MEET ASCENDING PATH'S GUIDES
Our world-class and highly trained employees make Ascending Path a cut above the rest.
Matt Szundy, CEO/Co-Owner/Guide
Matt has been skiing for 42 years and climbing for over 30. He is an Eagle Scout and first tied into a rope in 1987. In 1995, he founded the Ascending Path LLC and has been guiding full time ever since. Highlights of his experience include: Ama Dablam, Walls in Yosemite, M6 in Canada, 5.12 in CO and a 10-pitch first ascent in New Zealand (back in the day). He has mountaineering ascents in Nepal, Peru, Argentina, New Zealand, Antarctica and Alaska. Matt has climbed Denali 10 times (5 summits). He has WFR certs from SOLO and WMA, Avalanche 2, ASA 103, White Water Rescue 3 Technician, FEMA ICS certs. and was an AMGA Certified Guide (SPI). Matt has a passion for managing high risk. He worked for 3 years as a Field Safety/Survival Instructor for the US Antarctic Program. He was the Antarctic SAR Team Leader for the US in 04/05, attended several Rigging for Rescue Courses and volunteered for 2 seasons on Denali as a NPS VIP/Search and Rescue Ranger. Off season, Matt contracts his services to several return clients, including the DoD. He is the former Alaska State Film Rep for the DCCED and over 15 years he has helped produce dozens of film projects. Matt is a SAG-AFTRA Stuntman and coordinator. Matt holds a BA in Philosophy and still tries to read even with a toddler running around!
Heather Szundy, CFO/Co-Owner/Guide
In 1991, at age 14, Heather took a life changing trip to Alaska from the desert of Tucson, Arizona. She has been a mountain athlete ever since. In 1992, she started spending summers in Alaska as a nanny and moved up permanently in 1999. Since meeting Matt on Denali, Heather has been integral in growing AP into the lively business it is today. They have bootstrapped AP's day trip business in Alaska together from the ground up since 2003. She is AP's CFO, marketing and sales director, graphic designer, works on film-projects and guides as well. Her climbing experience includes routes in the Himalayas, the Ruth Gorge, Bugaboos, the Gunks, Squamish, Joshua Tree, Thailand, New Zealand and Antarctica. She has climbed Denali twice and worked 2 seasons in at McMurdo Station, Antarctica helping manage the Crary Lab and the SAR team. She has a WFR, Level 1 Avi, ASA 103, and has taken the AMGA's single pitch-instructor course. She holds a BS in Microbiology/Pre-Med and is a certified 200YT Hatha yoga teacher. Entrepreneur of 3 businesses, in 2006 she founded Medical Scribes, LLC which proved successful in paving the way for all ER doctors at Providence Hospital in Anchorage to have scribes taking patient notes. She also is co-owner in Glacier Productions, LLC, Ascending Path's subsidiary and film production arm. Her passions include: the foodie scene, naturalism, design, organic gardening, travel, yoga, making jewelry, sustainable living and Naturopathic medicine. She thrives in Girdwood with her husband and business partner, Matt and their son. This is her 15th season working at AP.
Michelle Mahoney, Reservations Manager
From a young age, Michelle learned to thrive outside of her comfort zone by participating in an immersion program that had her living in Amiens, France. As a result, he is now fluent in French. Traveling and experiencing new cultures has continued to preoccupy a great deal of her life since then. In the last couple of years Michelle earned her open water scuba certification in Roatan, Honduras, learned how to sport climb in Catalunya, Spain, took numerous road trips throughout the US, resort skied in Colorado, rock climbed in Utah and Arizona, surfed and snorkeled in Hawaii, backcountry skied in British Columbia, and ate pastries in Paris. At Oklahoma State University, she earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Biological Sciences with an emphasis on natural resources and ecology management. Although she enjoyed the clear skies and long distance hiking of Oklahoma, a sense of adventure took her to Juneau, AK. While living in Juneau, she worked for Temsco Helicopters in Customer Service and as a dock representative and explored much of Southeast Alaska by boat, plane, and car (only two of these have left her stranded). Michelle moved from Juneau in 2016 and she is excited to see what Southcentral Alaska has to offer. She has been an enthusiastic Girdwood resident since her first slice of Chair 5 deep dish pizza. This is Michelle's first season with AP.
