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Southern Yosemite Mountain Guides

  • Ian Elman

    Simply put, I still love to guide! Spending nearly 25 years as a guide has been the best way to spend my life. I love the beautiful places we go, sure, but it’s the great people we share those with that make the lifestyle so rewarding. I have walked the entire John Muir Trail with you, climbed in the Peruvian Andes with you, scaled the Mexican Volcanoes with you, mountaineering in Argentina, rafting and kayaking Costa Rica, Fly fishing in Montana and Utah, and of course thousands of hiking days in our backyard of Yosemite and California’s High Sierra! I enjoy giving back to the community by offering trips and programs for charities and school groups. I enjoy the challenge of the logistics of having dozens of trips out in the backcountry (sometimes hundreds of people across the Sierra) all at the same time. I find great pleasure continuing to fulfill SYMG’s mission statement on a daily basis including providing fulfilling employment and lifestyle for all of the guides and aspiring guides in our organization. Someone recently asked me, “still doing that camping thing?” I smiled and proudly said “ Yep, still doing the camping thing…”

  • Colby Brokvist

    Colby began his career at SYMG as a backpacking and mountaineering guide and continues to lead select trips each season. He found his niche specializing as expedition leader for our longer backpacking departures such the John Muir Trail, Yosemite High Passes Loop, Yosemite Grand Traverse and Trans-Sierra Trail. After several years he assumed the role of senior backcountry guide where he aided in the development of new itineraries and course development, including SYMG's guide training course, a program which he continues to lead.

    The ability to strike a balance between the adventurous and relaxing aspects of mountain travel continues to earn Colby praise as both a trip leader and planner. He is equally at home on technical peak ascents as he is lazing in wildflower-strewn mountain meadows. In addition to his many mountaineering accreditations, Colby is a dedicated naturalist and finds his passion for guiding in providing interpretive and educational experiences for all of his clients. He holds a degree in Environmental Sciences and has been known to burst into explanations of alpine plant physiology in the middle of 14,000' peak ascents! Describing his love of the guiding lifestyle, Colby once wrote "It is both the serenity and excitement of the wilderness that compels me to it and I only hope to enjoy it with good friends."

  • Laura Steinbach

    My first visit to the Sierra Nevada was back in 2002 on a three month backpacking trip along the Pacific Crest and John Muir Trails. Since that very trip, I have been infected with all that these mountains have to offer and, following that hike it took me only one year to find my way back to California on a more permanent basis.

    I'll be the first to acknowledge that it was the backpacking, climbing and horseback riding that drew me here, but what I find most intriguing is difficult to describe and certainly isn't apparent in photographs. It's the sound of the spring meltwater, the feel of the warm Sierran granite, and the haze that settles over the mountains just as dusk falls. These are the things that can only be realized by being here in the midst of it all. Throughout all of my travels, I've never found a better playground... er office.

  • Roddy McCalley

    All of my family's vacations were spent backpacking in the Sierra. My first trips were in a baby-carrier. My earliest memories are of scrambling on granite and catching frogs by clear cold lakes. I left California for Yale, took a degree in Ecology, and came right back. For most of the last 9 years I've taught ecology, backpacking and rock climbing for outdoor education companies in Joshua Tree, Kings Canyon, Yosemite, the redwoods and other beautiful areas of California. My interests include reading, rock climbing, and travel. I spent a year in Thailand, where I learned that classroom teaching is hard work. My latest adventure was a trip to South America... now I hope to spend every summer in the Sierra and every winter in Patagonia!

  • Drew Brodhead

    Fish and chips, flannel shirts and endless fresh water is one way to describe Drew's youth. Following his inner search for the open, Drew ended up with a degree in Outdoor Recreation Leadership & Management from Northern Michigan University.

    Fascinated by open spaces, Drew eventually found himself amongst the giant sequoias and granite walls of Yosemite as an intern for SYMG. Drew has happily worked his way up from cleaning tents to one of SYMG’s most accomplished guides, leading many of our most adventurous trips deep into the Sierra Nevada.

    Among’s Drew’s many certifications and accomplishments is completing the AMGA Rock Instructor Course. He is currently pursuing further training through AMGA.

  • Jenny Kane

    I find space to be myself in the outdoors, and this place is my inspiration. As a child, my dad used to pack up the family for a week and head to Yosemite every summer. We drove our minivan from Los Angeles into the lower pines campground and parked. This was the great outdoors to me. Later, after high school I started working in the Park during my summer breaks - first with the concession service, then with the National Park Service. I interned with the wilderness department for two summers (once as an SCA volunteer) and during that time hiked about half of Yosemite's backcountry trails, about 400 miles. It was during this time that I discovered a deeper appreciation and love for wild lands and found my artistic inspiration.

