Office Staff

Office Staff

Todd Burleson

todd-ak1President 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.
37-years-of-service

Gordon Janow

gordonDirector of Programs
Gordon is a founding member of Alpine Ascents International and is responsible for overseeing Alpine Ascents expeditions and operations. A long time world traveler, Gordon has always had a keen interest in Western Asia where has spent much of his travel time over the last 40 years.  From Peshawar to Bangladesh, Ladakh to Sri Lanka, this region of the world has always captured his heart and mind.  He serves regularly as an Asia travel expert for numerous media sources such the New York Times, BBC and Outside Magazine and has appeared on BBC world CNN, NPR, MSNBC and the NBC Nightly News. Gordon still scouts new locations for Alpine Ascents, most recently pioneering our remote India trip in the state of Arunachal Pradesh and Walking Tour in Hunza region of Pakistan and still spends a few months a year in Asia.

On the home front, He has a keen interest in business ethics, operational systems, marketing, and maintaining the integrity of travel in local countries. A long term fixture in the adventure travel industry, he is on the Education Staff of the Adventure Tourist Travel Association where he leads travel development and marketing seminars in developing markets, and is a founder and board member of the Alpine Ascents Foundation, stressing the need for youth education in Nepal.
30-years-of-service

Jonathon Spitzer

office staff

Director of Operations

Jonathon grew up hiking, climbing, and skiing in the Pacific Northwest. Early on he made outdoor pursuits his profession, and graduated from Western State University with a Bachelor’s degree in Outdoor Recreation and Business. Jonathon obtained his AMGA/IFMGA certification in 2007, and at the time was one of the youngest Americans to become an IFMGA-licensed mountain guide. Jonathon’s passion for the mountains and guiding has only grown over the years. He has climbed and guided throughout the Cascades, the Alaska Range, the Himalaya, European Alps, much of the western US, and many locations in South America.  Jonathon started guiding with Alpine Ascents International in 2007.  He has also spent over a decade working as a heli-ski guide and operations manager in the winter, and doing research in avalanche mitigation and risk management. In 2016, Jonathon was a keynote speaker at the ISSW (International Snow Science Workshop), where he educated avalanche industry professionals about operational risk management.  Jonathon has brought that level of risk management and operational experience over to Alpine Ascents when he joined the administration leadership team in 2019.  

Jonathon’s well-rounded experience has also led to years working on gear development teams for companies like The North Face, Petzl, Black Diamond Equipment and Outdoor Research. Jonathon is a part of the AMGA national instructor team where he specializes in guide education.

In the office, Jonathon manages Alpine Ascents’ world-class guide staff, operations, and programs, including the Alps Program he developed in 2013. He leverages his technical skills and guiding experience to ensure our trips are staffed and programmed to the highest level. When not working, Jonathon enjoys teaching his son to ski, climbing with his wife, and traveling the globe on family adventures.

15-years-of-service

 

Chris Thalman

thalmanSenior Program Coordinator
Chris is a critical point of contact for our climbers. He manages international program registrations, coordinates international trip travel logistics, and keeps clients on track with their climb preparations. Chris 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.

10-years-of-service

Tara Fraga

Program Coordinator
Tara coordinates our domestic programs and works to ensure that climbers have the tools and information they need to have risk aware, fun, and successful trips in the mountains. With a background in botany and conservation work, she loves alpine and desert systems alike, and serves as our in-house plant-whisperer. A competitive ultra runner, Tara is happiest when logging miles on steep trails, and recovers with skiing, biking, or diving down science podcast wormholes. She recently ran to a podium finish at the rugged Cascade Crest 100 miler in Washington.5-years-of-service

Mary Brown

office staff

Guide Manager / Diversity & Inclusion Manager
Mary grew up in the shadow of the Chugach and Talkeetna Ranges in Palmer, Alaska but didn’t start climbing and mountaineering until she moved from Beijing to Seattle in 2010.   She has been with Alpine Ascents International since 2014.  Affectionally known as “the guide wrangler”, Mary spends most of her working hours on the scheduling and administration of the 90+ guide staff. She also takes a leading role in diversity and inclusion efforts and affinity programming.  Her newest initiative, the BIPOC Guide Development Program, aims to increase the representation of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) individuals in the mountain guiding industry. When she’s off the clock, Mary can be found on her bike, backpacking with Director of Canine Operations, and whipping up new vegan recipes in her comically small kitchen. She is also on the board of the Big City Mountaineers, a member of the WA State Parks Pro-Equity Anti-Racism (PEAR) team, and a member of The Mountaineers Advisory Council. Mary was recently featured on the Female Guides Requested podcast.

