Meet the Men Behind the Mountain
Techie by day, mountain enthusiast also by day, David Lindahl never set out to be the president of a fan club. But that’s where he seems to have wound up, thanks to his enthusiastic boosterism surrounding Mount Rainier.
Every day via social media, Lindahl’s Mt. Rainier Watch account answers the question: Is the mountain out? Joining him in this quest is Rob Ousby, who for nearly a decade has maintained Is Mt. Rainier Out, an almost-daily snapshot from a webcam atop the Space Needle. Though the two accounts may seem similar—KING 5 thought Lindahl and Ousby were the same person—their enthusiasm takes different forms. And, refreshingly, amidst all the stress and rancor of These Unprecedented Times™, they’re not just just fans of the mountain. They’re also fans of each other. (Mountain pals!)
Now, with the launch of a new website, Mt. Rainier Watch is growing into a merch empire and a source of fundraising for Washington parks. The website also serves as a way for Lindahl to spread his passion for the outdoors to friends, colleagues, neighbors, and, in the years to come, his baby daughter.
Why Rainier? “It’s such a cool landmark,” says Lindahl. “The ability to spot it from so many different locations over a couple hundred miles—it never gets old. I’ve seen thousands of photos of the mountain, but every time I see it while driving I shout about how cool it is.”
“It’s great how Mt. Rainier plays a part in city life,” Ousby says. “It’s out there being majestic and natural, but also it feels like it’s keeping an eye over city-dwellers.”
A longtime mountain-lover, Lindahl’s public fandom began about a decade ago. “I was commuting into downtown Seattle, and I looked around to see if there was a way to see if the mountain was out,” he says. Finding nothing, he started idly tweeting on his daily commute about whether he could see the peaks. Soon, other people started chiming in, and David realized he wasn’t alone in his affection for the snowy lump that looms over the city.
Ousby’s project took off around the same time. “It was just one of those casual side projects that caught the imagination of folks,” he says. He used screengrabs from a clean air monitoring station at first. When that station went offline, he thought that was the end of his project, but he happened to mention Is Mt. Rainier Out at a conference, and a staffer at the Space Needle who happened to be present volunteered the feed from that landmark’s camera. Now, his account provides a pleasant little partnership between two very tall institutions.
Speaking of size, Lindahl is thinking big with his Mt. Rainier Watch project. In addition to posting frequent status updates, photos, and news on the mountain’s behalf, he created Rainier-themed merch for fellow fans. Proceeds from the sales of stickers, tees, hats, and more go to the Washington National Parks Fund, the “official philanthropic partner” for national parks in Washington. “One of the key phrases in my mind is ‘gear for good,’” David says, having donated over $6,000 since 2020.
Most of the merch is produced locally: The T-shirts are printed in Seattle and Bellingham, and the stickers in Tukwila. While you can pick up the merch online, you might also catch a glimpse at local farmers’ markets. The markets are David’s preferred venue, since it means face-to-face time with fellow Rainier-hounds. “It’s incredible to talk to people and geek out about the mountain,” he says.
He’s also launched a website where fans can report their mountain sightings, so you can find out if the mountain is visible wherever in the state you happen to be. An iOS app and photo sharing is coming soon.
“If David’s feed is powered by mountain-spotters, the Is Mt. Rainier Out feed is for people who don’t have an opportunity to spot it,” says Ousby, who used to be able to see the mountain from his office. He has since moved locations, and now he relies on the social media feed to catch a glimpse of the peaks.
At the moment, Mt. Rainier Watch is a full-time side-project alongside Lindahl’s other job (front-end & UI development) and his other-other job, parenting his newborn daughter. That hasn’t left much time for family hikes, but he’s looking forward to having an opportunity to rediscover the great outdoors in a few years. He has just expanded his merchandise line to include baby-sized beanies, inspired by his kid. “I’m excited to go on adventures with her,” he says.