After stints in the military, the corporate world, and a Zen monastery, Kel began his climbing career in the Pacific Northwest with an inauspicious all-cotton summit of Mt. Adams in his home state of Washington...fortunately he went on to get appropriate training and since then he has had the good fortune to climb and guide rock and ice in fifteen different countries on five continents.
Kel is now an American Mountain Guide IFMGA Certified Mountain Guide—completing the Alpine, Rock, and Ski certification triumvirate--the highest level of training possible in the profession and a distinction held by less than 150 guides nationwide. For a look at the advantages trained, professional guides offer read here. Based in Burlington, where he operates Adventure Spirit Rock+Ice+Alpine Experiences, he guides rock and ice for two seasons of the year in the Northeast, then enjoys spring ski season in Europe or the Pacific Northwest, and then typically takes it into the alpine during the summer, guiding in the North Cascades, South America, and Alaska.
Kel's passion for sharing the outdoors with others is matched by his interest in the learning processes involved in the adventure environment. He strongly believes that an effective guide must have a solid understanding of both technical skills and learning processes. He first came to the Northeast to earn an MS in Outdoor Education from the University of New Hampshire, and quickly fell in love with the ecological richness, sense of scale, and feeling of community he felt in this corner of the country. After working as the Director of Georgetown University’s Outdoor Education program for three years, he returned to the Northeast to teach in Northern Vermont University's Mountain Recreation Management department. Along the way, he earned a doctoral degree in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies from the University of Vermont. For the past decade he has continued to stay active in higher education while partnering with private individuals and groups as the owner and lead guide for Adventure Spirit Rock+Ice+Alpine Experiences.
As an adventure professional, his personal life is also strongly infused with elements of climbing. When he isn't guide-instructing, he's off advancing his skills on adventures of his own and he enjoys bringing this learning back to front country audiences through writing and presenting. His work has appeared in Climbing Magazine, Alpinist Magazine Mountain Standards, The Seattle Times, and The Wall Street Journal, among others. Additionally, he serves as an Athlete Ambassador for Ortovox and Kate's Real Food. In recent times, he has presented at Brown University, Boston University, and the Vermont School Board Insurance Trust. He also stays active in higher education, teaching at Northern Vermont University, University of Vermont, and Norwich University, among others. Committed to being an engaged member of the climbing community he served as a board member with the Climbing Resource Access Group of Vermont (CRAG-VT) for seven years and continues to actively volunteer in the organization, and is a current board member with the Vermont Outdoor Guide Association (VOGA). Despite all of this activity, and the many paths he's traveled so far on this journey, he still believes in the power of quietude, and enjoys keeping meditation as a vital part of life's adventure.
Through his work with Adventure Spirit, he enjoys sharing the joy and discovery found through climbing with people at all ages and stages of life. His passion for sharing the outdoors with others is matched by my interest in the learning processes involved in adventure/challenge environments. He believes that an effective guide must have both a solid understanding of both technical skills and skill in tailoring instruction to best meet the specific needs of individuals and groups. Through his presenting and writing, he seeks to bring learning from the mountaintops back down into the valley for everyday application. Through his guiding and instruction, he helps his company’s adventure partners to reach their personal summits and to return from their adventures with a sense of growth, renewal, enrichment, and personal fulfillment--and he looks forward to sharing that experience with you!
For a more detailed look at Kel's professional history click here.
Training & Certifications
•International Federation of Mountain Guide Associations (IFMGA) Certified Mountain Guide
•American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA) Certified Alpine Guide
•American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA) Certified Rock Guide
•American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA) Certified Ski Guide
•American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA) Ice Instructor Course
•American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA) Single Pitch Instructor (SPI) Provider
•American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education (AIARE) Levels 1, 2, 3
•American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education (AIARE) Course Instructor
•New York State Licensed Guide (Rock&Ice, Tier 1&2)
•Leave No Trace (LNT) Master Educator
•National Association for Search and Rescue (NASAR) Search and Rescue Technician Level 3
•SOLO Wilderness First Responder
•Amateur Radio Technician Class License (KB1LYO)
•Swiftwater Rescue Technician
•American Canoe Association (ACA) Coastal Sea Kayak Instructor
•National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) Instructor Course
•USDA Master Gardener
For a more detailed look at my training, certifications, publications, community actions, and other professional activities click here.
