Alpine Ascents International

Office Staff

Todd Burleson
25 Years + with Alpine Ascents Todd Burleson
President and Owner

Director and founder of Alpine Ascents International, Todd has achieved unparalleled success in the mountain guiding industry and is one of the world's leading mountaineers. Todd spent most of his childhood in Alaska where his prowess and love for mountaineering were developed. In his eighteen years of guiding, he has led 8 expeditions to Mt. Everest, and has guided successful expeditions on every continent including all of the Seven Summits. In addition to instructing mountaineering courses, Todd has recently led successful expeditions to Mongolia, Rainier, Elbrus, Kilimanjaro, Vinson, Everest and a number of first ascents in the arctic region of Greenland. Recently, Todd led our trip to Cho-Oyu and runs our school and Denali programs in Alaska. Todd joins many of our expeditions in a support role, overseeing logistics, climber development and ensuring a good time is had by all. He currently lives in Alaska where he is raising yaks, fishing and flying.  Forever climbing great peaks around the world, Todd just climbed Aconcagua again as well as Australia's Kosciusko, completing his Seven Summits for the second time.  In 1998 Todd was awarded the American Alpine Club's prestigious David J. Sowles award for his rescue efforts on Mt. Everest in 1996.

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Gordon Janow
25 Years + with Alpine Ascents Gordon Janow
Director of Programs

 Gordon is a founding member of Alpine Ascents and is responsible for overseeing all operations and creating written materials, researching climbing and cultural histories. He manages all aspects of the business, office and is our marketing expert with a keen interest in client care and customer service.

On the travel front, he is a long-time independent traveler, as he scouts new locations such around the globe with a particular focus on the Indian subcontinent. (Current focus for 2013/14 is on newly opened peaks in the Indian Himalayas). Gordon has traveled extensively for the past twenty years, with numerous visits and long stays in West Asia. As a writer, he has had both fiction and travel works published in the U.S. and India. Gordon has served as an Indian subcontinent expert for numerous media sources such the New York Times and Outside Magazine and has appeared on CNN, MSNBC and the NBC Nightly News.  He has a particular interest in hill tribes, having visited India’s remote Nagaland state. Recently Gordon and his family joined our trek to Everest base camp, introducing his kids to the joys of Asian travel. Gordon currently leads cultural tours (art, architecture and history) in India, the last trip with a small group  to Central India’s remote areas. Most recently Gordon has returned from a month in Ladkah – setting up our new treks in that region. Please feel free to contact Gordon should you be interested in private tours of India or any of Alpine Ascents programs.

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Gary Harrington
Gary Harrington
Director of Finance & Operations

Gary directs the day-to-day financial operations of Alpine Ascents. He's recently arrived in Seattle after living overseas for a number of years whilst working for various not for profits. Gary's interests include soccer, cricket and a growing understanding of baseball.

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Melanie Hodgman
Melanie Hodgman
Guide Manager

As Guide Manager, Melanie supports guide staff in the field, oversees guide scheduling & recruitment, permitting, and coordinates guide trainings. In addition she acts as a liaison between office and guide staff in order to provide the highest quality programs possible to our climbers. Melanie brings diverse professional experience working as a field Instructor and Course Director for Outward Bound, a guide for young adult cancer survivors on wilderness trips, a classroom teacher and an outdoor educator. Melanie has traveled extensively in the United States and abroad but is happy to call Seattle home. In her free time she explores the outdoors by foot, bike, skis, or boat as much as possible.

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Peter Athans
25 Years + with Alpine Ascents Peter Athans
Rainier Programs Coordinator

Peter is responsible for overseeing our partnership with Mt. Rainier National Park and taking a leadership role in developing safety and training protocols for our guide staff. Peter also works with our Expedition Manager in assessing daily climbing conditions and managing our Mt. Rainier programs. As a climber and guide, Peter has summited Mount Everest seven times and has participated in 14 Everest expeditions over the course of 2 decades. He has an outstanding international reputation as a leader and guide. Peter's climbing expertise may even be overshadowed by his ability to guide and successfully assist others in reaching summits. Peter has led Alpine Ascents' climbs to Everest, Denali, Kilimanjaro, Carstensz Pyramid and Mt. Vinson and frequently leads our climbs on Mt. Rainier. Full Guide Bio

Matt Lepisto
15 Years + with Alpine Ascents Matt Lepisto
Director of Information Technology

A life-long outdoor enthusiast, Matt has over 15 years of outdoor industry experience and a penchant for media and information design which has garnered multiple awards. As Director of Information Technology, Matt manages and refines our network, media, and business systems, develops and designs our marketing, advertising, and promotional materials, and is in charge of all facets of our expedition cybercasts. He is also responsible for creating and maintaining our award-winning web site and keeping us sane when said technology become all together too much.

