Instructors


Mountain Skills believes that continuous education for its guides is paramount. Our employees are American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA) certified instructors, New York State licensed guides, First Aid, CPR certified, and as Leave No Trace trainers. We also hold regular training for our guides so they stay up-to-date on company policies and new methods for client care and coordination – we want to ensure that each one of our instructors provides you with a memorable and enjoyable experience!

Moreover, we are committed to our community. Our instructors actively support efforts to open more climbing opportunities in theMinnewaska State Park Preserve by participating in rare plant and animal studies and assisting in the removal of invasive species. We also sponsor DOT Adopt-A-Highway projects, and train yearly with NYS DEC and Mohonk Preserve rangers on High Angle Rescue.

Mountain Skills Climbing Guides are true Gunkies: most of us live locally and climb daily in our beloved Shawangunk and Catskill Mountains.

Doug Ferguson

Douginstructor_RI_B&WDoug Ferguson discovered climbing in 1997 while living in Boulder, Colorado and has owned and operated Mountain Skills Climbing Guides since 2008. In 2002, he began guiding and climbing full time at the New River Gorge in West Virginia. Doug has climbed extensively throughout the United States, largely in the southeast (North Carolina, West Virginia and Tennessee) and since moving to New England, in the Adirondacks, the Gunks and the White and Green Mountains.

His climbing and mountaineering educational background consists of: Certified AMGA Rock Instructor, AMGA Alpine Guides Course, AMGA Advanced Rock Guides Course, AMGA Ice Instructor Course, AMGA Single Pitch Instructor, AMGA Top Rope Site Manager, AMGA Climbing Wall Instructor Provider, AMGA SPI Provider , Wilderness First Responder training, Leave No Trace Master Trainer, AIARE Level 2 Avalanche, National Ski Patrol Level 1& 2 Avalanche Safety, New York State Licensed Rock, Ice, Hiking, Camping Guide, and Hudson Valley Mountain Rescue Volunteer.

Doug loves volunteering with the NYC Adaptive Climbing Clinic helping to teach rock climbing to people with physical disabilities at Brooklyn Boulders.  He guides with Exum Mountain Guides in the Tetons, WY during the summer months.  Doug was formerly on the Board of Directors for the Gunks Climbers Coalition, an advocacy group dedicated to creating and maintaining sustainable opportunities for responsible climbing along the Shawangunk Ridge and surrounding areas.

A Michigan native, Doug’s fascination with the mountains and the outdoors began with a competitive skiing career in high school. With a background in art and design, Doug paints with oil color full time and creates rustic furniture, mostly from pieces of wood chopped down from his neighbor’s backyard. You can view Doug’s paintings and other art work at www.dougfergusonpainting.com

Chuck Boyd

Chuckinstructor_RI_B&WChuck Boyd has 25+ years of climbing experience around the world. He has climbed Mt. Everest and attempted other 8000 meter peaks (K2 and Broad Peak). He has also had first ascents on Shipton Spire in Pakistan (1996) and the East Face of Cayash in Cordillera Blanca, Peru (1983).

Chuck’s impressive list of certifications include: American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA) Certified Rock Instructor, American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA) Single Pitch Instructor, American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA) Climbing Wall Instructor Provider, American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA) Ice Instructor Course, Professional Ski Instructors of America (PSIA) Nordic Downhill Instructor, National Ski Patrol Level II Avalanche Instructor Trainer, American Avalanche Association Member, Graduate National Avalanche School, National Ski Patrol Senior Alpine Patroller, National Ski Patrol Senior Nordic Patroller.

Chuck also teaches avalanche courses during the winter months and owns Vertical Realms, which predominately operates at Ragged Mountain in Connecticut.

Dustin Portzline

Dustindiscipline_rock_B&WAfter several years and countless days of climbing in the Gunks, Dustin Portzline finally made the move from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania to New Paltz in Fall 2010. He brings with him the experience of two summers as a climbing instructor at Falling Creek Camp in North Carolina as well as many lengthy road trips sampling a diversity of American rock. Dustin strongly believes that climbing is the most spectacular way to experience our natural world, and is perpetually excited to share his love of the sport with others. His favorite areas to climb include the High Sierra, Red Rocks, Western North Carolina and, of course, the Gunks.

Dustin is a certified AMGA Rock Guide, AMGA Ice Instructor Course, AMGA Alpine Guides Course, certified Leave No Trace Trainer, a licensed New York State Rock and Ice Guide, a Wilderness First Responder, AIARE Level I&II Avalanche, and a graduate of Penn State University with a B.A. in Environmental Studies. When not squeezing in a few more pitches, Dustin claims he is working on a naturalist’s guide to the Shawangunk Ridge.

Brendan Mealia

Brendaninstructor_SPI_B&WBrendan Mealia has been climbing since 1994. Though he is a staunch advocate of the traditional climbing style that the Gunks demand, Brendan also enjoys sport climbing and bouldering. He has climbed across the country: New Hampshire, New York’s Adirondacks, West Virginia, Kentucky, North Carolina, Georgia, Texas, Utah, Arizona, Nevada, Montana, and California. Brendan also loves skiing and playing music, and in winter he has lived in the Southern US and out in Big Sky, Montana.

