Here at The Northwest Passage we are very proud of our family of adventure guides and instructors. And why shouldn't we? Our personable and professional guides love to share their passion for seeking adventure in the outdoors.

We select our guides for their experience, attention to detail, safety consciousness, dedication to positive group experiences and in depth knowledge of the trip activities and destination.

They hold certification in Wilderness First Aid as well as appropriate certifications and/or awards in their area of expertise.

Our guides and instructors have honed their skills all over the world, and are passionate about sharing their knowledge and experience with you!

Rick Sweitzer ~ Founder, Adventure Visionary, Guide

Rick makes adventure dreams a reality by making it a way of life not just a goal. After 35+ years of having left no corner of the globe untouched, and continuing to explore, Rick shares his love of adventure with an uncanny knack for “spinning the fun meter.”

The Northwest Passage grew out of Rick’s natural drive to find the most desirable and pristine adventure locations. Rick is skilled at crafting intimate, off-the-beaten path itineraries that consist of breath-taking sunset views.


Keith Heger ~ Program Director, Guide & Instructor

Growing up on Lake Michigan, Keith continues to search the horizon for something that will help him define the unknown. Keith has explored North, South, and Central America, Western Europe, the Mediterranean, Antarctica, and the Arctic.

Always working hard Keith has gained skills in wilderness travel, group dynamics, and leadership. Skills such as sea kayaking, white water kayaking, rafting, and so much more. Fueling the passion is the reward of introducing people to the unknown.

Taylor Sweitzer Guide & Instructor

I have been extremely fortunate to grow up in an adventurous family that exposed me to the wonders and beauty of the outdoor community since day 1. Throughout the years, my passion has blossomed to encompass several different outdoor disciplines and I have found myself guiding a variety of trips all around the world.

The Northwest Passage has provided me with the unique opportunity to pursue the important places, the moments in time that help to make life rich and to share the delicacy of it all with the world. 

Annie Aggens Director of PolarExplorers, Guide & Instructor

As Director of Polar Expeditions for The Northwest Passage, Annie has led many expeditions throughout the US & Northern Canada including backpacking, canoeing, and sea kayaking adventures. Annie’s broad experience makes her a valuable resource.

Annie regularly lectures on organizing Polar expeditions, paddling expeditions, adventure travel, and the history of Arctic exploration. In 2003, Annie co-authored The Encyclopedia of Outdoor and Wilderness Skills (McGraw-Hill). Annie’s passion for the outdoors remains contagious.


Chris Paustian ~ Guide & Instructor

I’ve enjoyed many moments of wonder and amazement at the natural world over the course of my guiding career. More valuable to me though are people I’ve met and relationships built in the wild and beautiful corners of our planet.

To share experiences with those who choose to explore and appreciate the wild, less-traveled and soul enriching places that The Northwest Passage ventures is a dearly held privilege of mine.

Andrew Leary ~ Guide & Instructor

As the Greece Kayaking Guide and Lead Climbing Guide for The Northwest Passage, Andrew has worked professionally in the outdoors since 2005. Doing everything from guiding urban youth in Chicago, ski patrol and avalanche mitigation in Utah, to working numerous collegiate outdoor programs.

Andrew is a certified Wilderness EMT and ACCT Challenge Course Manager whose passion runs deep for rock climbing, backcountry skiing, and board games. 

Elena Arrigo ~ Guide & Instructor

After finding The Northwest Passage in 2008, Elena is now an ACA certified kayak instructor that enjoys backpacking, rock climbing, canoeing, and kayaking. When Elena is not working as an editor, she leads kayaking trips in the Midwest and Europe. 

I didn't discover camping or adventure travel until after college when I headed west to Colorado to taste the mountains. My favorite Passage trips to lead are week-long trips in Greece, whether it is Crete, Santorini, or Milos. 

Eric Lillstrom ~ Assistant Polar Program Director, Guide & Instructor

Eric came to The Northwest Passage with an extensive, well-rounded background in a wide variety of outdoor skills with an emphasis on aquatics. Over the years Eric specialized in teaching aquatics skills to young people and adults.

As an avid backpacker, bow-hunter, and fisherman, Eric also enjoys scuba, trail riding, and all winter sports. His advice is, “Take every opportunity offered to enjoy nature. Experiencing the outdoors is what keeps us grounded and allows us to appreciate our day-to-day lives.”