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Scott Fischer on Everest in 1994. Mountain Madness photo
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Philanthropist Alison Levine to join Rwenzori Expedition

Faces of the Madness

October 30, 2014

In March of 2015, MM Owner Mark Gunlogson and legendary Kenyan guide KG will be leading the Rwenzori Expedition climbing and trekking expedition in Uganda. They will be teaming up with adventurer and philanthropist, Alison Levine, who is continuing her work with women as mountaineering guides/porters in Uganda. Read more about her story:

Alison Levine is an adventurer, explorer and mountaineer. She has climbed the highest peak on every continent, served as the team captain of the first American Women’s Everest Expedition, and skied across the Arctic Circle to the geographic North Pole. In January 2008 she made history as the first American to complete a 600-mile traverse from west Antarctica to the South Pole following the route of legendary explorer Reinhold Messner. Levine completed this arduous journey on skis while hauling 150 pounds of her gear and supplies in a sled harnessed to her waist. In May 2010 she completed the Adventure Grand Slam – climbing the 7 Summits (highest peak on each continent) and skiing to both Poles, an accomplishment fewer than 30 people in the world can claim. Her success in extreme environments is noteworthy given she has had 3 heart surgeries and suffers from a neurological disease that causes the arteries that feed her fingers and toes to collapse in cold weather, leaving her at extreme risk for frostbite.

Levine’s expeditions have been documented by more than 450 media outlets. She is the subject of the PBS documentary Living Courageously (2007) and has made numerous appearances on The Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN, CNBC, FOX, CBS’ Evening News, and other national programs. She is featured prominently in the book More Than 85 Broads (J Hanson, McGraw Hill), the book that captures the efforts of women on Wall Street to find success and take risks on their own terms.

Her accomplishments are also featured in other books including Smart Moves (Curran & Greenwald, Ten Speed Press) and In Extremis Leadership (T Kolditz, Wiley & Sons). Her story has been the subject of articles in Oprah Magazine, National Geographic, Entrepreneur, Sports Illustrated, Outside, and other publications.  In addition to having tackled some of the most extreme environments in the outdoors, Levine has also spent more than two decades in the business world. Her professional career has encompassed healthcare, technology and finance. After earning her MBA from Duke University she moved to New York to work for investment banking firm Goldman Sachs. In 2003, she left Wall Street to serve as deputy finance director for Arnold Schwarzenegger in his successful bid to become Governor of California.

Levine spent three years as an adjunct professor at the United States Military Academy at West Point in the Department of Behavioral Sciences & Leadership. Having spent months at a time in some of the world’s most dangerous and extreme environments, Levine focuses on the topics of creating cohesive teams, taking responsible risks and developing no-nonsense leaders that can succeed in times of uncertainty. She serves on the advisory board of the CoachK/Duke University Center on Leadership & Ethics and is a strategic advisor for the Thayer Leader Development Group at West Point.

In 2005, she founded the Climb High Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of jobless women in Africa by training them to be trekking guides and porters in their local mountains so they will have the skills to earn a sustainable living wage through climbing-related tourism.

March 13, 2013

Here is a great story from one of our wonderful trekkers, Barbara Gessaman. She has been on several trips with Mountain Madness, including reaching Everest Base Camp at the age of 75! We are very happy to hear her story of how her adventures with us have changed her life and how she is making a difference in the communities of the people that she visits on our trip. 

I am a “Johnny Come Lately” in the trekking and climbing world.. It was when I was in high school that Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay reached the summit of Mt. Everest. After reading all about it, I decided that someday I was going to trek in the big mountains, but that was not going to happen for a long while.  First I went to college, became a kindergarten teacher as well as a science and environmental studies coordinator, married and raised a family and finally retired.  All along, I kept up my interest in mountain climbing and after a couple years of retirement, and at the age of 72, I said to myself, using the Nike logo “JUST DO IT”.

The first thing I needed to do was find a trekking company.  My introduction to Mountain Madness came when I was reading an Outside Magazine, MM was doing a trek to Mt. Kilimanjaro.  I called the company and was told everything I wanted to hear. I found out that MM is well organized, take their social responsibility in countries where they have a presence very seriously, care about giving their clients a trek to remember, care about the safety, health and well being of the clients and staff and help the country economy by hiring local people who are knowledgeable about the mountains. I signed up and was given a lot of support as I was preparing for my Mt. Kili adventure, this included suggestions for a strong training program (which I still use).  I have been to Tanzania twice with MM and have been to the Mt. Kili summit.

