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Southern Yosemite Mountain Guides

    Our professional mountain guides are here to facilitate a seamless and memorable trip for you in Yosemite and the High Sierra. All guides are trained in wilderness medicine at the professional level and are experienced backcountry folks. Each guide has his/her own specialties, often associated with advanced coursework or certifications. Our guides are well versed in the natural and cultural history of the area, cook excellent food, and are fun, personable people to spend time with.

  • Ian Elman

    Simply put, I still love to guide! Spending over 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!

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Alex Kendrall

    Alex grew up in Concord, New Hampshire and it was there in the mountains of New England where his spirit of adventure was sparked. A NOLS course at the age of 15 was the turning point that set him on the path of outdoor education, as well as for developing his skills in rock climbing and backpacking. Alex’s passion for shared wilderness experiences has culminated in a degree in Outdoor Education and certifications from the American Mountain Guiding Association (AMGA). Moving to California was the culmination of a dream come true, where he is able to combine his passion for climbing with a career in guiding. He remains one of our most requested rock guides in addition to leading our longer backpacking departures.

  • 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.

  • Pete Devine

    Pete grew up playing outdoors in New England and he connected with the West on family camping trips. He finished his biology degree in Colorado and went to work as an interpretive naturalist, national park ranger, river guide on the Colorado River, a teacher on Cape Cod, an outdoor educator in the mountains of Chile and an archeologist in New Zealand. He has biked around Iceland, backpacked the Alps, birded Costa Rica, and led trips to China’s national parks. Pete has been working in Yosemite for 25 years, where he has directed the education programs for the nonprofits Yosemite Institute (now NatureBridge) and Yosemite Conservancy. He has hiked, skied and cycled throughout the park in every season. He’s become a celebrated expert on Yosemite’s history and natural history, with specialties in studying the park’s glaciers, John Muir and Steller’s Jays.

    One of Pete’s favorite things about Yosemite is the people who are called to come experience this natural wonder for themselves. He enjoys sharing the awe to be discovered whether by first-time or veteran visitors.

  • Katie Burns

    Like every good Southern Californian, I grew up beach camping and cherish many memories with family and friends from those trips. As a college freshman I was introduced to the Sierra on a winter backpacking trip. Even though it was incredibly cold to this So Cal girl, it is fair to say that I fell in love with the mountains on that trip. I have been enchanted by the Sierra ever since. I find it hard to say no to outdoor adventures; running, hiking, backpacking, skiing and climbing, I love it all! When I'm not guiding for SYMG I work for a university based here in the Southern Yosemite area; where I use the outdoors to teach leadership. For the last 7 years, I have been so fortunate to get to guide year around.

    A few years ago, I was packing up for a trip while at my parent's house. My mom walked in, gave me a slightly confused look and asked; "Why do you love it so much?" My answer was simple; I get to meet and keep company with some really amazing people and I get to share with them some of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. Sharing beautiful places, with friends (new or old) is why I find myself increasingly more excited to guide with each passing year.

  • Wilson Koontz

    It's hard to say when I first fell in love with the outdoors. It's certainly been as long as I can remember. Growing up in the foothills of North Carolina, the Smoky Mountains and the Blue Ridge Parkway were my playgrounds. Shortly after graduating from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, I spent what was intended to be only a summer in the Sierras. But, by the end of the trip I knew I had found a new home. Within two weeks of returning east, I had packed my car and started the coast-to-coast drive. I am now fortunate enough to spend my winters as a ski instructor in Lake Tahoe and my summer guiding in this spectacular mountain range.

  • Brendan Hayes

    There are so many reasons why working as a guide is the obvious choice for me. I love to travel, experience wild places, meet interesting people, and stay physically active. Guiding enables me to keep doing all of that but mostly it just validates the sense I have of myself as a liaison between people and the world outside. When people travel we take time to reflect upon the world and our place in it, which although more important than ever we seldom do anymore. So I believe that encouraging and enabling people to simply be in the world is a worthy contribution and, having spent my entire adult life so far pursuing adventure, it must be what I'm most qualified to do.

  • Fred Ackerman

    It's been a strange road to this job for me. A Bay Area native, I studied linguistics at UCSD and worked for years as a paralegal in San Diego. On my first backpacking trip in college, I walked 20+ miles in inappropriate footwear and spent a few cold nights in front of the fire without a sleeping bag, and I absolutely loved it. Soon, I was spending most of my free time and some not so free time plotting and executing adventures to the endless wild places of California. Instead of law school, I took a sabbatical from the office to go live on a fishing boat in Alaska. I had a total blast working outdoors, 12 to 17 hours a day?or more often, night?during one of the harshest winters in Alaskan history. My reasons for pursuing a law degree were lost at sea.

