a guide shows the proper way to handle rope while canyoneering

Christopher Hagedorn

Christopher is a professional outdoor educator, wilderness guide and leadership expert based out of Woodinville, Washington and Hanksville, Utah. He has been climbing, exploring and teaching throughout North America for more than 25 years, spending extensive time in the North Cascades, southern Appalachian Mountains and the red rock canyons of southern Utah.

For as long as he can remember, Christopher has admired the outdoors and had a passion for spending time outside. Growing up in the wilds of eastern Tennessee with parents that spent every spare moment visiting national parks, exploring nature and wildlands likely greatly influenced him.

Adventure and exploration have always been a centerpiece of Christopher’s being — at 12 years old, he decided to pursue his dream of becoming an astronaut. Had he been born a few hundred years earlier, he might have been another Magellan, Drake, Cook or Shackleton. Instead, Christopher became committed to the dream of becoming an astronaut to walk in the path of Alan Shepherd, John Glenn, Neil Armstrong and a proud list of other great American explorers. Not only did he want to become a part of this elite group of explorers, but he also aimed to be the first American to visit Mars and climb to the summit of its highest peak, Olympus Mons. Olympus Mons, standing at 73,000 feet, is one of the tallest mountains in our solar system, about three times taller than Mt. Everest. Was this a lofty goal? Indeed! But this is the kind of passion for exploration and adventure that was rooted in his being.

He then set out on a journey of careful planning, preparation and educational pursuits to lay the foundation for success. The astronaut core was a very elite group and having the “right stuff” to realize this dream is one of enormously small odds. After more than 30 years of preparation — including a Bachelor of Science in Geological Science from the University of Tennessee, a Master of Science in Geotechnical Engineering from the University of Idaho and two rounds of applications to NASA — he made the difficult decision to redirect his great passion and energy towards the development of a unique outdoor adventure and leadership education business that became Get in the Wild. This opportunity has allowed Christopher to apply his wealth of knowledge in outdoor education, leadership and guidance towards the enrichment of others that share his lifelong passion for wilderness adventure and exploration.

Christopher considers himself more than a guide — he is, first and foremost, a leader and educator. Leadership, safety and quality outdoor instruction are the epitomai of his fundamental training philosophy. He has great pride and admiration for the many students, assistants and friends that he has helped to become better leaders, climbers and instructors. The satisfaction in seeing others achieve their dreams while simultaneously learning essential outdoor safety skills provides him with great satisfaction as he continues his lifelong adventure.

a guide leaves her pack on the ground to rest at the top of a snowy mountain

Melissa Phillips

Born and raised in the Puget Sound region of the Pacific Northwest, Melissa has always been interested in the natural environment, science, health and fitness. As a child, she enjoyed many hiking adventures with her family in the beautiful alpine and coastal regions of Washington state. Her favorites include the Big Four Ice Caves, Mount Pilchuck, Deception Pass and Wallace Falls. Her family also spent many summers camping and taking road trips around the Western USA. These experiences helped her develop a deep appreciation and love for nature.

In high school, Melissa participated in cross country running, orienteering, environmental club and JROTC, all of which provided a great foundation for her outstanding skills in outdoor education, wilderness leadership and natural history. She then attended Central Washington University where she graduated with Bachelor’s degrees in Biology and Primate Behavior and Ecology. While in college, she developed a passion for community service and worked with Circle K, Kiwanis and the Northwest Chimpanzee Sanctuary.

Post-graduation, Melissa discovered her deep passion and love for yoga. Little did she realize how profoundly yoga would affect her and her life journey. It was also at this time that she met her husband — to say this was a huge transitional period for Melissa would be an understatement.

Her husband introduced her to the world of mountaineering and wilderness adventure. Not one to back down from a healthy challenge, her first backpacking trip was to a little known summit in the North Cascades known as Mount Blum. Ascending Mount Blum involves an arduous 3-mile bushwhack through steep, brushy terrain with 5,000 feet of elevation gain. Basecamp is a beautiful multi-tiered alpine cirque complete with three interconnected turquoise blue tarns. Melissa quickly discovered how difficult and challenging the trip was through tears and muscle aches, but that didn’t stop her from wanting to go backpacking again. Melissa loves the idea of considering nature her home and the simplicity of life that accompanies this unique and amazing experience.