•Ed.D./Educational Leadership & Policy Studies—University of Vermont
•M.S./Kinesiology-Outdoor Education—University of New Hampshire
•Non-Profit Managment Executive Certificate—Georgetown University
•Professional Management Certificate—Georgetown University
•B.A.s/Philosophy & Political Science—College of William & Mary
Selected Climb/Ski Resume
- Alaska: Denali (20,320’-3 times), via both Complete West Rib & West Buttress routes. Ruth Gorge expedition. Ski touring and mountaineering in the Chugach/Thompson Pass area.
- Cascade Volcanoes: Rainier (14,411’-75+ times), Baker (10,781'-20+ times), Shasta (14,179’), Adams (12,281’), Hood (11,249’), Glacier Peak (10, 541'), Jefferson (10,497’), Shuksan (9,127'-20+ times), St. Helens (8,365’). Ski descents of Rainier and Baker.
- Peru: Artesonraju (19,767'), Ishinca (18,143'), Yanapaccha (17,913'), Urus Este (17,782')
- Mexico: Pico de Orizaba (18,490’), Ixtaccihuatl (17,159’), La Malinche (14,640’).
- Ecuador: Cotopaxi (19,347’), Pichincha (15,696’), Ruminahui (15,489’),
- North Cascades: Climbing up to Grade V and 5.11 including North Ridge of Mt. Baker, South Early Winters Spire Direct East Face, Torment-Forbidden Traverse, North Face of Mt. Shuksan, Southwest Buttress of Dorado Needle, Prussik Peak South Face, NW Face of N Ridge of Forbidden, Sharkfin Tower, North Ridge of Cutthroat Peak, and many others. Extensive ski touring around the Shuksan-Baker areas.
- Sierra Nevadas: Climbing up to Grade V and 5.10d including Whitney (14,505’-3 times, via East Face, Mountaineers, & Whitney-Portal Routes), Russell (14,094’, via Fishhook Arete), Gayley-Sill Traverse (13,510-14,159’), Palisades (14,242-2 times, via U Notch Couloir & V Notch Couloir), Darwin-Peak 13,332’ Traverse (13,831-13,332’), and many others.
- French/Italian/Swiss Alps: Climbing and ski mountaineering up to Grade IV and 5.10c including Mont Blanc (15,781), Arete des Cosmiques (12,605’), Dent du Geant (13,166'), Midi-Plan Traverse, (12,605’-12,050’), Aiguille du Tour (11,627’), and many others. Sport climbing in Ceuse, Buoux, Orpierre, Ailefroide, Volx, and Grenoble. Ski descent of Mont Blanc and numerous tours in the Aiguille Rouge, Mont Blanc, and Verbier areas.
- Spanish/French Pyrenees: Climbing up to Grad IV and 5.11 including Maladeta (10,866), Vignemale (10,820'), and Midi d'Ossau (9,462).
- Canada: Extensive ski touring and mountaineering in the Duffy Lakes/Cayoosh Pass (BC), Revelstoke/Rogers Pass (BC), Canadian Rockies (BC-AB), and Chic-Choc (QC) areas. Ice climbing in Quebec, including the Pomme d'Or (WI5+, Grade V).
- Italian Dolomite: Climbing up Grade IV and 5.9 including Piz Pordoi West Face, Second Sella Tower North Face, Cima Casson di Formin Northwest Corner, and many others.
- Olympic Mountains (WA): Olympus, Constance, The Brothers, Cruiser, Ellinor, Washington, Jupiter, Townsend, and A Peak.
- Northeast US: Rock, ice, and summit routes up to Grade IV, 5.12, and WI5+ including numerous numerous summits of Mt. Washington, Mt. Marcy, and Katahdin, Presidential Traverses, and classic rock and ice routes such as Omega, The Black Dike, Ragnarock, Positive Thinking, Pinnacle Buttress&Gully, Diagonal on Wallface, Fastest Gun, Whitney-Gilman, and Moby Grape, among countless others. Extensive ski touring throughout the region.
- Other Regional/International: Climbing across the US and Canada, Mexico, Honduras, Indonesia, Thailand, Japan, Croatia, Slovenia, and Switzerland.