no place like the mountains at home.
“We have the most beautiful lakes, oceans, forests, and mountains in the Pacific Northwest. It’s just amazing. Anything you would want to go do in our country, you could do right in Washington.”
For Haigh, nothing beats the Cascade’s spectacular volcanoes. He’s climbed Glacier Peak, Mount Baker, and Mount Rainier, which remains one of his favorite climbs and favorite places to backpack. When friends ask him for hiking and backpacking recommendations, Haigh always points to the North Cascades and, more specifically, Liberty Bell.
“When you get up there, it’s like being in the pictures in a magazine. For a couple hours of driving from the city, you get to feel like you’re in the high Alps with hardly anyone else around.”
These days, Haigh’s adventures tend to take place closer to home. Rather than scaling mountains or spending a week in the woods, he likes to get out on local trails with his wife, Shannon; son Kellen; daughter Demetria; and their dogs. One of their favorite hikes is Little Mountain Park near Mount Vernon. Haigh says he loves it because it “feels like you’re nowhere near a city and you’re still within city limits.”
Haigh’s kids began preparing to follow their dad’s adventurous footsteps almost from day one. Haigh and his wife started taking the kids on hikes before they could walk. The kids started water skiing at 2 and snow skiing at 3. They’re still too young for Beyond Malibu camp, but they’ve already told Haigh they want to go when the time comes.
And though Haigh has cut back on the serious mountain adventures these days, he still occasionally finds the time between work and fatherhood to go big. Next summer, he and two friends he guided with at Beyond Malibu are doing a weeklong, backpacking trip from Whistler, B.C., to Beyond’s base camp in the Princess Louisa Inlet. They will traverse multiple mountain passes through an area so remote it has no trails. When they reach their destination they’ll have to rendezvous with a seaplane or boat that can take them back to Vancouver.
“It should be one of those trips that you dream about and leaves you with a lifelong memory,” said Haigh. “We’re surrounded by such amazing creation in the Northwest. I don’t want to take it for granted; I want to get out and experience it.”