At Alpinehikers, we emphasize quality over size. Our goal is to offer the finest hiking tours available in the areas we know and love best. We keep our groups small and intimate, never cancelling a tour (our minimum size is 1 person), and you’ll benefit from our own genuine excitement for the Alps and the knowledge that comes from years of personal experience.
We’re committed to offering affordable, first-class vacations filled with exciting discoveries and the world’s best hiking. On our tours, you will get a chance to meet new friends, dive into a different culture, and immerse yourself in one of the most beautiful places in the world. We’ve uncovered the best trails and most breathtaking vistas, found the most authentic restaurants and charming inns, tested the chocolate (it’s all good!), and run through the fields to determine their Heidi factor. We’re picky, and we’ve assembled, I believe, the very best that the Alps have to offer.
We’ll strive to make our trip as ecologically sound as possible, using marked trails, staying in small local inns, and maintaining respect for the land through which we walk. Traveling as a small group allows us to minimize our impact.
I was first introduced to the Alps while studying in West Berlin in 1989. On a break from my studies, I made the first of many trips to these wonderful mountains. It was love at first sight. The rugged, imposing power of the surrounding peaks combined with the peaceful, cultural allure of the villages below formed a powerful attraction for me that I have not been able to resist. Time and again I returned to walk the trails, meet wonderful people, and envy the lifestyle of those lucky enough to live in such a beautiful setting. Finally, I moved to the Alps myself, living and working in the hotels in Mürren, and spent many happy summers wandering the trails and discovering new places. We led our first guided tours in the summer of 1999, while I was still a year-round resident in the Alps, and added self-guided tours the next year.
Before the tours, I earned a degree in linguistics from Stanford University, taught 1st Aid and CPR classes for the American Red Cross, and led rock-climbing, hiking, and cross-country skiing trips. I also owned a bakery for two years (which helps explain my love of Swiss pastries) before moving to Switzerland in 1997. When not with the tours, I love being a Dad and hanging out with my two young kids. I’m also an enthusiastic trail runner, and have competed in a few of the excellent trail races in Switzerland, including the Jungfrau marathon twice and the Inferno half-marathon. I love meeting and walking with new people in beautiful places, and always look forward to meeting others on these tours who share the same love of life and discovery that I do.
Jennifer and I currently live in Prescott, Arizona, and travel to Switzerland every summer to lead and organize tours. Our daughter Sidney and son Owen are now 9 and 6, and both have spent many happy summers in Mürren. I also maintain an online Switzerland travel guide, www.alpinetraveler.com, organize many self-guided tours, and maintain a charitable website, World Neighborhood Fund, which provides easy ways through searches and shopping links to help some of the world’s poorest people. Please check it out when you get a chance. You can also check out our Alpinehikers blog and Find us on Google+.
As the founder and owner of Alpinehikers, I am intimately aware of every detail of these tours. I am also ultimately concerned with your safety and satisfaction. For us, these tours are a labor of love. We’ll be there every step of the way with support, encouragement, and (hopefully) interesting facts and stories of the country we’ll be seeing. I lead many of our tours personally, and we also have a small group of superb guides who will accompany you on your tour. They all bring considerable enthusiasm, professionalism, and a wide variety of knowledge to share with those around them.
Matt Brown is founder of the hiking and trekking company Rubicon Outdoors, which specializes in hiking tours of the Grand Canyon, and hiking and climbing tours in Arizona and California. Growing up in California, Matt was fortunate enough to live close to the Sierra Nevada mountains, and his parents instilled in him a healthy respect for the outdoors and helped foster a desire to go further into the mountains. Matt earned a degree in Wilderness Leadership from Prescott College and worked in Yosemite National Park, where he met his wife Marieta. Matt has been organizing and leading tours through Rubicon since 1998 and is a certified Wilderness First Responder, an American Mountain Guides Association(AMGA) Top Rope Site Manager, and has successfully completed the AMGA Rock Instructor Course.
Steady, knowledgeable and reliable, Matt does many things behind the scenes to make sure your trip runs smoothly, but is always there with a helping hand just when you need it. He loves Switzerland, and always looks forward to meeting new people and showing off his favorite places. After a hike, you’ll often find Matt relaxing on an outdoor terrace, posting photos of the day to Facebook, and sharing a beer with anyone who cares to join him. Matt lives in Prescott, Arizona with his wife and their two daughters, and has guided with Alpinehikers since 2006. He works in our office helping to organize our guided and self-guided tours, and leads many of our local tours in the fall, winter and spring.
Michelle Willix knows the meaning of perseverance. A mental health therapist for children and adults with histories of trauma and abuse, Michelle sees the power of finding and fostering a can-do attitude toward life. Her personal experience hiking the Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada in 1997 (before cell phones or extensive internet!) was the jumping off point for her parallel career in adventure travel.
