our team


Gar Duke

Co-founder and Executive Director

I grew up in Washington State where I was fortunate to spend my youth camping with my family, catching salmon and water skiing on the Puget Sound, snow skiing in the Cascades, and being a well rounded pacific northwest kid. In college I fell in love with rock climbing and alpine mountaineering, a journey that led to my career in outdoor education. I have field instructed and course directed for a variety of outdoor educational programs; the majority of my time in the wild places of the American west for Outward Bound, where I have worked in the mountains, rivers, canyons, and deserts instructing mountaineering, rock climbing, and canyoneering courses. I have college degrees in Psychology, Business Administration, and a Masters in Ecological Design, as well as a USCG Master's License.

My wife, Nicole, and I moved to Bozeman in 2011 after falling in love with the big skies and wild places of Montana where we now live with our son, Crusoe, and high energy herding dog, Odin. Outside of my work and family life, my current outdoor interests are long distance trail running with my dog, bow hunting, backcountry skiing, and fly fishing on Montana's amazing rivers.

Send Gar an email.

Josh Olsen 

Co-founder and Program Director

I am a native Montanan and grew up exploring wild spaces from the Bear Paw to the Beartooth Mountains. I was lucky enough to spend my youth skiing, hiking and climbing in many wild areas of Montana. I have worked as an educator in many capacities primarily in the backcountry; instructing kayaking and climbing and spent some time teaching English in Tanzania, Africa. I am former wilderness instructor for "at- risk" youth programs and worked as a field instructor for multiple wilderness adventure programs in the mountain west. In addition to my work with youth I also worked professionally as a sea kayak guide and as a climbing instructor. I have taught wilderness medicine courses for Aerie Backcountry Medicine for over 10 years teaching around the United States, India, China, Tibet and in Morocco. During the winters I have spent the last decade working as a professional ski patroller and avalanche rescue dog handler, and currently work at Bridger Bowl. My love of education and desire to always keep learning lead me back to school, to receive a Masters Degree in Education with a focus on place-based learning from the University of Montana.

I live in Bozeman with my wife and two dogs, trying to scratch out time to ski, hunt and climb between working and learning to garden.

Send Josh an email.

Claire Kleese

Communications Manager & Development Assistant

I was fortunate to be born and raised in beautiful Western Montana and growing up in the Bitterroot Valley provided me with the opportunity to spend my childhood climbing the canyons, skiing, camping, hunting and canoeing the rivers of Montana. In my youth I fell in love with rock/ice climbing and alpine mountaineering, continuing to this day. After high school I completed an Outward Bound course in Colorado and Wyoming before heading to college where I received a degree in Geography and GIS/Remote Sensing Imagery. I’ve spent time recreating and adventuring throughout the US, Central America, Canada, Iceland, India, Nepal, Pakistan, China and Tibet. I've worn a variety of different career hats in my life however my passion for Montana's wild spaces and helping others develop a relationship with their environment and community are just a few of the many reasons I am so happy to be a part of the Montana Wilderness School team as Communications Manager & Development Assistant.

When not working with the MWS team, I am an illustration artist and usually covered in ink and paint creating artwork for various galleries and shows. Otherwise I'm outside as much as possible!

Send Claire an email.

Nicki Bailey

Operations & Youth Contract Expedition Manager

I grew up in Boulder, Colorado, and spent my childhood amongst the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. From a young age, however, I was intrigued to see other places and have been lucky enough to call five countries my home. While living in South America, I had the pleasure of working for Outward Bound Brazil, bringing my passion for the outdoors, teaching, a commitment to service and my love of language together. I moved back to Outward Bound in the states with the opportunity to build a tiny house on wheels. I have always admired Montana's geography for its diversity and vastness, and am looking forward to exploring more of it. When not at work (unlikely) you might find me out climbing (most likely in costume), running, making a ludicrous number of labels, avoiding gluten or going on ridiculously long bike tours.

Send Nicki an email.

