Community Wilderness Trip Leaders
Originally from Lander, Wyoming James grew up cross country skiing and backpacking with his parents in the Wind River Mountain range. He was considered an Olympic hopeful in mountain biking as a teen and then James discovered mountain climbing. He has been climbing since he was 14 and his curiosity and passion for the sport have taken him into the Tetons, the Wind River Range, the Colorado Rockies, El Potrero Chico in Mexico, El Pico de Orizaba (18,500 ft) ,Yosemite (including 2 big wall routes) and many other climbing areas across North America. He has first ascents on routes in Wyoming, Colorado, Texas and in Mexico. James has successfully led 3 expeditions to the high volcanoes of Mexico, taught advanced mountaineering & ice climbing courses in the Mosquito range in Colorado and done grade IV rock climbs with clients in the Wind Rivers, he is a true all around climber with a passion for taking people on adventures of a lifetime. One of his most memorable moments was on a trekking trip deep into Mexico Copper Canyon and conversing with a Tarahumara family that hadn’t ever met a English speaking or caucasian person before! Today, James and his family enjoy the mild winters of the Texas Hill Country that allow year round climbing, mountain biking and kayaking. James is a certified AMGA Single Pitch and Climbing Wall Instructor, Wilderness First Responder, a NICA certified Head Coach (mountain biking), a Cat 1 (Expert) mountain bike racer and accomplished mountaineer. He is also the climbing coach at a private school in Texas during the winter months. James is a member of Access Fund and American Mountain Guide Association. He assists with bike races that raise scholarship money for Trips for Kids. James enjoys helping others discover their inner strengths. It was a privilege for James to provide a weekend of adaptive climbing for soldiers from The Center for the Intrepid who sustained injuries serving our country. His easy going, calm demeanor naturally encourages his clients to work hard to meet their personal goals.
Born and raised in the midwest state of Missouri, Lydia Huelskamp had her sights set on big dreams in Hollywood as she packed up and moved to California for college. However, after working one summer in the Sangre De Cristo mountain range in Colorado her aspirations suddenly changed. Lydia quickly fell in love with mountain climbing and all things outdoors. She spent the rest of her summers in Colorado climbing as many 14ers as she could and the rest of her time in college backpacking all throughout California including trips to Joshua Tree, Big Sur, and Yosemite. After college Lydia hopped on a bike and pedaled her way across the country from New Jersey to Oregon, to support a housing nonprofit. The next year Lydia planned and led the bike trip traveling from Southern California to Maine. She then found her way to Austin where she has worked for Explore for over a year now, spending her whole summer out climbing, biking, and backpacking with Explorers! One of her favorite things is getting to share her passion with others and see them get excited and inspired by outdoors.
Keenan grew up in Austin, Texas and attended St. Stephen’s School where he had the opportunity to develop skills in a variety of outdoor sports through the Devil’s Canyon Wilderness Program. Since then he has been on many adventures climbing, caving, mountain biking, and backpacking all across the country and abroad. He graduated from The College of Wooster in 2014 with a degree in philosophy. He ran the college outdoors club there for two years planning and attending trips to the Red River Gorge, the New River Gorge, Moab, Red Rocks and Joshua Tree. Keenan has worked for Explore Austin as a trip leader since 2011 guiding climbing, mountaineering, backpacking and rock climbing. He loves to spend summers in Colorado where he gets to explore some of the world class rock climbing the state has to offer. Keenan currently lives in Austin, Texas and works as a Programs Coordinator for Explore Austin.
Kirk is a lead guide for climbing and mountaineering trips, he also serves on the risk management committee for Explore Austin. He got his start in the outdoors trekking through the Alps in Germany, Switzerland, and Austria as a youth. He has led numerous mountaineering trips in Colorado including several 13er and 14er peaks for Explore Austin and other guide companies. Kirk also teaches our wilderness medical courses that are scheduled throughout the year and has been a firefighter and paramedic for 17 years. Most impressively, Kirk is a two time Ironman finisher. Recently retired, he resides in the Great State of Texas enjoying his time biking, backpacking, and getting to lead trips for Explore Austin.
Sam Whitley, a born and raised Texan, earned a degree in Business Management from Texas State University in 2011 then moved up to Colorado the following summer to be a climbing director for the Boy Scouts. He met Explore Austin program director James Faerber in Colorado and started guiding for Explore Austin. He spent four years teaching English in Cambodia and helped build the climbing community there as well as coached the climbing team at his school. His climbing resume includes the beautiful crags, mountains, and cliffs of the Unites States, Switzerland, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Australia, China, and a few first ascents in Cambodia.