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Alumni Spotlight: Robert Jantzen's journey to the top

Alumni Spotlight: Robert Jantzen graduated from Newton High School in 2007 before taking on some of the highest peaks on the planet.

"I've realized that I was very lucky to have had numerous teachers at NHS who cared deeply about imparting knowledge and life skills to their students while supporting and encouraging each student to become their own version of a successful adult,” Jantzen shared.

Among the influential educators at NHS were Nora Kelting (French), Grant Scott (History/Scholars Bowl Coach), Mr. Kelting (Scholars Bowl Coach), Mr. Glann (History), Mr. Epp (Biology), and Mrs. Didier (Anatomy and Physiology). These mentors instilled in Robert a high expectation for academic achievement and a willingness to support individual students in reaching those lofty goals.

Before graduating from NHS, Jantzen had a clear vision of his future as a mountain guide.

Within a week of walking across the graduation stage, he found himself in Wyoming on a 28-day backpacking course with the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS). To help fund this trip, he worked washing dishes at Newton Medical Center and later paying back a loan from his parents by working construction around town during the summer months.

The years following high school, Robert built his outdoor and mountaineering skills through experiences. He worked construction in Newton, raft-guided in California, and explored the Grand Canyon while obtaining his Wilderness First Responder (WFR) certification. Robert also spent summers guiding sea kayaking tours in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, always staying close to the mountains he loved.

In 2009, Robert moved to Olympia, Washington, to attend Evergreen State College. The college's alternative coursework structure allowed him to focus on his interests in biology and outdoor leadership. During his college years, Robert continued to climb, guide, and develop his skills. He even took a year off to gain residency in Washington, working at REI and reviving the Evergreen Outdoor Program.

After obtaining a BS in Evolutionary Biology and a BA in Outdoor Leadership from Evergreen in 2014, Robert's journey in the professional climbing industry truly took off. He joined International Mountain Guides (IMG), where he spent seven Rainier seasons guiding on Mount Rainier, Mount Baker, and throughout the Washington Cascades. His dedication led him to a role as the IMG Rainier Operations Manager for two years before returning to guiding full-time.

In 2020, Robert faced new challenges, marked by the impact of COVID-19, changes in company ownership and a desire for more international guiding opportunities. He joined Climbing the Seven Summits (CTSS), a smaller but rapidly recognized guide company. Over the past few years, Robert has become one of their go-to guides, guiding peaks such as Vinson Massif (Antarctica), Ecuador Volcanoes, Mt. Everest, and many others.

Reflecting on his adventurous lifestyle, Robert emphasizes the importance of balance.

"In between climbs, I live about 45 minutes outside of Seattle in a small cabin with my partner, Caya. When I'm home, I do some office projects for CTSS and use my home shop to build infrastructure we need at base camps around the world. In my free time, I try to spend as much time as possible with my partner and enjoy woodworking projects in my home shop,” Robert said.

Right now, he’s working on tweaking a heater system that uses jet-A as fuel to work at Everest Basecamp. Robert adds, the high altitude of camp (17,400ft) makes getting the combustion correct a tricky process.

From Newton High School to the summits of the world, thank you for sharing your journey with us, Robert! #RailerPride