Stephen Halvorson MD

Medical Advisor

Steve has had the good fortune of integrating interests in wilderness, medicine, travel and youth development beginning with the outdoor recreation program at UC Berkeley, where he earned a BS in resource economics and a minor in writing. From the University of Montana, he earned a BA in biology with an emphasis in riparian ecology. In between, he served various roles for urban and rural youth corps, taught climbing and guided river trips in the US and Central America. While a medical student at the University of New Mexico, he initiated research in acute mountain sickness and subsequently volunteered for the Himalayan Rescue Association in Pheriche and with the Everest ER. He currently is the co-medical director for the Hardrock 100 and serves as physician advisor for youth development groups and wilderness outfitters. He continues to teach wilderness medicine for WMA and other organizations in and outside the US. When not at work, he drafts his wife and son through the varied terrain of the Northern Rockies.

seasonal STAFF


Paddling Program Manager

I am excited to bring my love of the outdoors and passion for experiential education to the MWS team. The mountains and rivers of upstate New York fueled my relationship with the natural world and led me to pursue a bachelor of science degree in Environmental Science with a focus on Ecosystems studies from the University of New Hampshire. Following my time at UNH, I worked as a Nordic ski coach at St. Lawrence University, where I completed a Master of Education degree focused on experiential and outdoor education. Over the past ten years I have worked as a teacher and kayak coach for World Class Academy, ski coach for the Bridger Ski Foundation, teacher for the Montana Outdoor Science School, paddling coordinator for St. Lawrence University, and instructor/program supervisor for NOLS. I have been fortunate enough to teach courses in remote places throughout the world and look forward to helping students explore the great state of Montana this summer.

When I’m not with MWS, I can be found working with the US Ski Team in Europe or playing music at some of Bozeman’s finest establishments.


Mountain Program Manager

I grew up playing in the mountains of New Hampshire where my mother, a former Outward Bound instructor, took me on my first backpacking trip at age 10. I vividly remember hiking 10 million miles to our camp with a 150 pound pack (a three mile hike with a 20 pound pack…it’s all relative to a 10 year old), having my mind blown by the idea of cooking mac and cheese without a proper kitchen, and nearly eating it face-first into a big pile of rocks on the way down.

I moved West in 2010 to attend Colorado College where I majored in Environmental Science. Between class, I played Ultimate Frisbee on the CC club team, learned how to rock climb, and discovered how much better it is to ski powder instead of ice. Since graduation, I’ve worked as a field instructor for the Colorado Outward Bound School, been a ski instructor at Crested Butte, and taught high school math and physics at the Telluride Mountain School.

When I’m not working, you can likely find me searching out splitter crack climbs in the desert, chasing untracked snow on big mountains, improvising elaborate meals on a camp stove, or running around the hills with my camera.


Student Outreach Manager

I am beyond excited to join the MWS team and work for an organization that allows me to engage with two of my passions--experiential education and wild places! My experiences growing up in the diverse landscapes of Missouri and Washington state inspired me to study the intersections between humans and the natural world. After graduating from Washington University in St. Louis with a degree in Anthropology and Environmental Studies, I moved to the High Rockies to work as a natural science educator for an organization in the Vail Valley, Colorado. Working in the fields of outdoor and environmental education has given me the opportunity to explore wild places on backcountry trips with youth and develop curriculum around topics that I am passionate about including alpine ecology, geology, snow science and natural resource management.

Driven to explore more wild places and join a dynamic community, I moved to Bozeman last year and have been stoked ever since! In addition to working for MWS, I teach science for an independent high school and am currently pursuing an MS in Science Education through Montana State University. When I'm not out teaching or at the office, I'm hard at work exploring the contours of my new local ranges through some of my favorite activities—rock climbing, backpacking, ski touring and mountain biking; please say hello if you see me on the trails!