Life changing experiences can happen when and where you least expect them, mine came about when I was trekking to Everest Base Camp with the fabulous guide, Deana Zabaldo. I have been on two treks with MM to Everest Base Camp.  My first trek was cut short before reaching Base Camp because I developed Bronchitis.  The second trek was very successful. It was on these two trips that my life began to take a new path.  Trekking with Deana and company was an eye-opening experience. Deana’s knowledge of the mountain, her compassion for the people and love of Nepal touched my heart.  She told our group about the Nepali culture, history, governmental influence on the people, and the needs of the people.  We learned how MM and Deana support grassroots social change through Changing Lives Nepal.  All of this opened a whole new world for me and I wanted to be a part of it. 

During the second trek I learned about the orphanage that MM and Deana help support - Little Angel’s Children’s Home; this is one of the projects within Changing Lives Nepal.  I really wanted to go and visit but that would have to wait.  As it turned out I returned to Nepal a third time.This time to teach in Chaurikharka, the village where many of the MM guides and porters live. Since I was going to be in Nepal for 21/2 months I would have time to visit the orphanage.  When I went, Nanga Dorjee Sherpa accompanied me; Nanga works for MM.  When we arrived the children had just gotten back from school they were eating a snack, talking and laughing and getting ready to start on homework.  We had time to talk with all of the children and help with their homework; it was a very happy place. However, a new, larger home needs to be built  for the present children and allow for additional children.  The land has been purchased and cleared but more money is needed to build the house.

Thank you  Mountain Madness and Deana for opening up this world to me. I plan on visiting the home again in the summer of 2013 but right now I am giving talks about trekking in Nepal, of course always mentioning MM. At the same time I am working on raising money for the orphanage. Hopefully I can do more as time goes on!

~ MM Trekker Barbara Gessaman

November 14, 2012

Joining Mountain Madness’s winter programs is AIARE instructor and ski guide Dallas Glass. Dallas comes to us from a background as an avalanche forecaster and educator for the past 5 years. 

"I began my love for climbing mountains during high school by exploring the steep southern sandstone found near my home in Alabama. Now, you may ask, what does a guy from Alabama know about snow and skiing? Well, I found that my formal education background in Hydrology and Soil Physics translates amazingly well into the world of snow science. It led me to a position as the lead avalanche forecaster at Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe for the last five years. While at Mt Rose, I also trained my trusty ski partner and avalanche dog Belle and worked repeatedly with organized winter search and rescue to safely find and recover many lost and injured recreationists. 

"Besides the mountains, one of my greatest loves is teaching. I’ve been teaching in some area or another for the past nine years. I spent three years instructing academic courses in Soil Physics and Intro to Soils at the University of Nevada and the last four years teaching AIARE avalanche education courses. I love getting people excited about safely exploring the mountains during the winter through good observations and decision making. My favorite class I’ve ever taught was to a group of 3rd graders where Belle and I talked about avalanches as a part of a Science in Careers/ Stay in School program. 

"I’ve made ascents and descents in Alaska, The Yukon, northern BC, and all over the western US.  While climbing, mountaineering, and skiing are my favorite pastimes, you’re also likely to find me on a bicycle, running, or fly fishing on my days off. I’ve raced road bikes for the past four summers and love pushing my body to its breaking point with long distance rides and races. However, if it’s a rest day, look for me in a Seattle coffee shop holding up with a good book and cup of coffee. 

"My long time girlfriend and I moved to Seattle last spring. I now work year round as a mountain guide. I find that it combines the things I love most in life: the outdoors, teaching, and people into one amazing career. I believe Seattle and the nearby Cascades to be the perfect combination of great food, culture, and big remote mountains."


October 19, 2012

Join Deana Zabaldo this November on our debut Tsum Valley Trek! Here's an excerpt from Deana's blog describing our guest of honor on this trek:

"Tsum Valley is one of Himalayan Buddhism’s sacred valleys. Rooted in esoteric Tantric teachings from the 8th century, these valleys (called beyuls) are where Buddhists will seek refuge when massive strife comes to the world. It is believed that all life on earth will start again from these sacred protected valleys. They are also places of spiritual power. Needless to say, it’s a good place to meditate or establish a monastery. Tsum Valley is home to centuries-old monasteries, a nunnery, and a cave where the Buddhist saint Milarepa meditated. The upcoming trip to Tsum Valley in November promises to be a fascinating journey, and I wanted someone with expert knowledge about Buddhism in the area to come along with us.

"When I started looking for a dharma teacher to join us, I had no idea whether I could find what I wanted: someone who knew the finer points of not only Buddhist tenets but also the detailed iconography and symbols painted on monastery walls, someone who could explain it clearly without going overboard on the details, someone who actually wanted to walk for two weeks (because that is not what Nepalis do on vacation), and someone who’d be willing to do all this with a group that wasn’t from a Western monastery or Buddhist community.

