Meet the Instructors

IWLS instructors on the summit of Aconcagua, Argentina. -Francois Morin

The instructors and guides at IWLS are professionals. They are special individuals who have a passion for being in the wilderness environment. They bring a wealth of experience from years of guiding throughout Alaska and the world to every course, and they genuinely enjoy sharing their knowledge. Their skill and positive attitudes insure our students a great experience during their leadership and guide training courses. The following is a partial list of our guides’

* More than 75 Denali expeditions (20,320 ft.).
* Extensive climbing, trekking, and skiing trips throughout the Wrangell, St.Elias, Alaska, and Fairweather ranges in Alaska.
* More than 80 expeditions to Aconcagua (22,829 ft.) in Argentina.
* Climbing expeditions and treks throughout Nepal, Bhutan, and Pakistan.
* Sea kayaking expeditions throughout Alaska, Mexico, Honduras and Greece.
* Guided technical climbing on objectives as varied as Ama Dablam (22,493 ft) in Nepal’s Everest region, and classic alpine rock routes on Patagonia’s infamous towers.
* Exploratory sea kayaking expeditions to Dundas and Taylor Bays in Glacier Bay National Park.
* 30-Day ski mountaineering trip from Skagway to Juneau Alaska. This was the 1st crossing of the Juneau Ice Cap from this direction.
* 25-day ski mountaineering trip from Mt. Fairweather to Haines Alaska crossing the remote Fairweather range.
* Climbs and treks throughout Greenland.
* Trekking in the Bale Mountains of Ethiopia.
* Treks throughout Chilean and Argentine Patagonia.
* Expedition to Broad Peak (8000 meters) in Pakistan.
* Cultural treks in Guatemala, Ecuador, Nepal, Pakistan, Greenland and Africa.
* Rafting trips in Pakistan, Alaska, Nepal, Africa, and Costa Rica.
* Multiple Climbs of the volcanoes of Ecuador.
* Expedition to Bogda Feng in Xinjiang, China.
* Multiple climbs of the volcanoes of Mexico.
* Training of US Army Special Forces in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah.
* Canoe trip down the Yukon River to Dawson with a team from National Geographic. The article is in National Geographic Adventure Magazine’s March/April 2001 issue.
* Expeditions to Mt Elbrus in Russia.
* Over 100 ascents of Mt Kilimanjaro.
* Multiple Ascents of Mt Vinson in Antarctica.

IWLS has over 50 instructors.Below is a partial list of these special individuals.

eliprofile2Sean Gaffney
Sean is the IWLS Executive Director. He is an EMT and has been instructing and guiding for 25 years. He is an international climbing guide with more than 75 ascents of mountains over 18,000 feet including an alpine style climb of Ama Dablam in Nepal and a new route on Aconcagua in Argentina. Sean has led extensive skiing, rafting and trekking expeditions throughout North America.

Eli Fierer
Eli is the IWLS General Manager. He has guided and instructed more than 10 years throughout North America, Alaska, Mexico, Ecuador, Peru, Aconcagua, Kilimanjaro, and China. An EMT II, avalanche instructor, and accomplished teacher, Eli also leads many of our first aid and rescue courses.

Rob Caldwell
Rob has a B.S in Outdoor Education from the University of New Hampshire and has led expeditions in North and South America, Africa, and Asia. Rob is a licensed Alaska State EMT and certified WEMT.

Charlie Stewart
Charlie grew up on the East Coast and developed his love for the outdoors in the Adirondack Mountains of New York. An avid skier, climber and paddler Charlie enjoys spending time in wild and remote mountains around the world. He leads trips in Alaska, South America, and Africa. Charlie is an EMT; AVPRO certified through the American Avalanche Association and has Swift Water Rescue training. When not leading trips with IWLS you’ll find him ski patrolling in the Pacific Northwest.

Brian Rougeux
Equally at home on the high peaks of South America or the granite cracks of Utah, Brian is an EMT and has been leading IWLS courses since 2005. He brings a wealth of skill and experience from instructing and guiding on Kilimanjaro, Aconcagua, the Cordillera Blanca, the volcanoes of Ecuador and Mexico, and peaks throughout Alaska.