Instructor and Expedition Wrangler

As a Montana native, I had the fortunate luck to explore the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem as a child. Growing up in Gallatin Gateway instilled a passion for the great outdoors through backpacking, paddling, skiing and climbing. My family and I have enjoyed long trips canoeing some of Montana’s most scenic rivers such as the Gallatin, Missouri, and the Smith River. One of my most memorable trips was a 1,000 mile canoe expedition near the Arctic Circle in Canada’s Northwest Territory. I have also spent time teaching teenagers how to paddle in Namibia, Zambia, and South Africa. Most recently I have spent the winter biking, skiing and climbing in the southwest US. As much as I enjoy my personal pursuits in the outdoors, I find the combination of education, service work and outdoor adventure the most powerful and meaningful. After I graduated from Montana State University with a B.S. Sociology, I taught Honors Natural Science, Algebra 2, P.E. and Global Studies for The Traveling School in Southern Africa for two separate semesters. Traveling from Zimbabwe to Malawi to Namibia, I shared my passion for place-based learning, backpacking and paddling with teenage girls. I find it inspiring to support young individuals gain independence and confidence through adventure education. I have also worked as an environmental science teacher for a Montessori School and as a field instructor for Montana Outdoor Science School. Furthermore, I have volunteered as a mentor for the Big Sky Youth Empowerment Program and have spent many seasons helping young adults with disabilities learn how to climb and ski with the Eaglemount program. I am psyched to be a part of the MWS team this summer and I look forward to camping under the Montana night sky, eating delicious trail snacks and chatting on the trail and in the boats.


Lead Paddling Instructor and Expedition Wrangler

I am stoked to be coming back for a second summer at MWS! I am from Minnesota where my love of the outdoors started.  In high school I had the incredible chance to take a class that combined environmental science, ecology, and outdoor recreation. The capstone of the class was spending four days winter camping in the Boundary Waters Wilderness where we faced 50+mph winds and sub zero temperatures. That class and especially that trip made me fall in love with outdoor recreation and set me off on the career path I am on now. I went to college at the University of Minnesota Duluth where I studied Environmental and Outdoor Education. The Outdoor Program at UMD became my community as I got involved with leading day hikes across the city, teaching 3rd graders how to tap maple trees, and leading a spring break backpacking trip on the Appalachian Trail. During my summers I sought out more experience by working at wilderness tripping camps in the Boundary Waters, where I fell in love with leading teens on canoeing, rock climbing, and backpacking trips. In the winter of 2015/16 I had the opportunity to spend my winter with 20 sled dogs and 6 fellow staff members at, where we hosted groups and took them on dog sled, ski, and snowshoe outings. I recently moved to Portland, Oregon and have been enjoying the new scenery and spending my free time kayaking the many rivers of the Pacific Northwest and skiing on Mt. Hood. Looking forward to many days on the water, nights in the tent, and good conversations with my students and co-instructors.


Field Instructor

I grew up in a rural region of the interior of British Columbia, Canada and attended a summer outdoors school every year throughout my adolescence. Exploring wilderness settings became a fundamental part of my identity. I have a deep appreciation for, and innate curiosity about, the natural world. I currently live in Squamish, British Columbia. There, I attend Quest University Canada full-time and am working on my honours thesis for my Bachelor’s degree. My studies focus primarily on climate change effects upon wildlife ecology as well as indigenous research paradigms, and I am particularly interested in arctic ecosystems. I enjoy pairing my studies with play, and frequently take advantage of the beautiful skiing, hiking and climbing available just outside my front door. In the summers I have now been taking my adventures to Montana, where I get to explore a different playground.

I am very excited to be back with the Montana Wilderness School again this year! I have worked as an instructor in the outdoor education industry for the past 5 years. Four of those years I spent with Educo Adventure School, based in the stunning Cariboo region of BC, and last year, I joined the MWS team. I had an amazing time working with the diverse students, and learning from each an every one. I am looking forward to another summer of the introspection and self-discovery that wilderness environments afford, and to the chance to both facilitate growth in my students and explore the places that hold us during that journey.