Mike Morris, Ops Manager/Guide
Mike is a passionate and enthusiastic adventurer and teacher who originally hails from Virginia. Mike has had an interesting and eclectic work background
that has included being an ESL teacher, wilderness therapy field instructor, and former Technical Sergeant in the U.S. Air Force. These professions
have allowed Mike to work with a wide-background of people and cultures as well as travel and live abroad in such places as Turkey, Belgium, Iraq and
Romania. His languages include: Turkish, Romanian and Spanish. Mike likes to describe his professional experience as giving him “the patience, compassion,
and positive outlook to help others and do amazing things in life.” His passions include cycling, rock climbing, mountaineering, and hiking, which
have finally led him to Alaska to explore and share his interests with others. One of his most recent accomplishments has been a thru-hike of the entire
Pacific Crest Trail. He is a WFR and also volunteers with Eugene Mountain Rescue when he is home in Oregon. He earned his bachelor’s in international
relations from George Mason University and a master’s in linguistics from West Virginia University. In the winters, Mike is an English Instructor at
the University of Oregon. Even though Mike is interested in pursuing a PhD, he feels life’s classroom will keep him busy for a while.
Evan Dodd, Guide & Operations
Evan is a life-long Alaskan born and raised in the Mat-Su valley. Though always fascinated with the outdoors, a 120 mile sea-kayaking trip down the coastline of British Columbia in 2010 sparked a lifelong passion for outdoor recreation and eco-tourism. Since then he has taken field courses through the University of Alaska Anchorage pertaining to sea-kayaking, backpacking, backcountry snowboarding, and ice climbing. Evan is a certified Wilderness First Responder as well as a licensed EMT-B, and has completed two Level 1 Avalanche courses through AIARE. His hobbies include split boarding in Turnagain Pass, sea-kayaking and backpacking; though his true passion lies in writing and he intends to pursue a career in outdoor journalism. He recently graduated from UAA with a degree in Economics and Environmental Science, though he regrets discovering the Outdoor Leadership program too late to complete another minor. In his spare time you’ll find him backpacking in the Chugach Front Range, exploring Alaska with his girlfriend, and optimistically coaxing his car to make it home from the latest trailhead. Evan has been with AP since 2016 but he is a quick study!
Dave Shuman, Senior Glacier, Climbing & Mountain Guide/Trainer
Dave grew up in Southern California where he learned to surf and the passion of the outdoors. Dave specialties are mountain guiding, rigging technician with an emphasis in outdoor safety and risk management. He served in the US military for 25 Years. Eight years as a US Marine and l7 Years as a US Air Force Pararescueman (P J). He retired in 2012 as Chief Enlisted Manager of the 212th Rescue Squadron where he was responsible for training, equipping and organizing a 66 member rescue squadron that deployed around the world in support of the D.O.D. He was also responsible for the operational risk management planning and support of training and deployment of rescue forces in the State of Alaska and internationally for combat missions. He has been recently employed as a heli ski guide, stunt man, lead rigger and safety technician for filming productions. His education and qualifications are: National Registry Paramedic Certification; Rigging For Rescue Instructor; Level 3 Avalanche Certification; Level l Mechanized Guide Certification; Swift Water Rescue; Technician in confined space rescue. He is globetrotting surfer, climber and kiteboarder. He has been working with Ascending Path and Glacier Productions since 2012.
Sara Olbright, Glacier Guide
Born and raised in the mountains of Colorado, Sara started climbing and skiing as soon as she could walk. Looking for bigger mountains, Sara ventured to Alaska to take a mountaineering course after high school. She quickly became addicted to the state’s remoteness and challenging terrain. Sara has returned every summer, working as a mountaineering instructor or guide. In the winter, Sara returns to Colorado and works as a ski patroller specializing in snow safety. She attended Western State Colorado University and received a B.A. in Outdoor Leadership and Resort Management. She continued her professional medical training by receiving her W-EMT. Sara has also completed her Level 3 avalanche certification and numerous high angle rescue courses. When not guiding, Sara can be found skiing and climbing the large glaciated peaks that surround us. Sara has been guiding for AP since 2014.
Todd Jensen, Senior Naturalist Guide
In 1993, Todd came to Alaska and started his own guiding company, renting canoes and guiding trips into the Kenai Wildlife Refuge on Alaska's Kenai Peninsula. He has spent the last 24 seasons working as a naturalist and guide across the state. His adventures have taken him rafting, hiking and canoeing in the most of Alaska's national parks including, the gates of the arctic, Denali, Wrangle Saint Elias, Katmai and Kenai fjords national park. He has also done the eastern and most western rivers of Arctic national wildlife refuge, the canning and The Kongakut rivers. He graduated San Diego State University in 1986 with a bachelor of arts in recreation administration with an emphasis in outdoor education. Todd currently spends his winters in San Diego California. Todd has been working with AP since 2006.
