About Sawatch Guides

All of our professional guides have a deep appreciation for Lake County’s breathtaking landscapes and rich history.  We take great pride in our natural resources and enjoy sharing it with our visitors. Although there are inherent risks when traveling through the backcountry, we pride ourselves on client safety and risk management.  Our guides meet industry standards of an 80-hour Wilderness First Responder training, safety protocols, as well as refined leadership, judgment, decision-making and backcountry travel skills.

Sawatch Backcountry Guides strive to offer the best wilderness experiences for our guests with all our tours and events.

We look forward to sharing wilderness experiences with you.

Staff / Guide Bios

kip davis

Kip Davis – Owner and Guide Coordinator

Certified AMGA Rock Guide, Aspirant AMGA Alpine Guide, Trained AMGA Ski Guide, AIARE Level II, WFR

Kip brings with him over 15 years of experience in technical mountain travel and outdoor-education instruction. He is a certified Rock Guide, Aspirant Alpine Guide, and Single Pitch Instructor Provider through the American Mountain Guides Association.

AMGA-Rock-GuideKip studied Sociology, Education, and Outdoor Recreation Leadership at the University of Oregon and graduated in 1999. Ready to put his skills to use, he headed to the high country of Leadville, CO to work for the Colorado Outward Bound School.

In 2004 Kip began teaching for Colorado Mountain College. Kip enjoys mentoring his students through these courses, and seeing them develop from novices into competent outdoor leaders. Not only does Kip have loads of experience in technical rope work and mountain travel, his students often note his ability to relate to them, his thoughtful and well-planned lessons, and his all around high-capability as an educator.

When he is not teaching or guiding, Kip enjoys climbing and skiing whenever and wherever he can.

Tony Goldstein – Guide and Administrator

AIARE Level I, Wilderness First Responder, ACA Swiftwater Rescue Technician

Tony is a Coast Guard Academy graduate and former Coast Guard officer from Massachusetts.  He traded in the city life to pursue a career in the outdoor industry in Colorado.  Tony earned his Associates Degree in Outdoor Recreational Leadership from Colorado Mountain College using his GI Bill and began leading trips for military veterans in the backcountry.

Tony enjoys all forms of winter sports and is currently the race director for the Father Dyer Postal Route ski mountaineering race in Leadville.  In the summer he hikes, climbs, and races mountain bikes.  He has successfully completed both the Silver Rush 50 and Leadville 100 mountain bike races, and is training to compete again this year.


John MacKinnon – Guide

AMGA Certified Rock and Ski Guide, AIARE Level II Instructor and Instructor Trainer

John is an AMGA Certified Rock and Ski Guide based in Leadville. He brings over a decade of mountain John MacKinnonguiding and outdoor education experience to Sawatch Guides. He currently splits his time between guiding locally in the Colorado Rockies, instructing in the outdoor recreation and leadership programs at several community colleges and guiding in the Pacific Northwest.

AMGA Ski Guide AMGA Rock GuideJohn is also an AIARE 1 and AIARE 2 avalanche instructor and a member of the AIARE Instructor Training Team. Prior to moving to Leadville he spent 4 winters working as an avalanche forecaster in Crested Butte. When he is not working John enjoys exploring the Leadville backcountry with his wife and their impulsive little cattle dog.

James Klaers – Guide

Certified AMGA Single Pitch Instructor, Apprentice AMGA Rock Guide, Colorado Outward Bound Lead Instructor, AIARE Level II, WFR

James brings over a decade of experience in the outdoors; rock climbing, backpacking, snowboarding, and ice climbing. His enthusiasm and passion for being in nature is contagious. James moved to the Leadville area in 2010 to attend CMC and has truly spread his roots here.

James is a lead instructor for the Colorado Outward Bound School throughout the year providing life changing experiences for his students since 2016. James has also been the Program Coordinator for SOS Outreach since 2012, he volunteers on Lake County Search and Rescue and tenaciously pursues his AMGA certifications. When not guiding or instructing James spends his time rock climbing and splitboarding whenever he can.


Julia Morton – Guide

Originally from the Washington, D.C. area, Julia ventured west for college. After earning her BA in Environmental Science from Colorado College in 2005, Julia took a job with the Colorado Outward Bound School on a whim. It worked out, and she spent the next 8 years as an outdoor educator, climbing, skiing, and living the simple life. Looking for a radical change Julia traded mountains for ocean in 2013, learning how to surf and earning her Master’s of Environmental Science and Management, with a focus in Water Resources, from University of California–Santa Barbara.

Julia now splits her time between environmental management work, outdoor education, and guiding. She has over a decade of experience in the mountains, working for the Colorado Outward Bound School as an instructor, course director, and staff trainer, and ski guiding for Paragon Guides.  She holds Wilderness First Responder and AIARE Level 2 Avalanche certifications, and is currently an AMGA Apprentice Rock Guide and pursuing AMGA certification in the rock discipline.


Jon Bernhard – Guide

Certified AMGA Rock Guide, WFR, Ambassador Athlete; Bergans USA, ELETE, DMM, Maxim ropes, FITS, Goal Zero

Jon has been a climbing rock, ice, and mountains for over 30 years and enjoys just about any type of backimg_4347 country travel including mountain biking and backpacking. Over the years, Jon has peaked major summits across North America, established new ascents in the Alaska Range, & spent many years rock climbing the walls of Yosemite. Jon loves to share his experiences with others, and is a people person through and through. Regardless of ability or goal he looks to help clients get the most out of their time with Sawatch Guides.

Aside from guiding, Jon is an instructor of Outdoor Education at AMGA Rock GuideColorado Mountain College and former high school science teacher.  He also is the manager of “We Ain’t Done Yet”, a foundation that helps pediatric patients live active lives in the face of severe health challenges.

Nadia Kimmel – Medical and Risk Advisor

RN-BSN, WEMT, B.S. in Natural Resources Mgt., M.S. in Recreation

nadia kimmelIn 1990 Nadia left her hometown of Montreal, Canada for Crested Butte, CO where she was first introduced to the world of outdoor education. She obtained her MS in Recreation and went on to teach outdoor education for numerous universities, colleges and private organizations. She has provided risk management consulting for numerous adventure tourism businesses and university outdoor adventure programs.

Nadia’s true passion lies in wilderness medicine and she has inspired countless students through her company Desert Mountain Medicine and her dynamic teaching since 1996. She has also added a BS in Nursing from Regis University to her résumé, helping her to bridge the gap between urban and wilderness emergency medicine experience for her students.

During her free time Nadia enjoys riding bikes and laying down graceful telemark tracks somewhere in the mountains.