Climbmax Mountain Guides

Climbing outdoors on the real rocks is a natural extension of the indoor activities offered at ClimbMax Climbing. With varied terrain, and stellar rock formations, Western North Carolina is a great place to take those first vertical steps, or expand upon your already developing skill set. ClimbMax Mountain Guides is a professional private guide service whose main purpose is to provide a great climbing experience, regardless of one’s experience level.

About Our Guides

climbing guidesTrained at the highest level, our guides have years and years of climbing AND guiding experience. We specialize in sharing our practiced skills to all persons regardless of their previous experience, age, or abilities.
ClimbMax Mountain Guides is a private guide service. We book only private parties, small groups, and individuals. This means that each outing is catered specifically to a client’s needs or abilities. This eliminates being shoved into a group with varied skills and different agendas. We will work closely with you and your party to figure out your mountain adventure needs.

Why choose a climbing guide?

There are many skills that go into being a qualified Mountain Guide. One must be proficient in technical skills, highly trained in wilderness protocols for Leave-No-Trace,  Wilderness First Aid, and where applicable, mountain and avalanche skills. That guide also has to be personable and able to articulate and share his knowledge in a way that all individuals can understand. Our guides at ClimbMax Mountain Guides meet all of these strong requirements and excel in the area of being personal and friendly. Each guide takes pride in the fact that they live in these mountains and each has a special way of sharing that love.



Mountain Climbing Guides

  • Provide a strong knowledge of the region and climbing routes they work in
  • Are familiar with the area’s weather patterns and can plan accordingly
  • Can select specific routes to meet the specific level of climbing needs for each individual
  • Are highly trained in wilderness first aid and advanced mountain skills
  • Can choose areas that are less crowded
  • Are highly trained in mountain rescue and rock face escapes
  • Can teach any aspect of their skill-set
  • Love to share their love of the mountains…that’s why they are guides in the first place!


Stuart M. Cowles  Senior Guide / owner    peru_36

  • AMGA Single Pitch Instructor
  • AMGA Climbing Wall Instructor/Provider
  • AMGA Alpine Guides Course
  • WMI Wilderness First Responder
  • AIARE’s avalanche 1

Stuart has been an outdoor educator and guide since the early 1980’s leading trips into the wilderness areas of Northern WI, MI, MN, and Canada.  It was these early days of wilderness travel and outdoor education that solidified Cowles’ passion for wilderness travel and exploration.  It was also here fighting off black bears and keeping track of all his campers that he also found his love for working with people in this setting.  In 1988 Cowles completed an entire Thru-Hike of the Appalachian Trail from Ga to ME.  Shortly afterwards he moved to Boulder Co. to be in the big mountains and find work in the outdoor industry.  His work for an innovative company called Wild Country USA helped Cowles renew his interest and define his love for rock and alpine climbing.  This position also took him to northern New Hampshire where he learned to suffer through long cold winters and swing the ice tools to the highest level of proficiency.  In 1992 Cowles moved to Asheville, NC with the dream of starting an indoor climbing gym.  Climbmax Climbing became one of the first indoor rock climbing facilities in the country.  It was here in 1993 that Cowles began furthering his education in these skill-sets with great mentors and courses from the American Mountaineering Guiding Assoc. (AMGA).  His pursuits for further education and adventure have allowed him to climb, mountaineer, and explore almost every corner of this great country as well as Canada, South America, and Europe seeking out great climbs, stellar lines, and the type of partnerships that can only be developed from tying into a rope with someone.  “My passions for adventure and sharing my love of that adventure have allowed me to hone my skills as a mountain climbing guide and has provided equally as rewarding experiences for my clients as for myself.” Stuart Cowles


Rick Wagner   Head Climbing Guide / Education Director   

  • AMGA Single Pitch Instructor / Provider in Training
  • AMGA Certified Rock Instructor
  • AIARE’s Avalanche 1 and 2 courses
  • WMI Wilderness First Responder

Hailing from Kentucky, Rick cut his teeth in the Red River Gorge and quickly developed a passion for climbing, particularly in the mountains. Climbing has taken him all over the states, including several trip to Alaska, as well as Europe, South America, and Mexico. Rick began working as a climbing instructor in 2010 after completing a B.S. in Natural Resource Conservation and Management at the University of Kentucky and taking his AMGA Single Pitch Instructor Course. He worked in the Red for 4 years prior to moving to North Carolina.  With a preference for the Alpine in his personal climbing Rick was awarded the Seth Holden Alaska Remote Exploration (SHARE) Grant for attempting first ascents in the eastern reaches of the Alaska range.  Rick also has much experience in the backcountry of Ontario and dabbles in other things such as flying small aircraft, skydiving, cycling, and SCUBA.


Jonathan Hyde  Climbing Guide

  • AMGA Single Pitch Instructor
  • WMI Wilderness First Responder

Originally from Texas, Jonathan has lived in Brevard for 8 years. After obtaining a degree in Wilderness Leadership from Brevard College in 2012, he started professionally guiding in Western North Carolina.  Jonathan holds current certifications as an AMGA Single Pitch Instructor, Wilderness First Responder, and Leave No Trace Trainer. He began his career in the outdoors with the Boy Scouts of America. An Eagle Scout, Jonathan has worked in High Adventure programs for various summer camps across the nation since he was 15.  He has since managed multiple summer climbing programs for the Boy Scouts and is currently also a director of climbing at a local Transylvania County summer camp.  Jonathan is always focused on expanding his knowledge of the area and exploring all that it has to offer.


Mike Reardon  Climbing Guide

  • AMGA Single Pitch Instructor
  • WMI Wilderness First Aid

Mike started climbing in the Western North Carolina region in the early 2000’s. As a new climber to the region, I became equally as interested in the community of climbers as I did with the rock. In 2010, I became a board member of the Carolina Climbers Coalition (CCC), a non-profit that works to expand, preserve, and enhance climbing in the Carolinas and beyond. With the CCC, I learned the importance of protecting areas you love and the importance of sharing those areas with others. As a climbing guide for nearly 10 years, I have seen that when people are shown why they should love a place, they are much more apt to protect and care for it. I have co-authored three regional climbing guidebooks that are sold nationally through Ground Up Publishing. I also have two children, Zinnea and Jack, and a lovely wife, Alesha, who often join me for long walks through rhododendron choked brier thickets in search of stone. I hope you’ll join us as well! 

Will Black  Climbing Guide

  • AMGA Single Pitch Instructor
  • WMI Wilderness First Aid
  • USA Climbing Route Setter Level 1

Will grew up in Boone, North Carolina where he started backpacking at an early age. Will started climbing after graduating high school, and has since taken extended climbing trips to Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, South Dakota, California, and Nevada, as well as many days exploring the great climbing in Western North Carolina. Will has been employed at Climbmax since 2012 and has filled various roles including after-school instructor, team coach, desk employee, and manager during that time.


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