In 1997 she traveled to Costa Rica for a short trip and ended up staying for nine months, learning Spanish, and working as a waitress and an off-shore bookie to pay the bills. Volunteering has brought her many more adventures, from teaching snow sports to people with physical and mental disabilities, to giving sea kayaking lessons and working with traumatized kids at an orphanage in Peru.
Since 2003, Michelle has migrated from her home in Boulder, CO to the Alps to recharge her batteries guiding summer tours for Alpinehikers. “I walk through the Alps taking a zillion pictures… Even though I’ve been there so often, I find new joy each time I’m in Switzerland.” A highly dedicated guide with Wilderness First Aid certification and experience in a wide variety of outdoor sports, it is Michelle’s achievements in personal growth through wilderness challenge that make her most valuable to her guests. She says her ‘aha’ moment on the Pacific Crest Trail was a recognition that “I can do a whole lot more than maybe I had given myself credit for.” Michelle brings that positivity everywhere she goes and it lights up her trips with contagious energy and excitement.
Mountains are in Brant Kilber‘s blood. Growing up in the Willamette Valley in Oregon, as a child and young adult he scrambled through much of the neighboring Cascade Range from Mt. Hood to Mt. Rainier, Mt. Olympus, Mt. Saint Helens, and Mt. Baker. On his most recent trip to Switzerland, Brant and a fellow guide climbed Monta Rosa, the second highest peak in Europe, a highlight for him.
He is also very familiar with European customs with a cultural understanding that runs deep. Brant spent four years living in Germany, both of his children were born there, and he describes his wife Beate’s hometown in southern Germany like a romantic thread that ties them both to the Alps. “When it’s clear, you can look across Lake Constance and see the Alps. Her father was a mountain climber and they spent a lot of time hiking around there together.” Brant is truly at home in the Alps and is always at ease, whether chatting with a local farmer or savoring a gourmet meal in a 5-star hotel, leading a leisurely hike or rising before sunrise for the chance to explore a new trail.
A carpenter and cabinet maker in Portland, Oregon in his off-season, Brant is also a well-informed naturalist and photographer ready to share his knowledge of birds and wildflowers with interested guests. Many of his photos grace the Alpinehikers’ website. He started guiding with Alpinehikers in 2000 and has led tours in Switzerland almost every summer since then… and he is always excited to go back. “I just find it fascinating being there. There is still so much to explore, to do and see. I love going to new places, but I love going back to places, too. I look forward to every single one of them.”
Judy Strickler thrives on the connections she makes while hiking. Listening to her guest’s stories and sharing the experience of being in a beautiful place together is a magic combination that never fails to inspire her. Fluent in German and well-travelled from Europe to Central America, Judy’s background in horticulture, education and small group facilitation make her a warm and engaging companion. Judy brings a sense of comfort with her both on the trail and around a table. Ask Judy a question and you’ll learn something interesting about her life, a plant, a detail of Swiss culture or food. More than likely, you’ll soon find yourself exploring some enchanting path through your own philosophical landscape.
Balin Strickler shares his wife’s talent for putting people at ease. He spends about half his time travelling in North and South America with his Geological Engineering company, living in remote camps in the middle of one mountain range or another and hiking out each day to survey and assess the local geology. He’s familiar with rough terrain, high altitude, and the interpersonal dynamics shared in small groups. “I enjoy giving people an opportunity to be in the mountains, see beautiful things, and do it in a way that allows them to enjoy it and leave feeling that they’ve accomplished something. I think everybody should get outside a lot. I want to inspire people to do that more.”
When not traveling internationally, Judy and Balin spend their time gardening, hiking, kayaking, biking, and playing in the beautiful town of Prescott, high in the mountains of Arizona where they share their time with a number of local non-profit organizations and teach their children the value of service and community.
Jake Gaventa is a funny guy, but don’t let his clowning fool you – he’s a serious student of environmental science with more than a passing interest in the connections between culture and geography. Switzerland, then, is a perfect place for Jake to explore his twin passions: outdoor adventure and geomorphology. Out on the trail guiding tours, a third fascination enters the mix: you, the guest. “I feel strength and energy from being part of people’s once-in-a-lifetime-experience. Being out there, seeing other people having amazing experiences in nature…it’s really more important to me than having those experiences myself.”
Along with patience and an attentive ear, Jake provides his guests the physical and emotional safety they need to overcome challenges and meet their goals. “The mountains keep us humble and always learning. I believe this helps fill our primal drive for challenge and calculated adversity. This is my job, to facilitate and teach to the higher goals and unrealized potential within individuals. My reward is meeting people from all walks of life and finishing the day with new friends.”