Gunner Deery, Senior Naturalist Guide
Gunner grew up in Northern Michigan and spent most of his life cultivating an appreciation for nature in the ‘Superior State.’ After seeing enough pictures in ski and snowboard magazines that all said Valdez, Cordova and Haines, and an extensive read of Calvin and Hobbes epic Yukon Ho, he decided to move to Alaska to pursue adventures and big mountain snowboarding. He has been living up here off and on since 2003 with a brief hiatus for a little grad school in the continental mountainous regions. His degrees are a Master's and Bachelor's in Philosophy. He teaches writing and philosophy at a few of the local colleges so that he might spend his days snowboarding and mountain biking. He has also guided sea-kayaking trips in Valdez for several years and has paddled the eastern half of Prince William Sound extensively which encouraged a deep respect and interest in natural history. His love for snowboarding and mountain biking in Girdwood has provided him with intimate knowledge of the area. His newest adventure is becoming a father. He has been a guide for AP since 2011.
Mari Medovaya, Naturalist Guide
Mariyam came to Alaska for "the winter" in 2008 to work on a community-based environmental observation project in the Aleutian Islands. Little did she know that Alaska has other plans for her. Now raising her daughter and making roots in Girdwood, Mariyam loves counting her consecutive winters in Alaska and forecasting summer weather. She is an avid mushroom hunter, berry picker, forager of numerous Alaskan plants and wildcrafter. She has two Master's degrees: one in Atmospheric Sciences and another in Cultural Geography. She used to work for N.O.A.A and W.W.F and is an expert in Arctic Russian and Alaskan Native communities, languages and cultures. Mariyam has guided nature hikes in Puget Sound of Washington and the suburban wilderness of Massachusetts, and has lots of nature backpacking experience in Europe, US and Russian Siberia. She is originally from the Pacific coast of Russia, and strains her vision sometimes to see if she can spot her homeland across the ocean, no luck so far. She loves taking all our Russian speaking clients out. Mari has been with AP since 2014.
Brian McGorry, Kayak and Hiking Guide
Brian knows his job is your vacation and will offer his humble enthusiasm for the natural world on any outing you can join him on. The seeds planted studying Ecotourism and Outdoor Education back east have blossomed into their second decade as a guide, naturalist, and instructor. Whether kayaking to Spencer Glacier, hiking up Crow Pass, or struggling to identify those little brown birds in the canopy on Winner Creek Trail, Brian is always ready to offer a spare bug net or discuss the finer points of “living the dream” in Alaska. His role as a guide with AP provides the opportunity to showcase his own back yard, literally. Guiding compliments his winter life as a ski patroller and lead rescue dog handler with Alyeska Resort very well. He stays active volunteering in the local Fire, EMS, and Search and Rescue Services and sits on the board of directors for the Alaska Search and Rescue Association and Alaska Search and Rescue Dogs. He has taught sea kayaking as higher education at four academic institutions, and is still actively teaching as a certified instructor with the American Canoe Association. He is a partner in a local paddling program called “Paddlers Realm” (www.paddlersrealm.com). His most recent adventure included canoeing with a screaming infant. Brian has worked with AP since 2014.
Jonathan Lee, Naturalist Guide
Jonathan first came to Alaska “for the summer” in 1989 -- hitchhiking here from Lawrence KS, with a borrowed backpack. After spending a few summers in Alaska, he sold everything that wouldn’t fit in a Subaru, and moved here for good in 1996, with “Alaska or Bust” painted on the luggage carrier. At 19 he took his first solo backpacking trip to the Middle East and more recently he and his wife spent 4 months in Kazakhstan, including backpacking in the Tien Shan Mountains. So far, his travels have taken him to twenty-something countries, with lots of hiking and camping as far North as Alaska’s Brooks Range, and as far south as Egypt’s Eastern Desert. Here in Alaska, Jonathan has lived in a tent, a car, a wigwam, a yurt, and a tiny cabin in the bush (with his wife and two dogs). But, for the past 13 years, he has been putting down deep roots in Girdwood. After so many miles of hiking, running, paddling and peddling Southcentral Alaska, he has discovered that the ultimate adventure challenge is raising a little guy! When not actually in the outdoors, Jonathan likes to read about natural history and other people’s adventurers. He has guided kayakers in Prince William Sound, science students in the Kuskokwim River Valley, Boy Scouts canoeists in Florida, and people who really needed some peace and quiet in the parks of Anchorage. He is a NOLS-certified Wilderness First Responder, and holds a Bachelor’s degree in Philosophy, so he is always happy to share his philosophical contemplations on Alaska’s trails and trees and chirping birds. He was hooked on this wild and beautiful place from the first day, and still and still is, and still loves to share it with visitors -- but he also loves to hear YOUR stories and observations. He has been working with AP since 2016.
