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 39 years and climbing for over 28. 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. 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. Her passions include: the foodie scene, naturalism, design, organic gardening, travel, yoga, making jewelry, sustainable living and Naturopathic medicine. She thrives in Anchorage with her husband and business partner, Matt and their son.
Celina Ashford, Reservations and Yurt Manager
Celina moved to Alaska "for the summer" in 2005 and has been Ascending Path Guides Manager since 2013. She enjoys the abundance of outdoor recreation Alaska has to offer, and loves learning about the state's colorful history and untamed nature. As a published writer, she found a passion for sharing personal accounts about kayaking in Resurrection Bay and dog mushing to raise funds for the Historic Iditarod Trail. Celina is a year-round Girdwood resident who enjoys hiking to spectacular views, camping under the stars-and Midnight Sun, and trying her best to be a good patron to the Earth. Celina always seems to know how to balance serious and fun. She works hard and long days in the AP yurt all summer and yet manages to put her two days off a week to good use camping, fishing and playing in South-Central Alaska. Don't ask her who her most unwanted guest was at the open yurt door because she might have her bear spray in hand. Hint: it was furry, black, stinky and not a dog.
Geoff DeLaune, Ops Manager- Glacier Guide
After his senior year of study abroad for Business Management in Sydney, Australia Geoff travelled to New Zealand to climb and never left. Having since lived and worked in Alaska and on the South Island of New Zealand as a glacier guide for the past ten plus years, glaciers have become his second home. Originally from the Texas Hill Country of the Austin/ San Antonio area (an avid Spurs fan) Geoff was raised on Mexican food and has an affinity for spicy meals. He is a hobby chef, plays the guitar and a certified SCUBA diver. Growing up in the relentless Texas heat led him to rivers and to rock climbing with friends and outdoor school groups. He has embraced ice climbing and mountaineering through years working as Lead Guide for Fox Glacier Guiding in NZ, as well as on the Exit and Matanuska Glaciers of Alaska. Geoff has professionally experienced years of glacial surging (from melt water) as well as the obvious years of retreat, with the resulting transition to a sole reliance of helicopter access to gain glacier hikes in NZ. With rope rescue and avalanche education, he is an active member of New Zealand Mountain Guide Association and long-time member of the Search and Rescue team as well as Alpine Cliff and Rescue in Fox Glacier. Over this past Alaskan winter Geoff worked in Mt. Cook National Park NZ helping launch a new guiding operation through a partnership between Fox Glacier Guiding and Inflite Ski Planes and Helicopters. This will be his fourth summer season guiding in Alaska. He is pretty stoked to live hard and work hard in the Girdwood area this summer!
Michelle Mahoney, Reservations & Guide
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. 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 skiied in Colorado, rock climbed in Utah and Arizona, surfed and snorkeled in Hawaii, backcountry skiied 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 brought her to Juneau, AK. While living in Juneau, she has 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.
Ryan Gould, Senior Guide
Ryan has been always been drawn to the outdoors and Alaska! From the time he was little, he was being scolded for climbing on whatever he could manage to get a good foot and hand hold on. He graduated from Alaska Pacific University, with dual degrees in Outdoor Studies with a focus in snow science and Earth Science focusing in glaciology. Ryan is a certified Rescue Rigger, Wilderness EMT, and a professional ski patroller in the winter. Nearly all of his free time is spent trying to explore the backcounty of Alaska via skis, rock/ice climbing or simply hiking. He was fortunate in 2015 for the opportunity to work with the Obama Administration and Bear Grylls: Running Wild as a film safety and rigging contractor. Some of his more notable expeditions include ice field traverses in Alaska, Cerro Aconcagua in Argentina, numerous rock climbing trips down both coasts, and internationally from France to Africa. His most recent trip included a summit of Denali, exiting the AK range via packraft. Starting as an intern in 2012, Ryan has been with AP for some time. Girdwood and its residents have become home for him and loves to share the secrets of the Chugach with employees, clients and generally, anyone that is interested.
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!