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Ellen Cravens
Ellen Cravens
Program Coordinator

As the Program Coordinator, Ellen handles all climber confirmation packets as well as handling hotel reservations, arranging excursions, and preparing other necessary in country services. Ellen is originally from the Midwest, but is excited to call Seattle home. Her passions include human rights, global affairs, traveling, and movies (quiz her, she knows them all!).

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Chris Thalman
Chris Thalman

Chris is often the first point of contact for clients. He signs people up for trips, juggles the various waitlists, and keeps the trip availability up-to-date on the website. Chris only recently arrived in Seattle, having grown up in Wisconsin and lived in Los Angeles for a dozen years. His interests include music, movies, and books.

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Matt Miller
Matt Miller
Operations Manager

Matt carries out a variety of tasks to ensure that our retail store, rental department, and program logistics are all running smoothly. Having climbed, skied, and paddled whitewater both nationally and internationally, Matt is also our “Resident Gear Junkie”, with a thorough and versatile knowledge of all-things gear. He’s happy to chat with you about anything gear-related! Out of the office, Matt juggles graduate courses in theology and training hard for his next adventure.

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Adam Ungar
Adam Ungar
Equipment Supervisor

Adam was raised splitting his time living in New York and Israel, which fostered a passion for exploration in the U.S. and abroad. After arriving in Washington State five years ago and seeing Mt. Rainier for the first time, he started climbing as much as possible throughout the Pacific Northwest. As Equipment Supervisor, Adam works behind the scenes to ensure climbers and Alpine Ascents programs are properly outfitted.

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Maryanna Brown
Mary Brown
Guide Manager Assistant

Alaskan transplant and granite connoisseur, as the Guide Manager Assistant Mary helps out with scheduling, training, hiring, and logistics of the Alpine Ascents guide staff. In her free time, she can usually be found climbing, with her nose in a guidebook, or trying to slip away to paradise (also known as Squamish, BC) for vertical adventures and exotic Canadian candy bars.

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Iris Vandenham
Iris Vandenham
Alaska Operations

Iris oversees our Alaska Mountaineering School and Denali Programs. After years of living the high tech life and traveling the world by mountainbike, she now calls Talkeetna, Alaska her home. She switched to a fat tire bike and combined with a packraft explorers remote areas in summer. In winter you can find her solo ski touring the Alaskan backcountry, with her 2 sled dogs pulling all the gear.

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Willi Prittie
25 Years + with Alpine Ascents Willi Prittie
Alaska Operations

Willi has been climbing, guiding and teaching for the past quarter century. Willi is considered one of the premier instructors in America and his students have had outstanding success in reaching personal goals. He has amassed hundreds of ascents (many while guiding) in Washington, Canada and Alaska.  Willi is an AMGA Certified Alpine Guide and in the past was responsible for training and certifying new guides, and accrediting guide services. Fluent in Spanish and well versed in South American culture he has an outstanding reputation for leading safe and successful trips. Needless to say, Willi has developed quite a following and has led climbs to Mt. Sajama, Cho-Oyu, Pumori, Island & Mera Peak and multiple guided ascents of Denali and in Mexico, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia. Willi has led over thirty climbs to the summit of Aconcagua and is considered one of the world's leading climbing and logistical experts in the region. Willi also bears the responsibility of training new guides on climbs around the world. Willi led our 2000 Everest, Vinson, Aconcagua, Denali and Kilimanjaro expeditions. Willi is the consummate mountain guide and one of the most respected mountaineers in America. Most recently Willi led our 2002 & 2003 Mt. Everest expeditions that put 31 climbers on the summit! Willi oversees our Alaska Mountaineering School and Denali Programs. Most recently, Willi competed on the National Geographic Channel's "Ultimate Survival Alaska".

Ellie Henke
20 Years + with Alpine Ascents Ellie Henke
Alaska Operations

As an assistant guide, Ellie has added a superb dimension to our domestic and international programs. A naturalist by profession, Ellie has assisted Willi in guiding Aconcagua, Ecuador's Volcanoes, Mt. Baker, Rainier, and teaching classes at the AAMS for over 15 years. A talented artist, she is an asset to every trip she joins, bringing a wealth of experience, cultural knowledge and teaching skills to every expedition. Ellie has been our Base Camp Manager on Aconcagua and Mount Everest and has overseen base camp operations for some of our most successful high altitude climbs. Currently Ellie manages our Alaska Mountaineering School and Denali Programs.