Melissa also has a great passion for photography that was developed through her many travels across the USA and Europe. She has taken a variety of photography classes along the way, helping her further enhance her unique photographic skills. Her greatest interest is nature and abstract photography. She utilized this passion to start her own company, Namaste Photography, and to help design the photography and natural history adventures offered at North American Wilderness Leadership School.

Melissa is the founder and director of the Northwest Yoga Conference, which aims to celebrate the local northwest yoga community. She brings her passion and love for yoga to North American Wilderness Leadership School, where she helped create the Yoga In The Wild program. This unique program combines the practice of yoga with the wonders of the natural environment. Program offerings include backpacking adventures in southern Utah and western Washington, Yoga Adventure Day in Washington and yoga camping retreats in southern Utah and western Washington. She really enjoys teaching others about yoga, nature and photography.

Chris Puga

Chris’s passion for the outdoors began at a young age with family adventures in the wild and rugged Rocky Mountains of Central Colorado. He spent his college years in Corvallis, Oregon in pursuit of anything involving the outdoors while earning a BS in Mechanical Engineering from Oregon State University.

He has taught canyoneering, rock climbing, mountaineering, ice climbing, outdoor leadership and wilderness medicine since 2015. He is a certified climbing instructor, swiftwater rescue technician, Adventure Leadership Guide, EMT, Wilderness First Responder and Leave No Trace Trainer.

In his free time, he enjoys many of the sports that he teaches and guides such as climbing, scuba diving , paragliding and skiing.

a guide enjoying the beauty of bluejohn canyon

Austin Farnworth

Austin’s passion for outdoor adventure began at a young age while growing up in the mountains and canyons of Utah. As a young teen he was introduced to rock climbing which hooked him on the world of technical sports. This passion led to canyoneering which quickly became his primary outdoor focus. He has since explored hundreds of canyoneering routes across the Western United States including exploratory trips into unknown canyons.

Having graduated from Utah Valley University with a BS in Outdoor Recreation Management, Austin is passionate about outdoor education. He is a certified guide and teaches introductory through advanced level canyoneering courses. With deep roots in Utah, he enjoys sharing with others the history, plant life, and geology of its unique and otherworldly landscapes. Austin lives in Mapleton, Utah with his wife and two young children and enjoys sharing the outdoors with his family in his free time.

a portrait shot of a guide hanging on to a rope in a canyon

Shane Wallace

Since he was a young boy growing up in Utah’s Wasatch Mountains, Shane’s favorite pastimes have been exploring the world’s natural wonders and sharing experiences of adventure with others. From his first descent into one of Southern Utah’s wild and remote technical slot canyons, canyoneering quickly became his greatest life passion. He is a certified Pro Canyoneering Guide, Swiftwater Rescue Technician and Wilderness First Responder.

a portrait of get in the wild guide kat carney

Kat Carney

Kat has been photographing people in pursuit of outdoor adventures since 2008. She learned to canyoneer in 2012, and has been capturing people exploring canyons ever since. A Kansas native, she has called a variety of wild landscapes her home including the alpine tundra of Alaska, Mediterranean coast of Spain and the oceanfront beaches and islands of Rhode Island. You can find her commercial and editorial work at katcarneyphotography.com and her adventure wedding photography at swellandstone.com.

a guide standing in the snow on a mountain

Nathan Precup

Nathan is an outdoor enthusiast who grew up in western Washington, going on hikes and camping trips for family vacations for longer than he can remember. Nathan has spent the past several years taking his love of the outdoors to the next level, from SCUBA diving in the depths of Puget Sound to mountaineering and backcountry skiing in the Cascade Mountains.  Nathan’s love of the natural world doesn’t stop at the wilderness, as he earned an MS in Aeronautical Engineering from the University of Washington.  Following graduation he lived and worked in Antarctica an experienced life on the World’s most remote and isolated landscape.

