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, General 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.
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.
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. Some dreams he fulfilled in 2019! 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. Benny started at AP in 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.
Sara Olbright, Glacier, Kayak and Ice Guide
Sara was born and raised in the mountains of Colorado. She graduated from college and moved north in search of bigger mountains. Sara has been instructing and guiding in Alaska for 10 summers. In the winter Sara ski patrols at Alyeska. She has her Wilderness EMT, Level 3 Avalanche Certification, and is a Leave No Trace Master. Whether she is guiding Denali or backpacking in the Brooks Range, Sara loves sharing her passion for Alaska with other people. She spends her free time ski mountaineering around the state or hiking around the Chugach with her dog Trigger.
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.
Allison Sayer, Kayak and Hiking 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.
Griffin Lawrence, Glacier, Kayak and Hiking Guide
Griffin grew up a short drive from Lake Michigan, and has always had a passion for the outdoors. He fell in love with leading trips while working in Yellowstone National Park and managing his university’s Outdoor Pursuits Center. He has been rock climbing since 2015, and his focus shifted to alpine climbing in 2018. After graduating with a degree in Environmental Philosophy, Griffin moved to Alaska to learn the art of glacier guiding. He spends his winters in Bozeman, Montana, where his time is spent ice climbing, splitboarding, and baking the best bread in town. In the future he aims to combine alpine guiding with conservation work to protect the wild places he loves. He has Avalanche Level 1 and Wilderness First Responder certifications, and is trained as a Single Pitch Instructor with the AMGA.