    I finally quit the legal business, and I'm now an EMT with a certification in wilderness medicine. To date, I've walked and climbed thousands of miles in, on and around the Sierra including a solo 200+ mile hike of the Sierra High Route. In the winter, I work (using the term loosely) as a ski patroller. I'm not a morning person and don't tell my bosses, but getting up at 5 a.m. to throw explosives and ski fresh powder is something I'd without a doubt do for free.

    The rewards of working as a guide at SYMG are likewise numerous. To name just a few, you meet people of all ages and backgrounds from around the world and can often play a part in bringing those people to the realization that they are capable of great things in the outdoors. Your office is the big outside, and reading up on geology or mountaineering techniques or culinary arts is no longer procrastination; it's study time. Last and perhaps least, the water from glacial tarns does absolute wonders for beard growth.

    In short, I've found my dream job.

  • Scott Morris

    Scott Morris grew up in the suburbs of New York City and discovered the outdoors through the Boy Scouts. His first job was leading five day canoe expeditions in the Northern Adirondacks, which eventually led him to pursue studies in Adventure Education and American History at Green Mountain College in Central Vermont. After university, Scott worked in the Curriculum Publications Department of the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), and later as a trip leader for student programs in Australia. He's now found a home here in the Yosemite region with SYMG where his dry wit and easy-going nature fit right in with our style of guiding. When he isn’t guiding folks through the Sierra, you’ll probably find him trail running or reading a book next to an alpine lake.

  • Mike Summers SYMG Guide

    Mike Summers

    Mike has always been an explorer at heart. A North Carolina native, then Chicago Suburb transplant, he started exploring music, picking up drums, playing in school marching, orchestral, and jazz bands in addition to forming a rock band of his own, which eventually toured around the United States and into Canada. In 2012, he moved to the Pacific Northwest to pursue a career in the best of all places to explore: The Great Outdoors. Now, with a Wilderness Leadership and Experiential Education degree under his belt, he continues to learn and explore. He has spent 53 days hiking from Glacier National Park to the Pacific Ocean on the Pacific Northwest Trail, 11 days biking fixed-gear from Portland, OR to Vancouver, BC and back, and has rock climbed classic routes in the heart of Yosemite. His dreams of adventure grow ever larger and have a contagious effect on those around him. Mike fulfills his passion by leading others alongside him and, with an unbridled enthusiasm, shares the many wonders of the natural world.

  • Sierra Zacks SYMG Guide

    Sierra Zacks

    Sierra Zacks was born and raised on the entrance road to Joshua Tree National Park and spent her early years hiking, rock climbing, and horseback riding in the park, as well as here in the high Sierra. Her family has deep connections to these mountains and in high school she was fortunate to participate in a thirty-day expedition through Sequoia and King's Canyon National Parks. It was then that knew she had found her favorite place. She currently attends UC Santa Cruz and studies Ecology and Plant Biology and spends her summers in the High Sierra with SYMG. During the school year, she also works as a guide for UC Santa Cruz’s Adventure Outings Department where she leads climbing, backpacking, and river trips. In her free time you’ll find her rock climbing, botanizing, or biking around Santa Cruz.

  • 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.

  • Jason Angress

    Some of my earliest memories are of camping in Yosemite and its surroundings. In fact, my first word was ‘‘Elmer’’; a result of having heard the name countless times in the California camping tradition of calling through the forest at sundown in search of a missing boy. As a kid, I cherished the opportunities to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and breathe in the mountain air of the Sierra Nevada. As an adult, the call of the wild has steered my decisions and has led me to expand my radius in search of new frontiers.

    In 2006 I moved to the South Pacific nation of Tonga where I lived for 5 years running adventure and cultural tours. When a Google search turned up stunning images of Chile’s Cochamó Valley, the Yosemite of South America, I felt the travel itch once again and set off to explore Patagonia. I have been installed in the Chilean town of Puerto Varas since 2011 leading hiking and mountain bike trips through one of the last unspoiled stretches of temperate rainforest on earth. I am devoted to creating unique and memorable experiences in this wilderness playground for nature lovers of all kinds. The emphasis for me is not just on arriving from point A to point B, but on really appreciating the in-between. I simply love what I do and have been told that my passion shines through in my guiding.