About Our Climbs & Mountaineering School
Our reputation began in the Himalayas and quickly spread to climbs around the globe. Today, our guides are recognized as leaders in the international climbing world and act as a resource for climbers, publishers and media organizations. The Alpine Ascents Mountaineering School is considered one of the premier climbing schools in North America. And we have been repeatedly praised and acknowledged for our expertise by a variety of media sources and industry professionals.
All Alpine Ascents expeditions are carefully prepared. This means investigating quality climbs, selecting optimum routes, supplying top-quality provisions, and developing safety programs for each journey. Before departing on any expedition, we provide climbers with a wealth of information, and guides are available to answer questions. We realize helping climbers achieve personal goals starts well before the climb. We make great effort to be accessible, and respond quickly to all phone calls and e-mail inquiries. Unlike many organizations, we plan and lead our own climbs. The majority of our team members come from personal recommendations, and many are repeat climbers.
Leading cohesive groups is fundamental to our philosophy. Before any member joins our team, we require background information on their conditioning, and their climbing/hiking biography. This helps to ascertain whether each climber can be a safe team member and allows our guides to organize the most effective groups.
While many companies market their eco-friendliness, we feel business ethics is a more encompassing term and a principle against which we test nearly every decision. While businesses are faced with many difficult decisions, we believe organizations have a responsibility towards the greater good of the planet and we strive to meet that goal. More than the right thing to do, ethical decisions and actions make operating a business like Alpine Ascents even more interesting and satisfying. It also helps us develop like-minded climbers who share similar values.
Whether you are attending our Mountaineering School, climbing with us to the summit of Everest, trekking in the Himalayas or climbing in Antarctica, we feel that personal attention, and prompt and courteous responses,are of utmost importance. Gear, locations, fitness levels, and in-country knowledge are crucial elements in preparing for a trip, and we treat every correspondence with utmost care and consideration.
We have always felt that personal attention is an integral part of putting together team-oriented expeditions. We understand that being a premier mountaineering company is not only about offering quality services, but about helping each individual achieve their personal goals.
Connections Abroad & How We Operate
Nearly all of our expeditions employ local climbers, porters and/or guides. These local outfitters are carefully reviewed, not only for their expertise but as long-term partners with Alpine Ascents. Though we send an Alpine Ascents guide on each expedition, local guides are an excellent resource to understanding the climbing, trekking and culture in each of the areas we visit. Many of these outfitters have been with us since our inception, as we believe long-term relationships help foster environmentally sound and high-quality expeditions.
Climbing as Exploration
Climbers are indeed modern-day explorers with particular dreams and visions. We look to carry the rhythm of exploration by highlighting not only our climbs, treks and courses, but the overall experience of these journeys. Whether attending our mountaineering school, trekking in the Himalayas or attempting an 8000m peak, we treat each expedition as a unique exploration. We realize that every team member is an adventurer in his or her own right, and joins us to embrace a challenge and to learn through experience. We encourage you to visit our website to gather additional information about each expedition.
A Brief History
Founder Todd Burleson has traveled the globe incessantly (from eight Everest expeditions and the Seven Summits, to Greenland and Mongolia), not only out of his love of guiding but his never-ending pursuit of perfecting the Alpine Ascents approach.
In 1986, there wasn’t much of a business model for international guiding, but making a living at something you love has its merits. While Todd’s proficiency in climbing was well regarded, he also showed a flair for not only guiding and teaching, but looking at mountains as to how they might be successfully and safely guided (routes, camps, guide ratios, supplies and itineraries). From our early successes on Himalayan peaks, this approach soon took hold on mountains around the world.
Willi Prittie joined on with Todd and added his relentless pursuit of perfection and joy of the mountains to the zeitgeist of Alpine Ascents. This unique combination snowballed into the creation of some of the finest logistics, training and guiding standards in the industry.
With this recipe, Todd and Willi began sculpting a reputation as a climber’s outfitter. This included Willi maniacally developing the Alpine Ascents Mountaineering School, with the theme that any graduates should possess enough safety skills to call themselves a climber. Enter Gordon Janow, who brought his eclectic background of writing, business and many years of traveling through Asia, to galvanize Alpine Ascents as a business and mindset. This led to other strategic and opportune partnerships with old climbing friends such as Vernon Tejas, Peter Athans, and Jose Luis Peralvo, as well as recruiting, developing and training a host of younger guides that eventually became the core of the Alpine Ascents guiding staff.
The office staff, not to be outdone, put the expertise of Matt Lepisto, followed in recent years by Chris Thalman, Melanie Hodgman, Matt Miller and Gary Harrington, along with Todd and Gordon, to the task of creating and organizing all that manifests the visions of guides and climbers alike. Most of the original members are with us today, keeping it a jovial and enthusiastic (bordering on obsessive) team.
Alpine Ascents International Today
Alpine Ascents International leads expeditions that have become benchmarks of quality in the climbing community. We operate what we believe is the finest mountaineering school in the country. This expertise is based upon years of accumulated experience-not just from individual mountain guides, but through experience on particular mountains where details are fine-tuned over time. We maintain our process of multi-leveled and critical evaluations for each expedition. Innovations like daily weather reports, established season-long base camps, environmental pioneering, and operating our trips with small climber-to-guide ratios led by Alpine Ascents guides are just some of the factors that keep us in the forefront.
Our guides are the primary reason that Alpine Ascents has built such a unique reputation. Many of our guides have been with us for most of their careers and have had the opportunity to participate in a wealth of climbs and programs. Many are not seasonal employees who may teach a few courses and head back to “other lives”; they are committed to a life of climbing.
Along with these elements, our commitment to the environment and ethical global business practices makes Alpine Ascents the most respected and well-rounded mountain guiding company in the industry. Alpine Ascents is proud to be one of a small minority of companies authorized to guide on Denali, Mt. Rainier and throughout Washington’s Cascades.
We believe that most of the guiding world is eco-friendly, but taking leadership in environmental matters can be costly and present obstacles. Pioneering the use of Wag Bags© in the Cascades, officially partnering with Leave No Trace for over 10 years, and removing trash from Everest, Aconcagua and Kilimanjaro are a few of the efforts that demonstrate our leadership of environmental causes. More than simply the right thing to do or a marketing angle, we look to keep the mountains and wilds clean because this is our second home (first home for many guides) and we want to return each year to pristine environments. Environmental leadership is axiomatic, yesterday’s ideas are simply not good enough, and we constantly challenge ourselves by asking, “What’s next? What more can we do? Is this really helping?”
Leave No Trace principles are fundamental to our program, and we encourage all who climb and trek with us to understand proper wilderness practices. We help facilitate this effort by passing on Leave No Trace training and literature to every Alpine Ascents climber.
In 2017, we began our 31st year of operations. During that time, we have seen incredible growth in all aspects of the outdoor industry. Many more people are choosing to get in shape, undertake intrepid journeys and explore remote wildernesses around the world. Climbing high mountains in remote areas has been my life’s passion.
As our numbers grow, hopefully so does our overall consciousness of the need to protect these environments that we love and enjoy. It has become apparent that only through our participation in wilderness protection will these areas remain as they were with our first visits. Commitment to practices like Leave No Trace gives us an immediate impact in wilderness protection, and supporting legislation with long-term goals, such as carbon dioxide reduction, gives us a chance for a sustainable future.
We appreciate your participation in protecting the wilderness and look forward to sharing these remarkable places with you in the coming years.
Todd Burleson, President
I thought AAI lived up to its reputation as a great company to climb with. Both guides were very competent and I liked how you required everyone on the team to complete some sort of Prep course. That made the reviewing of skills much easier.