Meet the Instructors

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’ accomplishments:

* 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.

Sean 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.



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. 

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.


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.1


Robby Caldwell

Robby  has instructed for IWLS  in North America and South America. A passionate climber, mountaineer, and instructor Robby has a B.S. in Outdoor Education from the University of New Hampshire and is a licensed Wilderness EMT.



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.


Travis Tucker

Travis leads IWLS courses in Alaska and South America. He is a certified WEMT, has multiple ascents of Aconcagua and Denali under his belt, and enjoys snowboard mountaineering and ice climbing at home in Telluride, Colorado.



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.


Charlie Stewart

Charlie is a passionate skier, climber, and paddler. Originally from the East Coast; he attended a 4 year Expeditionary Studies program which led to his career in the outdoors. Charlie enjoys spending time in wild and remote mountains around the world, having led trips in Alaska, South America, and Africa. Charlie is a certified EMT; he also holds an AVPRO Avalance certification and Swift Water Rescue. When not leading IWLS programs, you will find Charlie ski patrolling in the Pacific Northwest.


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 manages our sea kayak program in Glacier Bay National Park. Mike Stone is a Wilderness First Responder, American Canoe Association level 2 paddler, and level 4 swift water rescue.

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”.  Will is also the site manager for our Skagway, AK climbing operations.


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.


Dan Nicolls

When Dan is not leading IWLS – Alaska Ski and General Mountaineering courses in Haines and Skagway you can usually find him snowcat skiing back home in Colorado. Dan is an Outdoor Emergency Care provider and holds an Avalanche Level-3 certification.


Grey Tampa

An avid paddler on both whitewater and the ocean, Grey leads kayak courses for IWLS – Alaska. A passionate instructor hailing from North Carolina, Grey has a degree from Appalachian State University, is an ACA certified instructor, and a is a licensed Wilderness EMT.


Timmy Sonnenburg

An active rock/ice climber and mountaineer, Timmy leads mountaineering courses for the International Wilderness Leadership School in Alaska and Argentina. Timmy is a Wilderness First Responder.