Based from an airstream trailer in Nederland, CO, Jake has been guiding for over 10 years and has traveled extensively throughout the world. A member of the American Mountain Guides Association and professional member of the American Avalanche Association, Jake is also a Wilderness EMT, an American Avalanche Associate level II, a Master Trainer of “Leave No Trace” ethics, and holds a Utah Boatman’s license. In one of his prouder moments, he once won an uphill/downhill ski race in a 1-piece woman’s bathing suit wearing a fruit basket on his head. You can keep up with Jake’s adventures and reflections on life on his blog, the Jake Report.
Doug Mayer has been playing and working in the mountains since high school, three decades ago. He started as a meteorology intern at the Mount Washington Observatory, and worked as a backcountry caretaker for the Randolph Mountain Club. He subsequently settled in the outdoors town of Randolph, New Hampshire, at the base of the rugged Northern Presidential Range of the White Mountains.
Doug has served as Trails Chair for the Randolph Mountain Club, and was a founder and longtime board member for the Waterman Alpine Stewardship Fund. He has served as Vice President for AVSAR, his local mountain rescue organization, and has been active in mountain search and rescue for over 20 year. In 2008, he was received the President’s Call to Service Award for his contributions to mountain stewardship.
Doug leads our Swiss trail running tours. His passion for trail running grew from years of alpine climbing and backcountry skiing around the ranges of the world, from South America to the Alps. He has longtime family connections to the Valais region of Switzerland, so it was natural that he would start trail running around the Alps! In 2012, he started Run the Alps, as a way to share his enthusiasm for trail running in the Swiss Alps. Doug enjoys trail races, but is most happy running past herds of cows, on the way to a Swiss Alpine Club hut for a café au lait, fresh bread and local cheese. When he’s not running around the Alps, he enjoys trail running around the many home trails in Randolph, with friends and, always, his canine sidekick, Samivel.
When he’s not in the mountains, Doug works as a producer for Car Talk from NPR. He is also a partner in the White Mountain Cafe in nearby Gorham, NH. Doug has contributed to TrailRunner magazine, is a contributing editor of the Appalachia Journal, and co-author of Mountain Voices: Stories of Life and Adventure in the White Mountains and Beyond. Doug once stood on the winner’s podium at the fabled Ultra Trail Mont Blanc in Chamonix, France – but none of his friends were fast enough to capture the moment on their cameras. If you meet him, and he’s had a glass of wine, be sure to ask him about his most embarrassing moment in his mountaineering career. It’s good.
Matt Hart might have become a classically trained chef, but his path led instead to Prescott College over the French Culinary Institute. Their loss is our gain, and you will find him making his way up one trail or another equipped with a degree in Educational Use of Adventure and Wilderness and passion for the outdoors. A skilled rock climber and mountain biker, Matt loves the perspective and growth opportunities the outdoors affords; and he is great at helping other people step more comfortably outside their comfort zones to achieve their own personal best. “When you’re out like that, you get to know yourself and others in a truer sense. It’s transformative.”
Growing up in Colorado, Matt developed a strong sense of self through his time in the mountains and hills surrounding his home. More than anything, Matt is thrilled by the chance to make a career from activities normally relegated to weekends or vacation. “I’m really happy. There aren’t too many people that get to go to Grand Canyon, the coast of California, the Alps, the Himalayas, and the rainforest within a calendar year.” Matt’s work with Alpinehikers in Switzerland builds on his experiences guiding and teaching in the American Southwest, India, and Central America. When not guiding, Matt works as a photographer and an educator utilizing a variety of methodologies and educational theories to bring high academic standards to non traditional settings with young people and adults alike. Matt often posts photos and thoughts on his guiding and teaching experiences on his blog, Viewfinder Dispatch.
Abby Strauss-Malcolm believes in dynamic balance — stretching comfort zones — life as an experience of change and growth. She’s always willing to get out there to experience things for herself, and she’s always got an outstretched hand and quick laugh ready to encourage anyone who wants to join her.
Trained in Holistic Health and Adventure Education at Prescott College, Abby is also a certified yoga teacher, Wilderness First Responder, and nationally certified massage therapist. Like many professional guides, she considers her ‘office’ to be one of the best parts of her job, and she’s had the opportunity to explore widely from Israel and Jordan, to Mexico, Canada, Alaska, Thailand, India, Vietnam, Singapore, Burma, and much of Europe.
Abby’s approach to leading a fulfilling life: “Time spent sharing incredible places with a group, moving through the landscape on foot, enjoying good conversation and food, and inspiring people to reach their goals and attain new heights.”
After years of travel, Abby now calls Prescott, Arizona home. She works in our office as a tour designer, helping to organize our guided and self-guided tours, and leads many of our local tours in the fall, winter and spring.
Before talking with Zach Dahlmer, you might not know there’s world-class surfing to be had off the coast of Nova Scotia. As one of his first adventure playgrounds, those waters gave Zach some of his most significant encounters with the sheer strength of nature — and the meaning of responsibility. Now, as a professional outdoor guide, Zach calls on that responsibility and those life lessons on a daily basis.