Mitchel Beres, Glacier Guide
Mitchel grew up in the exciting landscape of rural Wisconsin. But because living in the shadow of Dundee Mountain (yes, Wisconsin has a mountain) wasn't
exactly what he had in mind, he spent the summers of his college years working seasonally in Alaska. He's guided 3 seasons on the Matanuska Glacier
as well as been an instructor at the MCA Ice Climbing Festival. While studying at the University of Wisconsin - Madison, he became involved with a
group called 'Hoofers' and climbed in areas around the Midwest such as Devil's Lake and Munising. Since then he has climbed throughout South Central
Alaska, Leavenworth and Vantage in WA, and Hyalite Canyon in MT. Apart from climbing, Mitchel does other pretty cool things like trail running and
bike touring. He completed his first ultra-marathon last September and biked from Seattle to Alaska last April. His favorite things to do in Alaska
are ice climb on glaciers and eat 'razzies' from the Talkeetna Roadhouse. Mitchel is a WFR, has several certs by FEMA for emergency management and
graduated from UW - Madison with degrees in Economics and Environmental Studies. Yes he's from Wisconsin but don't bother asking.... he also has no
idea why people wear blocks of cheese on their heads during Packer games. This is Mitch's first season with AP.
Emily McKay, Glacier & Kayaking Guide
Hailing from the Carolinas, Emily grew up hiking on the Appalachian Trail and paddling whitewater with her father. At 15, she found her passion for mountaineering in the Wind Rivers of Wyoming, and has pursued climbing ever since. Nowadays, Emily calls Argentina and Alaska home where, in her free time, she can be found ice climbing, horseback riding, or sipping yerba mate. Along with two bachelor's degrees (in Political Science and Environmental Studies), Emily also holds her Wilderness First Responder certification, AIARE Avalanche 1 certification, and has completed an AMGA Single Pitch Instructor course. She guided a season on the Matanuska Glacier in Alaska and horseback riding in Patagonia, Argentina. Her international travel and college study abroad in Latin America has polished her Spanish speaking skills. Some notable expeditions include the Cordillera Blanca of Peru, Fitz Roy Massif of Argentina, and Southern Alps of New Zealand. This is Emily's first season with AP.
Sage Asher, Glacier Guide
Originally from Anchorage, this is Sage’s first summer guiding with Ascending Path, but not her first rodeo on ice. She has worked at McMurdo Station, Antarctica for the United States Antarctic Program the past four austral summers and has guided on the Matanuska and Exit glaciers the past two summers here in Southcentral, Alaska. In between her seasons chasing endless daylight and frigid ice, she is an avid backcountry snowboarder, cycle tourist and world traveler. She has spent winters in a host of ski towns in the western US and the Spanish Pyrenees, cycled solo from Helsinki to Istanbul and northern France to southern Spain, and has spent years exploring the globe, from Mexico to Malaysia. She has Wilderness First Responder and CPR certifications from SOLO, WMI and WMTC, Avy 1, ICS 100 & 200, and graduated from the University of Oregon with a BA in psychology and Spanish. Her languages include: Spanish & French. While in her beloved home state she spends most of her free time reading, cooking travel-inspired food and tromping high in the mountains, searching for yummy plants and berries to eat while taking in the endlessly breathtaking views.
Quinn Bennett, Hiking Guide
Quinn grew up in Soldotna, Alaska and has spent most of his life exploring and playing in Southcentral Alaska. He learned to kayak on the Kern River in California and was helping his father guide sea kayak trips in Prince William Sound by the time he was a teenager. He had a bird book attached to his hip most of his childhood. He’s always had love for the wildlife in Alaska and was a bear viewing guide on the Alaskan Peninsula. Quinn was a competitive swimmer in his youth and has been coaching and teaching swimming for more than a decade. His degree is in Philosophy and Journalism from the University of Alaska, Anchorage and owns a consignment clothing store in Anchorage with his wife. Quinn is also an Adjunct Professor at UAA for Health and Physical Education. Whether its hiking in the Chugach Front Range, running a river or backpacking across Iceland, Quinn believes that by being outside one can experience a joy you can’t find anywhere else. Even in the worst conditions, when one is utterly miserable you can find peace, resilience and happiness. This is Quinn's first season with AP.