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.
Brian Roberson, Reservations/Guide
Originally from Ohio, Brian came to Alaska in 2005 to find true adventure in unspoiled wilderness. He attended Alaska Pacific University and received a B.A. in Business Administration and Outdoor Studies. He found what he was looking for and since then has been hooked exploring Alaska's immense backcountry. His adventures both personally and professionally have taken him to some remarkable locations such as Lake Clark NP, Wrangell-St. Elias NP, and Katmai NP - but he acknowledges he's just begun to scratched the surface of what Alaska has to offer. In the winter months, he can be found doing web design / development for local companies and enjoys helping them accomplish their online business goals and marketing objectives. Brian enjoys hiking, skate skiing, running and photography in his spare time.
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 & Assist. Operations Manager
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
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.
Jordan Machtelinckx, Spencer Safety/Logistics & Guide
Jordan is an Oregonian of Belgian descent who grew up trekking the backwoods and wilderness of the Pacific Northwest. His multicultural background has led him to explore over 40 countries and learn multiple languages. His short-lived career in engineering was no match for the call of travel, exploration, and outdoor experiential education. He has taken every outdoor education course he can fit into his life, from technical ice and rock skills to wilderness medicine. He has dabbled in mountain rescue organizations, and, more recently, he worked for two years as a wilderness therapy field instructor in Central Oregon. Over the last ten years as his technical skills increased to match his curiosity of human endurance and adventure sports, he progressed from backpacking around his childhood stomping grounds to spending his free time rock climbing, mountaineering, backcountry skiing, mountain biking, bikepacking, and trail running. He finds himself in Alaska for the first time this year looking for a new milieu for self exploration by living his passions and providing an environment for others to do the same.
Sam Westerfield, Spencer Safety and Logistics
Sam was born and raised in Eugene, Oregon and is a recent graduate of the University of Oregon where he received Bachelor’s degrees in Spanish and Psychology. Sam grew up sea kayaking and hiking, spending many summers in southern British Columbia. A certified Wilderness First Responder, Sam holds alpinism, dogs and bacon all close to his heart. He enjoys fly fishing and backpacking whenever he can. Organic gardening and winemaking, as well as cross country skiing and performing stand-up comedy are all things that can easily capture Sam’s attention. Sam has lived in Ecuador and traveled to many Spanish speaking countries. He hopes to further explore South America in the years to come and eventually return to school to pursue a master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. He would like to pursue a career providing mental health services to both English and Spanish speaking clients. Sam hopes to balance his passion for mental health with his love for the outdoors as he continues to grow and experience the outdoor playgrounds life has to offer.
Sara Olbright, Senior Glacier, Kayak and Ice 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.
Quinn Bennett, Kayak and 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 second season with AP.
Jonathan Lee, Senior Naturalist, Hiking and Kayak 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.
Todd Jensen, Senior Naturalist, Hiking and Kayak 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, Hiking and Kayak 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 and Hiking 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.
Matt Wentzell, Glacier, Kayak and Ice Guide
Matt grew up in northern Massachusetts and always loved spending time in the woods. His family had a place in New Hampshire so spent most summers kayaking and wake boarding on the lakes, hiking in the White Mountains, and snowboarding in the winters. Matt received a Bachelors degree in Criminal Justice and celebrated it by thru-hiking the Long Trail of Vermont from Canada back to MA and travelling around the US for half a year. He decided to become a park ranger and got a WFR certification. During that season he hiked all 48 4,000 footers of New Hampshire before packing up and moving to New Zealand, which eventually led into glacier guiding on the west coast in Franz Josef. Having the Southern Alps of NZ as a backyard has afforded him access to more rock and ice climbing, "tramping", and some awesome alpine terrain. Being a huge plant nerd, if he’s not playing around on the ice, trying to bag a bigger peak, or hanging by the Tasman Sea, you'll find him in the rain forest picking edibles or making medicinal teas. Sweet. As.
Reese Doyle, Glacier, Kayak and Ice Guide
Raised in the deserts of New Mexico; Reese lived in New Zealand, Canada, and Australia before finally settling near Valdez, Alaska where he lives in a off-the-grid cabin he built himself. Reese spends his days pursuing his passion for mountains, climbing to high places, developing rock climbing areas, searching for the most quality powder skiing on earth and often uses bush planes, rafts, or sea kayaks to explore the unexplored. He has guided and instructed rock and ice climbing, glacier hikes, multiday wilderness trips and via Ferrata for over a decade.
Miles Knotek, Hiking Guide
Miles was born in the small town of Moose Pass 30 miles north of Seward on the Kenai Peninsula. He was raised by his parents who greatly valued the natural world and raised his sister and him in the same manner. Miles was raised appreciating the land through a number of ways whether it be skiing, climbing, snowmachining or hunting to fill the freezer for the winter. As a kid, with a BB gun in hand and back pack full of provisions, binoculars and various reference books of birds and wildlife Miles spent many days wandering the forest where his property meets the Chugach National forest.
As he grew, his love for the outdoors also developed. Upon graduating from high school (where his interest in geology and the earth sciences started), Miles attended Montana State University where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in science education. He split his time between the classroom and the mountains of Southwest Montana for 4 years. He’s since worked as an environmental educator in the Tetons of Wyoming working with kids and adults alike- striving to foster a sense of place with his students and trying to understand the world around us. When not reading about local geology or ecology Miles can be found running the many trails and peaks in the Chugach or exploring Hatcher Pass with his fiancé Kayla.
Riley Ebel, Glacier, Kayak and Ice Guide
Riley grew up skiing, climbing and kayaking in the Colorado sunshine and spent summers on the Colorado and Arkansas Rivers, falls climbing out in the Utah desert, and winters skiing all across the West. Her guiding experiences started in the mountains and rivers of Colorado and continued in the Green Mountains of Vermont, where she graduated with a BA in Geology and Environmental Science. She came to Alaska to raft guide on the Matanuska in the summer of 2014, began guiding at that glacier and has been “woo-hooing” around the state as much as she can. In the off season, Riley is a ski instructor and travels abroad in pursuit of whitewater and powder. She also works within the geology realm, most recently as a field exploration geologist north of the Arctic circle at Red Dog Mine. Riley is passionate about the wilderness and playing in any form of water, be it ice, snow or the liquid type. She is also pretty into rocks, so you will never see her taking any of them for granite. Riley is (EMT), WFR, CPR, Swift water and PSIA certified.
Benny Lieber, Glacier, Kayak and Ice Guide
Benny comes to us from the White Mountains of New Hampshire where he grew up exploring the wilderness and currently spends the winters climbing ice in the area. Over the last few years, guiding and recreational climbing have taken him to several ranges including the North Cascades, Mt. Rainier and the Chugach Mountains. Benny is passionate about the wilderness and exploring it in a variety of ways whether it be by kayak, crampon, or hands and feet. He studied Industrial Design & Service Design and played for the Men’s Lacrosse team at the Savannah College of Art & Design (SCAD) in Savannah, Georgia. Benny’s personal climbing goals lie in traveling to peaks in the Himalaya, Karakoram and other great mountain ranges including the nearby Alaska Range and our local Chugach Mountains. Hopefully he’ll make some climbing gear too! Benny is an enthusiastic and friendly guide excited about each day in the wilderness and is inspired by the wildlife, mountains, and glaciers of Alaska.