Nathan’s past education and experiences in mountaineering have provided a wide foundation of skills. In 2008, he took the Boeing Alpine Society’s basic climbing course, a 3-month program that educates its students on route finding, teamwork, basic first aid, risk assessment, glacier travel and basic rock climbing. Nathan has been exploring the mountains ever since. He has received extensive medical training through Wilderness Medical Institute’s Wilderness First Responder certification. He also has recently taken an outdoor leadership course. Nathan firmly believes in the value of wilderness education and safe practices, and is excited to be a part of the Get in the Wild team!

a guide atop a snowy mountain holding up a stuffed frog

Michael Songbird

Michael’s love of nature is the guiding principle that fuels his motivation and dedication to a outdoors-based, active lifestyle. He is committed to getting outdoors and educating younger generations about the hidden, natural treasures and all the beauty that surrounds us. Michael has been active outdoors most of his life, particularly during the past 15 years where he has been an avid hiker, scrambler, kayaker and mountain climber. In 2010, Michael set out to achieve a personal record for hikes and climbs. In the process, he completed an impressive 92 hikes and 295,000 feet of elevation gain.

During all this activity, Michael managed to further his outdoor experience and skills by enrolling in educational classes, training seminars and mountaineering outings. Michael has completed specialized training in outdoor leadership, snow and glacier travel, crevasse rescue, scrambling, rock climbing, route finding and navigation, teamwork and leadership and snow shelter building. Michael works and lives in the Seattle area. He lives with his wife, nephew and dog. He is an accomplished cook, and will always find the best place for bread, wine, cheese and chocolate. Michael’s work positions him to effectively work with others and motivate teams and individuals to achieve their goals and meet personal expectations.

a guide hanging in the mid air on a rope

Jen Groves

Jen has been a canyoneering devotee since her first experience in Pine Creek Canyon in Zion National Park in 2010. While studying recreation management at Brigham Young University, she explored canyons every chance she got, and by the next summer, she started guiding her own trips throughout Southern Utah. Since then, she has attended numerous canyoneering leadership workshops and classes on canyon and technical rescue.

Her favorite things about guiding are helping people overcome their fears and making her guests laugh. When she’s not canyoneering (or dreaming about canyoneering), Jen can be found skiing at Snowbird, wishing she were skiing at Snowbird, convincing her husband that her latest adventure is “not that scary” or exploring with her black lab, Sadie. Her favorite canyons in Utah are Behunin Canyon (Zion National Park), Cassidy Arch (Capitol Reef National Park) and Hogwarts Canyon (Dirty Devil Wilderness).

a woman doing a yoga pose in machu pichu

Nicole Dawn Armstrong

Nicole is a yoga teacher and a board-certified health coach (AADP) with the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in New York. She holds advanced-level Yoga Alliance certification (RYT-500) as well as registered specialization in prenatal & postnatal yoga (RPYT). She is further specialized in fitness and anatomy as a certified personal trainer with the National Academy of Sports Medicine and a certified barre above fitness instructor. She teaches classes, private sessions and health workshops in Seattle, WA and Hanksville, UT.

Having experienced a powerful transformation in her own life, Nicole is passionate about sharing the immediate and lasting effects that yoga and meditation can bring. Her goal is to spread the message that ancient, time-tested practices like yoga, meditation and natural nutrition can help you return to your heart center, connect you deeply with the Earth and sustain you towards your personal life mission. She is excited to share her great love for the outdoor wilderness, geology and Native American shamanic traditions as part of our Yoga in The Wild program.

a guide standing atop a mountain overlooking a valley

Stephen Matera

Stephen is a professional outdoor sports, lifestyle and landscape photographer. He developed his vision as a natural landscape photographer and also applies his perspective to active outdoor sports and lifestyle images. He creates images for some of the world’s leading outdoor manufacturers and publishers. His clients include Raleigh Bikes, Jansport, National Geographic, The New York Times, Backpacker Magazine and many more. You can follow Stephen’s work at stephenmatera.com, materaphoto.com and on Instagram at @stephen_matera.

someone driving a small motorized boat through a river in a canyon

Bill Church

Bill is a renowned landscape and adventure photographer who was born in California and moved to Utah where his passion for the outdoors began. Growing up skiing, hiking and camping eventually led him into the world of photography. Over the last several years, he has pushed his equipment to the most extreme limits. His favorite partners in the wilderness are his wife and three young boys who all started exploring remote locations when they were under six months old. Bill is constantly chasing sunsets, running rivers and the most beautiful slot canyons while in search of perfect light in remote areas. You can follow Bill’s most recent work on Instagram at @billchurchphoto.

Have More Questions?

Get In Touch With Us Today