About Kathy & Mark

UIAGM / IFMGA Mountain Guides
UIAGM Internationally Certified

SNGM members
Syndicat National des Guides de Montagne (France)

AMGA Certified Guides
Alpine & Rock
& Ski Mountaineering
Kathy on the Black Dike


"If I think about all the guides I've climbed with over the past 12 years, I can't think of two nicer people I'd rather go climbing with."

Danny Klima

Peru 1995


"I am spoiled. Why would I climb with anyone else? Mark and Kathy provide well planned, but not rigid trips; to exciting parts of the world; to hike and climb at a vigorous, but not forced pace; at a high standard, but with extraordinary competence and safety. They work with interesting local people, and because Mark and Kathy are such good people themselves, living together as a close team for the duration of trip is always a pleasure."

Bill Rossbach

Peru 1996, 2003 and 2004

Kathy and Mark awarded 2005
"Guide(s) of the Year"
by the American Mountain Guides Association

At a ceremony in October in Brevard, North Carolina, the AMGA has very kindly and generously awarded us this honor, sending us these nice shiny medals "...in recognition of our hard work and dedication to the guiding community and in celebration of our recent publication on Alpine climbing." Thank you AMGA!


A bit of history

On the summit of the Zumsteinspitze, 1999

We are Kathy Cosley and Mark Houston. We've been guiding professionally for over 35 years. We began climbing together in 1978, and were married in 1986. We're still married and still climbing together after all these years.

Mark first began climbing at age 15, on the crags and peaks of the Cascades near his home in Bellevue, Washington. Two exceptional high school teachers, Ira Kalet and Bruce Sherman, taught him the basics of climbing and protection techniques.

Later, while at Western Washington University in Bellingham, he paired up with other partners, including eventually Kathy, to climb throughout the Cascades and Coast Range of British Columbia, and elsewhere.

Together, we began exploring climbing areas further afield: Yosemite; the frozen waterfalls of the Canadian Rockies; the Bugaboos and Selkirks of British Columbia; the Shawangunks of New York and Seneca Rocks in W. Virginia; Utah sandstone; the Red Rocks of Nevada, the Alps of France and Switzerland, Denali and the Alaska Range.

On the summit of Cerro Torre, February 1988
On the summit of the World, 1957

In 1981 Mark began guiding with the American Alpine Institute of Bellingham, Washington, and Kathy began guiding with AAI the following year. Our work with AAI took us to South America, Alaska, Nepal and the Alps, as well as throughout the Cascades. This was an invaluable opportunity for us to gain an enormous amount of guiding experience throughout the world.

Recently, we have also worked for a number of other guide services. These include;

Kathy received her B.A. in French Language and Literature in 1985. 1987 and 1988 were busy years for Kathy, not only did she complete her Master's degree in Romance Linguistics from the University of Washington, but she also became the first American woman to climb either the Eiger's North Face or Patagonia's Cerro Torre. After a year of teaching French and Spanish at the Robert Louis Stevenson School in Pebble Beach, California, she decided to devote her energies to making guiding her life's career. She has been guiding full time, on her own, with Mark and with others, since 1989.

The American Mountain Guides Association

In 1986 we became members of the American Professional Mountain Guides' Association (now the American Mountain Guides Association, AMGA). Our involvement with this organization has helped us develop valuable relationships with guides in other parts of the country and the world. It has also helped us to deepen our understanding of our profession, and to learn a great deal about how we can do our job better, and continue to develop our skills and opportunities.

Kathy received her AMGA Rock Guide's certification in 1990 and her Alpine Guide's certification in 1991. Kathy was the first guide, of any sex, to be both Alpine and Rock certified by the AMGA. Mark became rock certified in 1993 and alpine certified in 1991. Mark received his Ski Mountaineering Guide certification in 1997 and Kathy in 1998.

Because Kathy and Mark have received all three certifications of Alpine, Rock and Ski Mountaineering, they are now fully qualified UIAGM Mountain Guides. This certification is the only guiding certification which is internationally recognized. UIAGM Mountain Guide status allows them to be welcomed as a guide in other UIAGM member countries, including most of Europe, Canada, New Zealand, and Peru. For a clomplete listing of UIAGM guides in the US see the AMGA's roster of UIAGM Mountain Guides.

The French Guides Association (Syndicat National des Guides de Montagne)

In 2006 we joined the Syndicat National des Guides de Montagne. This was all part of our slow but seemingly inexorable "move to France". Actually the entire process of becoming legal, obtaining our resident status, and joining the guides association has been at once rewarding, educational and quite a challenge.

