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: skiing, mountain biking, climbing & hiking, design, gardening, travel, yoga, making jewelry, and Naturopathic medicine. She thrives in Girdwood with her husband and business partner, Matt and their son. This is her 16th season working at AP.
Nicole Geils, Reservations & Sales Manager
Nicole is an adventure seeker and positivity ambassador! She grew up in Alaska; skiing, fishing, hiking, boating, camping and experiencing all this beautiful state has to offer. Nicole attended college at Portland State University on a Volleyball Scholarship, and moved back to Alaska shortly after receiving her degree, a BS in Business Administration emphasizing Marketing, Advertising, and Communications. Nicole has specialized skills within the realms of Alaska tourism, adventure sales & marketing, outdoor & social media photography, creative copy writing, public relations, event planning, and organizational management. Her passions in life include travel, skiing, fat biking, hiking, meeting new people, sailing and photography. Nicole lives full-time in Girdwood, Alaska with her husband Thom and fur-baby Lolo. When not adventuring locally, Nicole’s favorite travel destinations include Bali, Thailand, Russia, Ireland, Jamaica, and Canada. Her positive attitude is infectious and aligns perfectly with Ascending Path’s core philosophy, to inspire AWE through adventuring in the wilderness.
Quinn Bennett, OPS Manager, Glacier and Kayak 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. Quinn has been guiding with AP since 2016.
Lisa Taylor, Reservations & Sales
Lisa is a passionate and enthusiastic adventurer who originally hails from Central Florida. Lisa has an interesting and eclectic work background that has included being a collegiate soccer coach, event services manager, advertising account manager and a wildlife conservation tour guide and educator here in Alaska. She recently completed her MBA in New Zealand with a concentration in International Business and has since dove head first pursuing her passion in the travel and tourism industry. Growing up, Lisa made the most of the Florida outdoors by canoeing (i.e. gator watching), wakeboarding and playing many sports such as beach volleyball and soccer. She went on to be a scholarship soccer player at the University of North Florida. Lisa has fallen in love with hiking, camping, multi-day trekking and rock climbing. To date, her two favorite experiences are the epic multi-day treks of the Tongariro Northern Circuit in New Zealand and Havasu Falls in Arizona. She is also an avid runner and yogi! Lisa has lived abroad in Germany and New Zealand and has traveled through 15 other different countries. Lisa describes her motivation for exploration as “whether in your own neighborhood, a different part of this country or abroad, getting outside is an opportunity to be inspired by something new, that you may not have noticed yesterday.” Through her work in tourism, she helps others experience the many adventures of the world. Lisa is NOLS Wilderness First Aid and AHA CPR/AED certified.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. Reese has been with AP since 2017.
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. Riley has been with AP since 2018.
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.
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. 2019 is Benny’s 2nd year at AP.
Stephen Staley, Glacier & Kayak Guide
Stephen grew up traveling into far to reach places with his parents who were in full-time ministry as missionaries. Settling in Jacksonville FL midway through high school Stephen excelled in athletics. He won a track & field state championship medal as a Sr. and then earned a football scholarship to Jacksonville University where he studied mechanical engineering. Certified as a Wilderness First Responder (WFR), First Aid, CPR/AED, Rope Access Technician (SPRAT), Merchant Marine (MMD), & American Canoe Association (ACA). His various adventures, passion for the mountains, & unique skillsets have led him to Alaska where he’s worked for AP since 18′. Just as comfortable with mixed climbing up steep north face routes as freedive spearfishing down to 100′ Stephen gets stoked each season to trade the call of the sea for the freedom of the hills.
Drew Bandy, Apprentice Guide
Born in Kentucky and raised in Wisconsin; Andy came to us on a climbing trip to the Alaska Range and loved it here so much that he never left. Coming from a strong background in rock climbing, he has climbed all over the Americas including splitter sandstone cracks in Utah, knife-edge granite ridges in the California Sierra, overhanging limestone in the Chilean Andes, and even the greasy quartzite tucked away in the Midwest. Whether climbing, biking, skiing, or hiking, Andy’s happiness is being in the mountains. In recent years he has been seeking out more alpine climbing objectives, especially remote wilderness climbing. Some of his future goals include objectives in the Karakoram, Baffin Island, and Antarctica. Andy also has a BA in global sustainability, speaks Spanish fluently, and has his WFR certification.
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.
Allison Sayer, Kayak Guide
Allison Sayer first came to Alaska from the East Coast in 1999 for an internship at a remote nature center. She was completely hooked on Alaska’s phenomenal beauty, wide open spaces, and generous people. Over the following twenty years, she traveled all over the state working as a biologist, a commercial fisherman, a wilderness guide, an outdoor educator, and a writer (among other things). She has had the opportunity to guide kayak trips throughout Prince William Sound and the Tongass National Forest. Allison’s love of Alaska has only deepened with time, and she continues to enjoy delving deeper into the many secret joys the Alaska wilderness has to share. She has also made a home in a small off-grid community in the Chugach Mountains north of Valdez. Allison holds a Master’s Degree in Biology from the University of Alaska Anchorage as well as Swiftwater and WFR certs.
Kelly Sluder, Glacier Guide
Kelly grew up in East Tennessee along the Appalachian trail in an area known as the High Country. So it was natural to develop a love for the outdoors at an early age. Having the highest ski area on the east coast in his backyard Kelly learned to snowboard and mountain bike at over a mile high. But searching for higher mountains and more snow brought him to Alaska nearly eight years ago. Working as a snowboard instructor in the winter and guiding helicopter glacier treks all summer he has no plans on leaving Alaska anytime soon. He started for a helicopter company in Juneau Alaska where he worked his way up from guiding level 1 treks to level 3 and ice climbing trips on the Juneau ice field. After becoming lead guide he worked on a number of filming shoots providing glacier safety and you might even see him in the background of your favorite Alaska reality show. Kelly has a Snowboard 1, Avalanche 1, Wilderness First Responder, and is a Technical Rope Rescue Technician.