    I am a teacher by training and have worked as a guide for the Boojum Institute and Naturlalists At Large. But, I'm a learner at heart, thus my interests and talents are diverse. I love languages, culture, art and poetry as much as the mountains and can find inspiration in all of them, especially in combination. During my time in Peace Corps Thailand, I was given an opportunity to teach yoga for the first time, and this winter during the guiding slow season I will start teaching in California as a certified instructor. I enjoy the stillness in the mountains and look forward to sharing my love for Yosemite and the world with each of you this summer.

  • Ashley Burton

    I consider the Sierra Nevada mountains my home. If I'm not off exploring the mountains, I'm busy planning my next trip. Growing up in Folsom, California, I was introduced to the outdoors at an early age. My family taught me the importance of the outdoors and encouraged me to explore it. I grew up hiking, backpacking and snowboarding. My passion for backpacking quickly developed during my college years at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. Here I earned a civil engineering and environmental science degree and used my free time to escape the city life to find peace and solitude in the mountains, particularly Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Parks and Inyo National Forest. The Sierra Nevada has inspired me to travel the world in search of new mountain regions to explore. Apart from guiding, you can find me running, swimming, reading, and sharing a beer with friends. I am fortunate for the opportunity to meet new people and share with them an unforgettable mountain experience.

  • Wilson Riggs

    As a child growing up in Los Angles some of my favorite memories are of the hikes I would take with my parents every weekend. We had a small guidebook and did our best to hike every trail that we could. It was those short weekend hikes that initially inspired my love of the mountains, beaches and streams of California. The Sierra Nevada Mountains have played a fundamental role in my life. They are where I go to relax, adventure, reflect, and celebrate. After graduating from UC Santa Barbara I have been lucky enough to develop my pastimes of fly fishing and backpacking into a rewarding career that has taken me all over the country and introduced me to so many interesting people. Wilson has backpacked extensively throughout the Sierra Nevada, including the John Muir Trail and all of the California portions of the Pacific Crest Trail.

  • Alex Steiner

    Alex Steiner, born and raised in Wisconsin, grew up paddling and hiking everywhere he could. After graduating from Northland College with a BS in Environmental Studies, he took off on adventures abroad, mostly in New Zealand where he perfected his wilderness craft. Alex has found a home here in California and although backpacking is his first passion, he also climbs, surfs, paddles, and runs any chance he gets. When Alex is not guiding for SYMG, he takes students out into the mountains to teach them the basics of wilderness travel and ecology.

  • Carlos Rodriguez

    My first visit to Yosemite was in 1999; since then this place has become my second home. I grew up in one of the most beautiful places, the San Cristobal Canyon on Puerto Rico Island. That was where I developed my passion for adventure and love of nature. I spent most of my childhood following my grandfather, going fishing, and exploring mountains and canyons of my hometown, Barranquitas. It was with him that I learned to appreciate the peace that nature carries and the importance of spending time in it…

    With time, the Canyon in which I grew up became famous for its beauty, giving me the opportunity to work as a guide in the area from a very young age. Later I became part of the town’s search and rescue group, specializing in vertical and river recue.

    It wasn't until university that I heard about Yosemite and the Sierra. Wanting to take my climbing skills to another level, I took my first trip to the area. Since then, I’ve considered this place my second home. I’ve done many climbing and backpacking trips in different places around the world, but always come back to La Sierra. I love to be amazed, to get out there and enjoy the peaceful mountains, and to take in the incredible views on the high passes. This is my favorite challenge when guiding, to bring people out there, not just to show them nature and its beauty, but to help them to understand it and disconnect a bit from their daily routines, filling them with the natural world.

  • Ryan Barnett

    Growing up in New Jersey, Ryan spent many weekends exploring the mountains of the Northeast. He later attended college in Boulder, Colorado, where he earned a degree in archaeology. Of course, Colorado also provided easy access to backpack, ski and climb in the Rocky Mountains, the Utah desert and the Eastern Sierra. More recently, Ryan has been spending his winters in New Zealand where he has explored the country's beautiful mountains, glaciers and coastlines.

    Ryan will tell you that it is the high peaks and variable terrain of the Sierra Nevada that draws him in. Each basin and peak offers it's own unique experience and guiding allows him to work in the mountains he loves every single day. Ryan's other interests include archaeology, rock climbing and sailing.