Ryan Davis, Senior Guide
Ryan is a committed mountaineer and has been climbing rock and ice for over 20 years. While telemark skiing is his favorite sport (he Ranked 3rd in the World in the 2010 Extreme Comp and was the CHAMPION in the 2012 Chugach Open!), he chooses first and foremost to teach the basics of mountaineering and all else that is Alpinism. With over 17 years of emergency medical experience Ryan is currently a certified Wilderness First Responder. He is a world ranked telemark extreme skier, PSIA certified ski and snowboard instructor and a ski race coach for the Alyeska Ski Club. He has extensive rescue experience and has been on 4 different "Volunteer in Parks" National Park Service search and rescue patrols on Denali. His training and certifications includes: EMT II, PSIA Level I Adaptive Ski Instructor, OEC, WFR and Avalanche classes. RD is a SAG stuntman and has over 20 years snow safety experience. "Helping people become more comfortable and efficient in the mountains is what I do best." RD. Ryan has been guiding with AP since 2005 and we are just thrilled to have him around.
Sara Olbright, Guide
Born and raised in the mountains of Colorado, Sara started climbing and skiing at a very young age. Looking for bigger mountains, Sara ventured to Alaska to take a NOLS Mountaineering course in 2006. She quickly became addicted to the state’s remoteness and challenging terrain. Sara has returned every summer, working as a mountaineering instructor or guide. Sara loves exploring the Alaska mountains by skis or splitboard. In the winter, Sara returns to Colorado and works as a ski patroller at Copper Mountain. This year Sara received the Patroller of the Year award. Sara attended Western State College and received a B.A. in Outdoor Leadership and Resort Management. She continued her professional training by receiving her W-EMT and taking advanced avalanche courses. Sara has been guiding for AP since 2014.
Todd Jensen, 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.
Gunnar Deery, 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. 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. 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.
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.
Katelyn Sheehan, Glacier Guide
Katelyn was born in Brooklyn, New York, at 16 she was an exchange student in Poland and has been roaming ever since. She has a B.S. in Human Services and later spent 4 years as a logistics coordinator and lead physical trainer in the US Air Force. After that she re-pierced her nose and went to work as a crisis counselor in Texas, Kashmir, Nepal, and Bombay, India. Katelyn’s most noticeable trait is her all-terrain enthusiasm, no matter how rough it gets she can get people laughing. Her secret to staying passionate, even when work got heavy, was taking many adventure breaks. A few of her solo trips included cycling across Cambodia on a broken bike, trekking the Balkans, road-tripping through Jordan and Israel, hiking the Everest 3 High Passes, all in all exploring and living in over 40 countries. Katelyn came to Alaska as a volunteer guide for a veteran’s fly-fishing trip and somehow found herself on the Mat Glacier where she guided for 6 months. Feeling like a late arrival to the guiding world, she’s determined to make up for lost time. Katelyn is a WFR, EMT, as well as a SOLO Wilderness Emergency Medicine Instructor. She has her level 1 Avalanche course through AIARE. Katelyn is super stoked to learn everything she can as a new member of the AP team!
Mitch 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.
Scott Fritz, Spencer Logistics/Guide
Scott was born and raised in a small farm town in north central Illinois. In 2010, he began building a career as an outdoor educator in Alaska. He spent most of about 5 years of his professional time in Alaska in a camp setting spending weeks on end paddling, floating, and romping around south central Alaskan backcountry with large hoards of 8 year old children, for whom I was utterly and completely responsible. His skillsets include primarily expeditionary sea kayaking, packrafting, and group management. In the years since 2012, he's been working hard to bring more mountain safety and skiing into his personal and professional life. He's passionate about sharing the outdoors with others because he believes that wilderness experiences enable people to more deeply understand themselves and the ways in which they fit into the world around them. His life has been meaningfully impacted by his wilderness experiences in Alaska, and he's determined to pay that forward as much as he can. Scott has a BA in Interpersonal Communication and a MS from APU in Outdoor and Environmental Eduction.
Mike Morris, Spencer Logistics/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. 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. Even though Mike is interested in pursuing a PhD, he feels life’s classroom will keep him busy for a while.
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. He studied Journalism and Philosophy at university 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.
Emily McKay, 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, Emily also holds her Wilderness First Responder certification, AIARE Avalanche 1 certification, and has completed an AMGA Single Pitch Instructor course. Some notable expeditions include the Cordillera Blanca of Peru, Fitz Roy Massif of Argentina, and Southern Alps of New Zealand.