Field Instructor

I grew up in New Hampshire, climbing on granite cliffs and skiing the icy slopes of the White Mountains with my family.  Ramblings as a ski patroller and hut keeper in the Northern Presidential Range of the Whites fueled a love for mountains that led me to Colorado College, where I studied geology and glaciology.  There I also developed my passions for rock climbing, skiing, and conservation. I have since lived in southwest Colorado, where I worked as a mountaineering instructor for the Colorado Outward Bound School, a backcountry ski hut keeper, and as a research assistant in mine reclamation hydrology. When I’m not working in the field, I can most likely be found chasing couloirs to ski or sandstone cracks to climb in the mountains and deserts of the southwest.  I also work as an illustrative artist, seeking inspiration from my adventures in wild spaces.

In addition to my love of mountains and art, I’m quite fond of rocks.  I rarely miss an opportunity to point out interesting features in the landscape or to make a bad geology pun.


Field Instructor

My roots were nourished in the front range of Colorado instilling a deep fault of adventure and love for the natural world. This love has brought me to many spectacular heights and humbling lows, revealing that the best things in life are worth suffering for. Down in Arizona I majored in Adventure Education and minored in Earth Sciences at Prescott College. Traveling and learning about new geologic landscapes, ecosystems and different people will always been passion of mine. For myself, feeding the soul has always involved good food, making art, playing with animals and getting lost in the music. What my soul is most hungry for though, besides chocolate, is to connect with the landscape. Weather immersed in a fall line of powder, weaving my tires through rocks and roots while ascending on single track, or reacting to the flow of water and waves crashing over my boat, I aspire to connect students to the landscape and pass forth the torch of adventure. Through the discovery of new skills, new knowledge and new environments, one may also discover a new self.


Field Instructor

I am unbelievably lucky to call Montana my home, and I am so excited to return Bozeman to work with MWS this season! I was born in Bozeman and I grew up exploring and playing in the Bridger Range. When I was five years old I carried my own gear for the first time on a backpacking trip into the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness. We got lost (I learned quickly that my dad has a terrible sense of direction), bushwhacked for miles, and were absolutely devoured by mosquitoes - suffice it to say, I was hooked. Since then I have spent countless hours exploring the mountains and rivers of Montana. In recent years, my passion for rock climbing and mountaineering has taken me across the US, Canada and as far south as Patagonia. No matter how far I go though, I always have the itch to come back to MT. Just this spring I finished my undergraduate degree at Quest University Canada. Living and learning in Squamish, BC, has offered up a veritable playground of outdoor shenanigans. My best memories there, without a doubt, have been adventuring with my peers and friends. As a trip leader and coordinator of Quest’s Adventure Club I have had the privilege of working with an amazing group of students to lead backpacking trips, workshops, and other adventures across BC. Last summer I had the opportunity to expand on those skills through a wild season with Educo Adventure School, leading 14-16yr olds on adventurous routes through the Coast Mountains of Canada.

This year, I’m beyond excited to pursue my passion for this kind of work in my home mountains. I honestly could not imagine a better place to explore and learn with students. So even when I’m not working, you’ll still find me in the backcountry, pursuing the corners of my home ranges that I have yet to see!


Field Instructor

I grew up in Minneapolis, Minnesota, cross-country skiing through snowy woods and canoeing beautiful lakes in the heart of the city.  I was lucky enough to have adventurous parents who introduced me to the mountains and backpacking at a young age, and encouraged me to spend as much time as possible in the outdoors.  I went to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in Northeastern Minnesota for the first time in middle school, starting a decade long obsession with canoeing and the Northwoods.  Since then, I’ve found myself on canoeing adventures as far away as Nunavut, Canada.  I spent the past three summers leading canoeing, backpacking, and rock climbing trips in the Boundary Waters region, at the same summer camp that ignited my love for wilderness travel when I was a teen.  Most recently I have been living in Portland, Oregon, going to Lewis & Clark College and exploring the huge range of outdoor activities the Pacific Northwest has to offer, including backpacking on the Olympic Peninsula and climbing at Smith Rock.  This May I completed a degree in Sociology and Anthropology, and wrote a senior thesis about the interaction between human history and contemporary wilderness in the Boundary Waters.  I am beyond excited to work for MWS and get to know an entirely new place and group of people!