  • Chris Plewa

    Chris is from Scotland and now lives in California where he met his wife who shares a fondness of the Sierras.

    While living in the UK he worked as an attorney and honed his backcountry skills in Europe. He was drawn back to the alps year after year to pick off classic peaks including the Matterhorn and the Eiger. It was a trip to Yosemite however that opened his eyes to the vast untouched wilderness of the Sierra and has held his attention ever since.

    Settled now in California he works in outdoor education introducing children to their first climbing and backpacking experiences. He is an AMGA SPI, a Wilderness First Responder and an instructor to several Sierra Club programs in Los Angeles. He also volunteers time throughout the year to mentor and advocate for children in the foster care system. He recently passed the California Bar and is growing a small practice that keeps him busy in the off-season.

    He is excited to be part of the SYMG guide staff and to share his passion for mountains, music and good people.

  • Christina Golden

    Growing up in Miami Florida I was not surrounded by snowy mountain peaks to hike or towering granite faced walls to climb but my passion for outdoor recreation developed nevertheless. The Florida Everglades was my playground. On my hikes through the river of grass I watched alligators basking in the sun, wading birds walking the mud flats and sunsets on the water that would blend the sea and the sky.

    I was 13 when I first laid eyes on Yosemite and I then spent the next 10 years trying to get back to it. I was immediately in awe of the beauty and grandeur of the park; the roaring waterfalls, lush meadows, towering cliffs, colorful wildflowers, and majestic wildlife. It was the most beautiful place I had ever seen. I instantly knew this is where I wanted to be, where I wanted to work, where I belonged. I was home.

    After graduating from Florida Gulf Coast University with a BS in Environmental Science I moved to Lake Tahoe to pursue my dream of living in the mountains. In Lake Tahoe I have increased my outdoor skills set; I joined Search and Rescue, earned my EMT license, and became a member of the ski patrol. As a volunteer for the El Dorado County Search and Rescue Tahoe Unit I am a member of their mountaineering, swift water, and technical rope rescue teams. Through search and rescue I have honed my navigation and survival skills as well as my ability to care for and evacuate injured hikers, bikers, and climbers. In the winter months I work as a ski patroller at Sierra at Tahoe Ski Resort.

    I believe these skills, coupled with my humor, enthusiasm, and passion for the outdoors makes me a well-rounded guide. The most fulfilling job I can think of is to share the beauty of the wilderness with others and watch them fall in love with it as much as I have.

  • Riley West

    It’s hard to say where my love for the outdoors comes from exactly. It could be born from the camping trips I took to the Adirondack Mountains as a child, or the large granite cliffs of North Carolina I spent my time climbing while earning my degree in Outdoor Leadership from Warren Wilson College. After classes, we would be quick to run for the hills and climb before the last sunlight disappeared. Some of the fondest memories I have are the sunset summits or hikes by headlamp back to the car after an afternoon of adventuring. I learned to savor the moments I spend in wild places while growing up in Philadelphia, which is a value I still hold onto today.

    When I’m not introducing folks to the California wilderness, you’ll find me rock climbing, sending postcards to old friends, or having a beer with new friends. While it was the walls of Yosemite that initially drew me to California, the meaningful connections I am able to make through guiding with SYMG is what keeps me excited for each day I spend out here.

  • Tim Bluhm

    I was born in Los Angeles, 1970. My parents were, and still are, avid outdoorspeople and from before I can remember I was cruising the mountains of California. The Sierra Nevada, in particular, is a place of inspiration for me. I learned to ski and climb here, and have passed many sun-drenched days in the high country with my family and friends. It is a place I associate with health, freedom and adventure. The passing of the sun, the stars and the moon, and the sound of ones' own footsteps take over, slowing the internal clock to a normal rate, a slower speed that is all but forgotten in the race of modern life. It is a privilege to share this experience with others who seek it.

    You can read more about Tim's adventurous lifestyle as a mountain guide and accomplished musician in December's OUTSIDE MAGAZINE feature article entitled "The 25 Coolest People Now", where he was chosen along side athletes and icons such as Lance Armstrong, Laird Hamilton, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Michael Phelps and Kerri Walsh. For Tim Bluhm music, go to the Mother Hips web site. Tim will also be leading a unique High Sierra Singer-Songwriter Workshop trip again this summer.