"Luck was with me. Genchoedar is all that and more–he was born in Tsum Valley, he is looking forward to walking that trail again (in the last 7 years, he’s only helicoptered in to the high monastery to check on funded projects), he’s never traveled with a group of foreigners before and seems happy about the opportunity, and he is a wealth of knowledge.

"Genchoedar has been living in a monastery since he was 6 years old. At 38, he is now the Assistant Headmaster for Kopan Monastery, one of Kathmandu’s most prestigious monasteries, and is responsible for the education of all the young monks. Humble, friendly, and extremely knowledgable, he has agreed to join my group to Tsum Valley this fall as our dharma teacher–and I am absolutely elated!"

- excerpted from parahamsa.com

October 15, 2012

You have probably seen Joshua Jarrin grace the Mountain Madness pages with his photos from expeditions in Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and to the summit of the highest peak in South America - Aconcagua. 

Born and raised in Ecuador, Joshua began climbing at age of ten in the Andes. He took his first lessons of mountaineering from Ossy Freire (MM Senior Guide) learning the importance of enjoying the mountains with safety and acquiring the passion of guiding. As a climber, he has summited peaks in the Andes, Patagonia, the Alps, the Dolomites, the Himalayas and Tien Shan mountains; most notably: Mount Everest, Pumori Peak in Nepal, the South face of Aconcagua in Argentina, and Khan Tengri in Kyrgyzstan. Joshua was recently called to be part of SOMOS ECUADOR, a sponsored climbing team that’s working toward opening new routes around the world. He was trained as a guide in Ecuador and Bolivia, holding the ASEGUIM certification and UIAGM/IFMGA.

At the same time, he has a B.A. in Culinary Arts. So you can imagine the cooking tips you'll receive while in the mountains in South America!

September 18, 2012

Wes Krause began his love of the outdoors in the rock & ice climbing community of the Western United States in the 70’s. He then graduated on to high altitude climbing in Alaska and the Himalayas. He was Climbing Leader of the 1987 American Everest North Face Expedition. Wes came to East Africa in the early 80’s and was for several years the Director of the NOLS school in Kenya. Wes, along with Scott Fischer, co-founded Mountain Madness in 1984. During this time he and Scott made the 2nd successful climb of the Breach Icicle on Kilimanjaro and pioneered the classic Shira Plateau Route up Mount Kilimanjaro, a less travelled route that showcases Kilimanjaro's varied climatic zones and offers a more gradual approach to acclimatization. Wes then founded African Environments in 1987 and has been pioneering routes up Kilimanjaro, researching new walking safaris and mountain biking in the bush ever since.

Wes will be coming to Seattle in October to show you how Mountain Madness has gained worldwide acclaim as one of the best operators on the mountain, along with some reminiscing of the good old days on the mountain with Scott. 

The evening will include a highlight of some of the adventures awaiting you:

  • A Walk on the Wild Side- exclusive access to walking
  • Safaris in the Serengeti National Park
  • Getaways on the exotic “spice island” of Zanzibar
  • Mount Meru climb
  • Safari at Lake Manyara, Ngorongoro Crater, and the Serengeti
  • Hanging out with the Maasai warriors

Talk locations:

Monday, October 1, 2012
Seattle Bouldering Project, 8 pm
900 Poplar Pl. S
Seattle, WA 98144

Tuesday, October 2, 2012
Wide World Books & Maps, 7 pm
4411 Wallingford Ave. N
Seattle, WA 98103

Thursday, October 4, 2012
Feathered Friends, 7 pm
119 Yale Ave. N
Seattle, WA 98109


June 8, 2012

We would like to introduce you to our newest guide, Juan Carlos Gonzalez. He will be guiding one of our new international trips, the Colombian Andes expedition. He has spent many years travelling the world and reaching heights in many countries. We are excited to have him return to his home country to share his expertise of this gorgeous Andean region. Read more about him! 

I was born in Santafé de Bogotá, Colombia. I am skilled in rock and mountain climbing, and have practiced for more than 31 years at both sport and alpine levels. I have been working as a rock climbing and mountain guide since 1987 and have several new ascents in Colombia, ranging from sport to long alpine routes.

I lived in Europe from 1995 to 2011and during this period, I worked extensively in different mountain destinations, such as: Nepal, Russia, Africa, the European Alps, the Spanish Pyrenees and diverse climbing areas in Spain, Tibet, India, China and the Andean range in South America.

As a seasoned traveler, I have learned to work in unfamiliar places and handle difficult situations with regards to nature, language and culture. I am comfortable working with many different types of people and strive to cultivate good personal relationships. My guiding experience has provided me with comprehensive knowledge of the logistics involved in preparing for trips and expeditions.

I speak and write fluently in Spanish, English and Danish. I also speak Brazilian-Portuguese.