Brendan is a licensed New York State Rock and Ice Guide, certified AMGA SPI and a Leave No Trace Trainer.

Mark Folsom

MarkMark has lived in the Hudson Valley and climbed in the Gunks since 1999. While living in New Hampshire, he climbed many peaks in the White Mountains, Catskills and Adirondacks. Mark has climbed in Joshua Tree in California, many routes at Red Rocks in Nevada, and Red River Gorge in Kentucky. In winter, Mark enjoys back-country skiing, snowshoeing and trips to warmer destinations. He is also an avid caver who has explored and mapped caves throughout the United States and in several foreign countries. Mark studies natural sciences including geography, ecology and geology. A volunteer with several regional, non-profit and state climbing-related agencies, Mark supports protection of nature as well as climbing resources.

Mark’s training includes: certified AMGA Rock Instructor, certified AMGA Single Pitch Instructor, licensed New York State Rock Guide, Wilderness First Responder, Hudson Valley Mountain Rescue member, Cave Rescue Certified and a Leave No Trace Trainer.

Steve Bittner

image1instructor_SPI_B&WFor as long as he can remember, Stephen has felt a profound love for the outdoors. For years, his free time was spent hiking and backpacking, visiting amazing places across the Northeast, Southwest, Alaska and beyond. But it wasn’t until his first year at university, pursuing a degree in Environmental Humanities, that his love for climbing began. A single day and a few short pitches were all it took for Stephen to know that he needed climbing in his life. The years since have been spent climbing rock and ice throughout the Northeast, appreciating all the incredible venues the region has to offer.

A bit of a black sheep in the Gunks, Stephen loves crack climbing. And, to him, the only thing better than sinking a good jam is watching someone else sink one for the first time. He quickly realized that he enjoys instructing new climbers just as much as he enjoys climbing, so the decision to become a guide was an easy one. Watching people fall in love with the sport while appreciating the beauty of the natural world is about as good as it gets for him.

Stephen is an certified AMGA Single Pitch Instructor, AMGA Rock Guide Course, SOLO Wilderness First Responder, and a New York State Rock, Hiking, and Camping Guide.

Les Owen

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Les has been rock climbing for 16 years. A former resident of Brooklyn, New York, he called the Gunks his home crag before moving to Boston 9 years ago. He has climbed extensively in the Gunks and New Hampshire, and at crags and mountains in Connecticut, North Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, Colorado, Washington, Wyoming and California. He is a veteran of the United States Navy, holds AMGA Rock Instructor and Single Pitch Instructor certifications, is a licensed Tier 1 New York Rock and Ice Guide, and is a certified Wilderness First Responder. He loves to share his love and passion for the sport that has given him so much.

Derreck Anderson

Derrek’s initiation into the world of climbing took place at the small crags in Bolton while
attending college at the University of Vermont in Burlington. He quickly became captivated with the sense of freedom and balance climbing can provide, and has been climbing rock and ice ever since. He has had the opportunity to climb and guide in some of the best areas in the country, including Red Rock, Joshua Tree, the Wind River Range, Pacific Northwest and all over the Northeast.

Derrek has been working as a climbing instructor for almost ten years, and has instructed for private companies as well as school programs like NOLS and the Middlebury College Outdoor Program. He is an AMGA certified Rock Instructor, Single Pitch Instructor, Wilderness First Responder, Leave No Trace Provider, and has taken AIARE Level 1. He has also spent time as a Board member and Vice President of the CragVT local Access Group, and feels a deep responsibility to protect the natural resource which we all love and use.

He and his family have recently relocated to New York from Vermont (one of the most underrated climbing states!), which is not a huge change but one that will allow more time exploring the cliffs of the Adirondacks and the Gunks. When not climbing, Derrek spends time with his family and dog, traveling whenever the opportunity arises.

Anyssa Lucena

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instructor_SPI_B&WAnyssa has always loved the outdoors, and fell instantly in love with climbing in 1995 during a kayaking trip in Maine that included a day of rock climbing.  Since then she has climbed in New York, New Hampshire, Nevada, Colorado, Canadian Rockies, Kentucky, California, Mexico and Chamonix.  She is also allured by the the challenge of the alpine world and has summited peaks including the Eiger and the Matterhorn.  She is a firm believer that nature is the perfect way to learn about yourself, heal your soul, and develop ways to grow inside.  When Anyssa is not guiding, she owns Genuine Self Wellness, a fitness and nutrition boutique where she is a personal trainer, health coach, and teaches rowing and climbing classes.  Anyssa is a licensed New York State Rock, Ice, Hiking and Camping Guide.  She also holds several health and fitness certifications including Gym Jones Level II, Russian Kettlebell Certified Instructor, Concept2 Rowing Instructor, NASM Personal Trainer, and Board Certified Holistic Health Practitioner.  Anyssa is a mother of three kids ages 10, 8 and 6, and understands the delicate balance of raising a family and following personal dreams.  She hopes one day they will collide when she and her son climb a big wall in Yosemite.