Zach focused his degree in Adventure Education on the educational and interpersonal aspects of outdoor adventure with small groups. “It helps me understand students and clients needs on many levels; to know when to offer a challenge. They’re at a point of stretching, of growth, while they’re out there. My job is to have fun with people and meet them where they are.”
Certified as a Wilderness First Responder and trained in a wide range of skills such as backpacking, climbing, sea kayaking and wilderness navigation, Zach spent the last three years guiding in the mountains and canyons of the U.S. Southwest and the nine years prior to that as a sail charter guide. His favorite part of leading a group is the chance he gets to share his passion for wild places, “to offer them the chance to interact with the world and each other in a very real way.”
Artisan baking… or backcountry guiding? Native Germany… or adopted Eastern Sierra of California? Stella Moss doesn’t want to choose, so she mixes it all into her adventurous life. Born and raised just outside Munich, Stella first traveled abroad in high school to spend half a year in British Columbia interning for a sea kayaking company. Her love of the outdoors and guiding has only grown with time.
Fluent in German and English, with Avalanche Level I and Wilderness First Responder certifications, Stella is also a qualified Leave No Trace trainer. She has led birding tours in the Mono Basin near Yosemite National Park, Wilderness Orientation for Prescott College, and a private groups in the Grand Canyon. Her Environmental Studies background led her to work with the Point Reyes Bird Observatory, advancing from bird banding as a seasonal staffer, to data analysis and fundraising as the Eastern Sierra Program Director. When the computer work came to outweigh the field work there, Stella moved on.
In 2011 she opened Stella’s Bäckerei, a small Community Supported Bakery. This clever, and tasty, venture provides handcrafted breads and desserts to residents in Mono Basin and gourmet lunches for fly-fishing excursions led by her husband, Rob McGillicuddy. The food is so good, her clients patiently await her return from various guiding forays, allowing her the flexibility to pick up where she left off and keep her diverse interests in balance.
What could be even better than that? “Guiding for Alpinehikers in Switzerland. It will finally allow me to unite two important parts of myself. I can’t wait!”
As a highly trained heli-ski guide and American Avalanche Association Professional Member, Rob McGillicuddy gets to work in some of the most technical and hard to access ski slopes in the world. His work is demanding and rewarding in direct proportion, and his guests shower him with the kind of praise that only comes from people who’ve just achieved world-class, Bucket List, life-changing experiences.
With a degree in Wilderness Leadership and Natural History from Prescott College and ten years’ experience as a professional guide, Rob understands adventure and knows how to deliver backcountry excitement while maintaining a clear-eyed focus on safety. He has a leader’s ability to keep a group engaged in decision making and empowered to meet their challenges. From Alaska and California, to the high Andes of Chile and Kashmir region of India, Rob brings breadth and depth to his guiding, adding explorations into natural history to the mix when he can.
Like his wife, Stella Moss, Rob seeks balance. He spends his off-season waist deep in various California rivers working as a certified flyfishing guide, enjoying the comforts of home and a warm fire — and looking forward to his next adventure.
While most of our tours take place in the summer, planning happens year-round. Deborah Charlap and Mike Cullen work in the office all year, and have each made trips to Switzerland. Troy Haines, Matt Brown, and Abby Strauss-Malcolm all guide our tours for much of the summer, and work in the office the rest of the year. With just 5 of us here in our Prescott, Arizona home, you know you’ll never get lost in the shuffle, and are sure to find someone who can answer your questions thoughtfully and knowledgeably.
Deborah Charlap manages administrative operations and marketing for Alpinehikers. She explores new opportunities to make our office an effective, engaged workplace and celebrates the ways that everyone’s adventures contribute to our company’s story. “I’ve never considered myself an explorer and now I work surrounded by professional guides… Their enthusiasm is contagious! It’s made me more eager to find the adventures in everyday life and just get out there more.”
Some of Deb’s adventures include homesteading in rural Arizona and training companion and working dogs. A magical trip to Switzerland in the summer of 2013 marked her transformation from occasional hiker to avid adventurer. “There was this Sound-of-Music-style moment — alone in an alpine meadow, surrounded by yellow globe flowers and towering white peaks… It’s an incredible place to stretch your boundaries.”
If you have any questions about a tour or destination, please feel to call or email anytime. We’re always happy to talk about the tours and your particular needs, and are normally in the office Mon-Fri from 9:00 – 4:30. If we don’t pick up, it just means we’re busy or away for a moment, so please leave a message and we’ll call you right back. We are located in the mountains of Northern Arizona, which is on Pacific time from early Nov to mid-March and Mountain time otherwise.
329 S Montezuma St.
Prescott, AZ 86303