  • Greg Aiello

    "Greg Aiello is one fantastic guide" said one our clients this summer and that about says it all! Greg is a Yosemite area native and local and the love for his backyard, the Sierra, shows in every moment spent with him in the mountains. Greg works as an adventure videographer in the industry between guiding and is often on location all over the world. If you think Greg looks familiar, that's because you may have seen him on TV as the star host for the ABC's National LiveWell Network Adventure show "Motion".

  • Jeff Zotz

    Jeff puts his BA in Environmental Studies from UCSD into action on a daily basis. Since graduating in 1999 he has worked as a staff biologist and ski instructor for Alpine Meadows, Lake Tahoe, has led 18-26 day expedtions for Longacre and has been a program director for Naturalists at Large. When not guiding in the Summers, Jeff teaches Middle School science and runs the outdoor programs for the school taking the kids into the wilderness and to the oceans for educational adventures. He has found a home here at SYMG where his work ethic, enthusiasm, sense of humor and knoweldge of the outdoors make him a perfect fit for our staff.

  • Andrew Skurka

    Andrew Skurka, a graduate of Duke University is an accomplished 28-year-old professional backpacker who is most well known for his two monumental long-distance hiking firsts -- the 6,875-mile Great Western Loop and the 7,778-mile Sea-to-Sea Route. He was named the 2007 "Adventurer of the Year" by National Geographic Adventure (which described him as "a Gen Y version of Henry David Thoreau or John Muir") and the 2005 "Person of the Year" by Backpacker. In November 2007 Skurka completed the Great Western Loop, a superb 6,875-mile journey that links together 5 long-distance hiking trails, 12 National Parks, and over 75 wilderness areas, which he blazed in 208 days. And in July 2005 he completed the Sea-to-Sea Route, a transcontinental network of long-distance hiking trails from Quebec to Washington, which took him 11 months and which involved 1,400 miles of snowshoeing. Skurka's shorter hikes include the 1,700-mile California section of the Pacific Crest Trail (in 44 days), the 480-mile Colorado Trail (twice), the 2,170-mile Appalachian Trail (in 95 days), a 385-mile trek through northern Minnesota in January, and many week- and weekend-long trips in Colorado, Montana, and Wyoming.

    In addition to the distinctions from Adventure and Backpacker, Skurka was featured in Outside's 2007 "Outside 100" list and in Men's Journal's "2005 Adventure Hall of Fame." He has appeared in numerous newspapers and television broadcasts, including The Wall Street Journal and the Fox News Channel. Andrew will be designing and leading some special long distance trips for SYMG in 2010.

  • Roberto "Oso" Flores Rodriguez

    Oso's (The bear) climbing and guiding career began in 1984 on Popocatepetl, Iztaccihuatl and Pico de Orizaba. He now has over 20 years of professional experience in guiding and instructing. On El Pico de Orizaba he has reached summit 166 times with clients during the last 10 seasons, including many times with SYMG. Oso is the chief guide on our Aconcagua expeditions in Argentina as well as Mexico and Peru.

    Oso also climbs and guides in the mountains throughout the Alps and South America with Peru being his favorite: Vallunaraju, Pisco, Huascaran (North and South), Chopicalqui, Copa, Ishinca, Urus, Tocllaraju, Alpamayo to name a few.

    He has climbed Huayna Potosi, Ancohuma, Illimani in Bolivia, Plomo, Tupungato in Chile, and Mont Blanc and Monte Rosa (Dofourspitze) in the Alps. Oso also serves as a mountain rescue instructor for the Socorro Alpino de M'exico (Mexican Mountain Rescue) and for Protecci'on Civil (Government Emergency Agency) of Puebla and Veracruz. When he is not guiding, Oso works as staff member at Extreme Sport Competitions in different regions of Mexico. He loves to introduce people to the mountains and to share incredible experiences with them. His wonderful smile and infectious laugh are known all through the climbing world.

  • Heidi Vetter

    For as long as she can remember, photography has been a pivotal force in the life of California large-format photographer, Heidi Vetter, leading her into marriage, children and owning her own business. For Heidi, photography is a bridge between insanity and balance, a reflection of her self, defining who she is and what she wants to say. In 2002, this drive to photograph, to take chances and to seek meaning in her life resulted in a three month solo journey through the Sierra Nevada High Country. The body of work that grew from this journey is emotive and inspirational, and a testament to one women's confrontation with nature and her existence. Now her vision has taken on a new voice, a stronger one, ominous and daring as she hopes to inspire others to follow their dreams and to find their own sense of stillness in nature.

    For our new WILDERNESS PHOTOGRAPHY and WOMEN'S ADVENTURES with Heidi click here.

    To learn more about Heidi, and see more of her images, go to