Jeremy Haas

Jeremyinstructor_RI_B&WThough well-traveled in the western climbing arenas, Jeremy is happiest when clinging to the side of a cliff in New York State. A Gunks climber and Catskill ice climber since 1989, Jeremy grew up in the gorges of Ithaca and recently co-wrote and published Adirondack Rock: A Rock Climber’s Guide. He has been guiding rock, ice, alpine ascents and backcountry skiing since 2002, and finds that the personalized instruction of guiding is the best way for a client to get immediate feedback and quickly improve their skill set.

Jeremy is a certified AMGA Rock Instructor, AMGA Single-Pitch Instructor, AMGA Rock Guide Course graduate, NYS licensed Rock and Ice Climbing Guide, former Emergency Medical Technician, and is Level II Avalanche certified. He credits his enormous amount of patience to his job as a high school science teacher.

Jeff Ruiz

From the Shawanagunk Ridge to Yosemite Valley, Jeff feels the most alive when he’s on the side of the cliff.  His climbing interest was first piqued after seeing images of climbers tackling iconic Gunks roofs and realizing they were a stone’s throw away from his home in New York City.  Since then he’s been a dedicated student and teacher of the traditional climbing ethic of the area.  Jeff also has an appetite for aid climbing and refining big wall techniques for future objectives out west.

Jeff is a certified AMGA Single Pitch Instructor; Wilderness First Responder; and NYS Licensed Rock, Ice, Hiking, and Camping Guide.

Tim Lyons

Tim began climbing at an indoor bouldering gym in upstate New York in 2011. Later that year he began climbing outside; trad climbing quickly became an obsession.  He began climbing on slab and cracks that are prevalent in the Adirondack Park as often as possible.  Now, Tim enjoys pushing his physical and mental abilities in the Gunks.  In his spare, time Tim enjoys cycling in New York City where he teaches a high school engineering course.  Tim is a certified American Mountain Guide Association Single Pitch Instructor as well as a licensed New York State Rock Climbing Guide.  Most of all, Tim enjoys sharing his love of rock climbing with others.

Ryan Stefiuk

Ryandiscipline_rock_B&WBorn and raised in New Jersey, a land of endless suburbia, Ryan Stefiuk somehow developed a love of the outdoors at a very young age. He discovered climbing towards the end of high school and has been hopelessly addicted ever since. For nearly a decade, Ryan was semi-itinerant and climbed all over the country. A resident of Northampton, Massachusetts, he is now strategically located just a short drive away from some of the best climbing in New England and New York.

As a climber, Ryan has chosen to focus his energy on long rock and ice routes and hard mixed climbing in the Northeast. Ryan has climbed extensively throughout the United States and Canada and is responsible for much of the modern mixed route development currently taking place in the Catskill Mountain region.

Ryan is an AMGA Certified Rock Guide, AMGA Single Pitch Instructor Course provider, Wilderness First Responder, NY State licensed Rock and Ice Guide, and has taken the AMGA Advanced Alpine Guides Course, AMGA Ice Instructor Course and AIARE Level I and II courses. Ryan also writes Bigfoot Mountain Guides, a blog about climbing and guiding in the Northeast.

Dan Cooper

unnamedinstructor_SPI_B&WA Utah native, Dan grew up climbing rock and ice and skiing in the Wasatch Mountains.  Some twenty years later, after countless seasons pursuing his passions in Alaska, Montana, Idaho, and more, he discovered the staggering proportions of the Gunks during graduate school, and his rock climbing has never been the same since.  He believes there is climbing, and then there is Gunks-climbing—a full mental shift above the rest.
Adventure of all sort inspires Dan, but he is never more at home than when cragging with friends, or on a glacier far from any conveniences, skinning around in the sun in search of that perfect line to ski.
When not guiding, Dan shares his passions through a program in NYC he helps to run that partners with schools to get underserved youth outside to hike, kayak, rock climb, and more.
He is a certified AMGA Single Pitch Instructor, AMGA Rock Guide Course, NYS Licensed Guide, Wilderness First Responder, and Avalanche I certification.

Dan Wiwczar

Dan1Minstructor_SPI_B&Woving to New Paltz in 2004 to attend SUNY New Paltz, Dan found an incredible opportunity to expand his passion for the outdoors, learn new skills, and climb in one of the best areas on the planet, the Gunks. After graduating with a Bachelors Degree from New Paltz and serving 8 years as an Infantryman in the Army, he enjoys sharing his knowledge and building his mountaineering skills in the Northeast, Colorado, and the Pacific Northwest, training for future expeditions to Alaska.

As the Northeast Program Director for Veterans Expeditions (www.vetexpeditions.com), a non-profit aimed to get our returning veterans outdoors to overcome the challenges associated with military service, he volunteers his time running trips throughout the Northeast and across the country, providing leadership opportunities and building community for our returning veterans.

Dan is a certified AMGA Single Pitch Instructor, and NYS Licensed Rock, Ice, Hiking, and Camping Guide.