10-years-of-service

Amelia Kau

office staff

Operations Assistant

Amelia grew up in the PNW where she found a love for being outside, and for sharing it through outdoor education. In the office she’ll be the first to the phones answering administrative questions. When she isn’t helping climbers directly, she’ll be tackling logistical projects to ensure our trips run smoothly. Outside of the office you’ll find her climbing, skiing, sewing, and racing sailboats all over the northwest!

Gary Harrington

harringtonDirector of Finance
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.

10-years-of-service

Matt Lepisto

lepisto08Director of Information Technology
A life-long outdoor enthusiast, Matt has over 2 decades 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.
25-years-of-service

Ciara Sampaio

office staffGear Manager
Ciara grew up in the Pacific Northwest and has a deep love for both the mountains and traveling, often combining the two. She has adventured all over the world from Patagonia and the Himalaya to her newest favorite, Ecuador. She has a special fondness for the Olympic mountains, and volunteers with the Kitsap Mountaineers and Olympic Mountain Rescue. Ciara is a sucker for a volcano, long trips into the alpine, and always brings the best summit snacks.

Jane Merkutova

office staffAssistant Gear Manager “Operation Lead”
Jane grew up living in Uzbekistan located in central Asia until she was 17. She enrolled as an exchange student program in Logansport, Indiana and has lived in the US since then. In her free time Jane loves snowboarding, dancing, and video games. In the office Jane organizes gear logistics and oversees the maintenance of our gear. She assists with food programs and manages the vehicle fleet.

Andy Souder

office staff

Assistant Gear Manager
Andy oversees the retail side of the gear department, outfitting and supplying clients for their trips. While relatively new to the world of mountaineering, Andy has years of experience in outdoor retail and outfitting. When not stocking shelves or packing orders, he is an avid skier and camper. Andy’s other interests include concerts, riding bikes, and just having a good time.

Julia Doyle

office staffAlaska Operations Manager
Julia grew up in the northeastern USA, but after getting her degree in Anthropology in Vermont back in 2011 has settled down in a variety of locales including Utah, New Mexico, and central Chile. Still enjoying exploring, Julia currently divides the calendar year between Alaska, Chile, and Antarctica, and though she has spent most of her professional life working in remote logistics, in her spare time as of late she is studying to develop her skills as a medical interpreter. When not working or volunteering Julia is either at the ocean, tending her goats, hiking a remote trail, or practicing Iyengar yoga.

Willi Prittie

prittieAlaska 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 risk cognizant 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! Most recently, Willi competed on the National Geographic Channel’s “Ultimate Survival Alaska”.

30-years-of-service

Dr. Alan Oram

office staffMedical Advisor
D.O, Emergency Medicine, IFMGA/AMGA Certified Mountain Guide
I am a residency trained and board certified emergency medicine physician with growing pains. After a lifetime of climbing and skiing in the mountains around the world, I spent 5 years becoming a internationally certified mountain guide through the American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA) and the International Federation of Mountain Guides Association (IFMGA). With this combination, I am working towards a long term goal of balance, spending as much time as I can in the mountains while linking emergency and mountain medicine with the hard skills of technical climbing and ski mountaineering. I currently guide in many regions of the United States as well as a smattering of areas in Europe. In addition to guiding, I am the medical advisor for a number of professional mountain guide companies and organizations including the AMGA, the Certified Guides Cooperative, Exum mountain guides and multiple others. This relationship provides a mechanism to interact with active mountain guides and the technical as well as medical issues that they deal with on a day to day basis. I currently work as an Emergency physician in Jackson, Wyoming. I also provide technical rescue and risk management services for the film and ski industry and have worked in a number of different environments including Denali National Park, Yosemite National Park, and for The Freeride World Tour, a professional ski event held in the mountains outside of Haines, Alaska.

Peter Athans

athans-staffAdvisor
Peter is responsible for overseeing our partnership with Mt. Rainier National Park and taking a leadership role in developing risk management 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
30-years-of-service

Momo

Director of Canine Operations

Hailing from the golden hills of La Grande, OR, Momo followed her family’s footsteps into the world of mountain guiding. Whether stealing Alpine Ascents hats from the heads of co-workers or checking mountaineering snack quality, she is always working with a wag and a smile. Momo is also responsible for keeping the collective blood pressure low, and thoroughly nap-testing all office furniture.  You can follow her office exploits here.

 

Yes, very much enjoyed.  Excellent experience.  Thought the overall quality of the expedition was excellent.  Guides were top notch, love the Park Hyatt Mendoza, we had new tents, base camp staff was good and food throughout was better than expected.   All very professional and good leadership skills.   AA website is easy to use.  Course material […]

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Alpine Ascents International is an authorized mountain guide service of Denali National Park and Preserve and Mount Rainier National Park.
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