Bob Daffe
Bob is a whitewater pioneer. He has over 30 years of experience in whitewater rafting, kayaking and canoeing. He is a Rescue 3 International instructor, a raft guide examiner, and a canoe and kayak instructor. When he isn’t leading whitewater in the Yukon, Bob can be found teaching courses in Nepal and Ecuador, or leading personal expeditions in Chile and Africa.

Tatiana Lawson
Tatiana has earned her Masters in Teaching and has taught in China and California. She is certified in OEC, EMT, Avalanche Level II, and Swift water rescue. She teaches IWLS backpacking and mountaineering courses in Nepal, ski mountaineering programs in Alaska, and whitewater rafting and backpacking courses in the Yukon.  She has worked as a ski patroller since 2007 and currently patrols Alyeska ski resort during the winter season. Tatiana also teaches IWLS Wilderness First Responder Courses.

Aaron Friedland
Aaron is a enthusiastic climber and mountaineer. With multiple ascents on Aconcagua and hundreds of rock and ice routes throughout the United States and South America under his belt, Aaron is equally at home on the sharp end of a line or at over 18,000?. Aaron is a licensed State of Alaska EMT.

Tyler Bieneman
Tyler is an accomplished ski-mountaineer and climber who has successfully traversed the Patagonia Ice-cap. As a climber, Tyler has lead trips in North and South America as well as New Zealand. Tyler is Avalanche level-2 certified and a Nationally Registered EMT.

John Chitanda
John brings his high altitude experience and broad knowledge of local culture to the IWLS Tanzania programs. John is a fully licensed Kilimanjaro guide with over 200 ascents. He is a passionate supporter of education and community service on the mountain and in his home town of Moshi, Tanzania.

Mike Stone
Stone is a serious kayaker with an infectious love for the outdoors. His fun-loving nature and kayaking expertise are just a couple contributing factors to his ability to continually exceed our Students expectations. Mike Stone is a Wilderness First Responder, American Canoe Association level 2 paddler, and level 4 swift water rescue.

Luis Villaba
Originally hailing from Puebla, Mexico, Luis has worked with IWLS for over 4 years and leads rock climbing and high altitude courses in Mexico. As a certified Mexican paramedic, Luis also teaches emergency response and rescue courses.

Isis Barrera
With a degree in alternative tourism and firsthand knowledge of local archeology, culture and natural history, Isis brings her passion for environmental education to IWLS Mexico programs. She is an enthusiastic photographer,diver, sea kayaker, and jungle trekker.

Nic Cunningham
Nic has climbed the seven summits. Nic also leads high altitude trips in South America and Africa. Originally from the farmlands of Minnesota, Nic brings his healthy appetite and attitude to mountaineering and ice climbing courses throughout Alaska. He has been guiding and instructing with IWLS for 6 years.

Mitzi Peine
Mitzi fell in love with the out of doors in the BWCAW in Northern Minnesota and has over 8-years experience backcountry guiding. Mitzi has a B.S. in Outdoor Education from Northland College and is a Wilderness Emergency Medical Technician.

Will Hockett
Will has climbed on 6 continents and traveled to more than 40 countries . He instructs IWLS mountaineering courses throughout Alaska and Argentina, in addition to a significant climbing experience around the world.  He is a collector of stories and is truly “living the dream”.

Caleb Smith
Caleb is a passionate rock, ice, and alpine climber with numerous ascents of Mt. Kilimanjaro, Mt. Kenya, and Aconcagua and has traveled extensively throughout South America. He is also an EMT and Wilderness First Responder. When not instructing IWLS courses or traveling the world he lives in Reno, NV.

Timmy Sonnenberg
An active rock/ice climber and mountaineer from Helena, Montana Timmy leads high-altitude mountain expeditions in Argentina and Nepal. With ascents on Aconcagua, Denali and Mount Fairweather, Tim is at home on the big mountains. Timmy has AIARE level 2 avalanche training and is a Wilderness First Responder.

Brady McGuire
Originally from North Platte, Nebraska and Studied Outdoor a Recreation Leadership at Colorado Mountain College in Leadville, Colorado. Brady has summited Kilimanjaro and Aconcagua. Brady has AIARE level 2 avalanche training and is a Wilderness Emergency Medical Technician.