Kathy Cosley & Mark Houston

  • UIAGM Certified Mountain Guides
  • SNGM Members
  • AMGA Certified Rock Guides
  • AMGA Certified Alpine Guides
  • AMGA Certified Ski Mountaineering Guides
  • Wilderness First Responder Certified
  • Level III Avalanche Trained


Cosley & Houston Alpine Guides

In the fall of 1994 we began our own guide service, in order to concentrate on those types of guiding and those aspects of the job which we most enjoy. Click here to go to Cosley & Houston Alpine Guides, philosophy.

Our Book

In 2000 or so, and old friend, Peter Lewis contacted us to see if we were interested in writing a book for The Mountaineers Books' "Outdoor Expert Series" on alpine climbing. We'll after lots of work it is done. I doubt it will make us famous, but it was a good and educational experience.

"Alpine Climbing: Techniques to Take You Higher" should be on the shelves starting about December, 2004.

Professional Activities

  • We both are active members of the American Mountain Guides' Association.
  • Mark is past President as well as past Technical Director of the AMGA.
  • Kathy is a past director on the AMGA Board of Directors.
  • Mark served as a certification examiner and instructor in both the rock and alpine disciplines.
  • Kathy served as an instructor on AMGA Rock Training Program.

International Federation of Mountain Guide Associations

The AMGA is a fully qualified member in the International Federation of Mountain Guides Associations (IFMGA, also known by its French acronym, the UIAGM). Mark has served as a representative of the AMGA, attending annual IFMGA meetings on behalf of the United States, from about 1992 to 1998. Click here for more information on the IFMGA from our How to Choose a Guide page.

Kathy and Mark are two of only about 150 American IFMGA qualified Mountain Guides to be certified by the American Mountain Guides Association. See the web site of the AMGA at www.amga.com for a listing of UIAGM Mountain Guides.

Representative ascents and ski tours we have guided

  • Nepal: Kyajo Ri, Ama Dablam and other peaks in the Khumbu and Annapurna areas.
  • Mt. Kenya: the South Face Normal Route as well as the North Face Standard Route.;
  • Kilimanjaro: the Great Western Breach route;
  • Aiguille du Midi: Frendo Spur
  • Eiger: the Mittellegi Ridge;
  • Mönch: Nollen Route
  • Weisshorn: East Ridge
  • Dent Blanche: South Ridge
  • Matterhorn: the Hörnli Ridge
  • Mont Blanc: various routes including the traverse from the Aiguille du Midi, the Grands Mulets and the Gouter;
  • Mounts Cook, Tasman and Aspiring in New Zealand, and other peaks as well.
  • Denali: numerous successful ascents of the West Buttress route;
  • Alaska's St. Elias Range: several first ascents on the Bagley Ice Field;
  • Aconcagua: the Polish Glacier and the Normal Route, several ascents;
  • Ecuador: countless ascents including Cayambe, Cotopaxi, Antisana, Illiniza Norte and Sur, El Altar, and Chimborazo;
  • Peru: several successful expeditions to Huascarán and Alpamayo's Southwest Face in the Cordillera Blanca, and additional expeditions to Yerupaja and Salkantay;
  • Bolivia: several expeditions to the Cordillera Real including ascents of Illampu, Illimani, Huayna Potosí, Condoriri and neighboring peaks, Chachacomani and others.
  • Cascades and Sierra: Closer to home, we have guided innumerable ascents in our former home in the Cascades of Washington State, and our present home in the Eastern Sierra of California.
  • Skiing, we have guided the Chamonix-Zermatt Haute Route many, many times and ski tours and ascents in the Berner Oberland, the Ortler, the Ötztal, as well as numerous multi-day tours in the Sierra Nevada.

Representative ascents and ski tours we have done

  • Cerro Torre in Patagonia; Kathy was the 1st American woman to climb this peak;
  • Aconcagua's South Face: 43 hour ascent;
  • Huayna Potosí's West Face
  • Eiger North Face, Kathy was the 1st American woman to climb this route;
  • El Capitan: the Nose, the Shield and Zodiac routes;
  • Northwest Face of Half Dome;
  • Mt. Robson's North Face;
  • Canadian Rockies waterfalls Slipstream and Polar Circus, (Kathy was the 1st woman to climb this route);
  • Denali's Cassin Ridge;
  • Mont Blanc: the Innominata & Peuterey Ridges and Brenva Spur;
  • Traverse of the Chamonix Aiguilles
  • Les Drus: the Bonatti Pillar;
  • Grand Traverse on Mount Cook and Torres-Tasman Traverse in New Zealand.
  • Makalu, West Pillar: although neither of us summitted, we contributed to the success of this expedition which put Kitty Calhoun and John Schutt on the summit.

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