Field Intern

Growing up in Colorado I was extremely fortunate to have the Rockies and surrounding ecosystems as my playground. Spending my weekends camping, skiing, and hiking with family and friends inspired a passion for the outdoors and exploration in our wild places. I attended Colorado State University where I studied Ecosystem Science and Sustainability, and Human Dimensions of Natural Resources with hope that I would have a career working with people in the outdoors and advocating for our wild places. While at CSU I became immersed in outdoor and environmental education. I became an instructor for the Outdoor Program where I had the opportunity to lead and instruct peers on various trips from backcountry skiing, to rock climbing and backpacking. During this time, I also became very involved with environmental education and I spent my time leading and teaching 4th and 5th grade students in the many ecosystems ofNorthern Colorado hoping to inspire future generations of environmental advocates and outdoor enthusiasts. Following graduation, I ran north to Southeast Alaska where I worked as a research and teaching assistant for a small field school. I spent my summer sea kayaking, living in a tent, studying local public lands management, supporting the school’s students, and falling in love with place based, experiential education. After my fall season in Colorado, I moved to Montana to ski instruct at Big Sky and have since fallen in love with the area. I am excited to spend my first summer in Montana working with MWS and exploring new ecosystems and wild places!


Field Intern

I grew up in northern California, splitting my time between Sonoma County and the central sierra. I was lucky enough to spend much of my childhood outside- exploring orchards, forests, lakes and streams in unstructured time with my sisters. I moved to Montana in 2011 to attend MSU and have been mesmerized by the vast Montana landscape ever since. In the intervening years I have worked as a volunteer then professional ski patroller, as a trip coordinator for the MSU Outdoor Program, and a field educator for the Friends of the GNFAC among many jobs. Currently I am happily living in Bozeman, resuming my college education studying GIS in the Earth Sciences program. I spend much of my time on snow or thinking about snow. In the non-winter months you can find me riding bikes, cooking for work and with friends or trying to repair my canoe.

Janine Welton

Field Instructor

Raised in Alberta and Washington’s Okanogan Valley, I was introduced to the wonders of physical exploration at a young age. I was lucky to have parents who took me skiing, biking, swimming, and paddling through the landscapes of my youth and my love of self-propelled activity, wild places and pika has only grown since. As a dual citizen, I’ve moved between Canada and the United States my entire life. I began attending the University of British Columbia in Vancouver after high school and spent a year on the north coast of BC where I learned to love rain and gigantic trees. Homesick for the Rocky Mountains, I moved to Missoula in 2013 to complete my B.Sc. in natural resource conservation. I’ve worked for land management agencies as a fire fighter, wilderness ranger, and guide. Instructing for the Montana Wilderness School has allowed me to combine my greatest passions: education and mountaineering. I’m looking forward to working with the supportive team of staff again this season and being challenged and inspired by my students!

Janine Welton

Field Instructor

Raised in Alberta and Washington’s Okanogan Valley, I was introduced to the wonders of physical exploration at a young age. I was lucky to have parents who took me skiing, biking, swimming, and paddling through the landscapes of my youth and my love of self-propelled activity, wild places and pika has only grown since. As a dual citizen, I’ve moved between Canada and the United States my entire life. I began attending the University of British Columbia in Vancouver after high school and spent a year on the north coast of BC where I learned to love rain and gigantic trees. Homesick for the Rocky Mountains, I moved to Missoula in 2013 to complete my B.Sc. in natural resource conservation. I’ve worked for land management agencies as a fire fighter, wilderness ranger, and guide. Instructing for the Montana Wilderness School has allowed me to combine my greatest passions: education and mountaineering. I’m looking forward to working with the supportive team of staff again this season and being challenged and inspired by my students!

Montana Wilderness School
P.O. Box 1183
Bozeman, MT 59771
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