Who We Are

LAWT Staff


Chelsea Griffie – Executive Director, Founder

24756474_3vfe_f6dtAs a young woman, Chelsea dreamed of the mountains and going camping. However, she lived in suburban Chicago, and since her family was not accustomed to the wilderness, she was never given the opportunity to go out. As she grew up, she began rock climbing and went on backpacking trips as a means of getting to backcountry rock. She was soon hiking and climbing every weekend.

Chelsea moved to Yosemite in 2001 to 2004 to be close to the rock climbing Mecca. She worked as the Business Manager of Yosemite Guides. While there, she succeeded in becoming the first Afro-American woman to climb El Capitan in Yosemite in 2001.

From 2006 to 2011, Chelsea was the Program Director of Bay Area Wilderness Training (BAWT). Inspired by their vision, she brought the model to Los Angeles and thus founded LAWT.

Chelsea is featured in Black & Brown Faces in America’s Wild Places by Dudley Edmondson, a book about Afro American outdoors enthusiasts. Outside of her work for LAWT, Chelsea has co-led the Women of Color backpacking trip for the Balanced Rock Foundation since 2004. It remains the only trip of its kind in the country, and attracts participants from all corners of the country.  http://balancedrock.org/events/women-of-color-retreat-2015 (2016 dates will be up soon)

Chelsea is medically trained to the level of Wilderness First Responder (CPR-Professional Rescuer/Provider C).

Kelly Kay – Development Director

Like many young girls in America, my first experience raising money for a nonprofit organization was selling Girl Scout cookies. In high school, I had the opportunity to attend a leadership development camp organized by the National Conference for Community & Justice.  This experience was so meaningful to me that I became involved in their other youth development programs and interned in their office, stuffing envelopes for the direct mail campaign, amongst other administrative tasks.  I believe that this experience was instrumental in my decision to pursue a career in the nonprofit field.

Following two years a an elementary school teacher as part of the first cohort of the New York City Teaching Fellows program, I entered the nonprofit profession.  I have worked in in-house development and communications positions for organizations in the social service, educational, environmental, mental health and hunger fields. My mission is to help local, regional and national organizations increase their impact by raising valuable funds from individuals, foundations, corporations and government agencies.

Bethany Judson – Outreach Coordinator

Despite growing up near the Van Nuys Airport, Bethany nurtured a love for green things at an early age whether it treedbe climbing trees or exploring the creek near her grandparent’s house.

Moving up to Northern California to attend school at University of California, Davis only worked to strengthen her love for nature and exploring it. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Comparative Literature, Bethany had the privilege to backpack throughout Europe, India, and the US. The experience she gained from her travels, from being Program Director of non-profit radio station KDVS 90.3FM, and from her time in student advocacy combined with her personal history with social services and a desire to fix the system, ultimately lead her to LA Wilderness Training where she now works to get at-risk youth and children of color unplugged and out in to nature.

Hana Dinh – IT Manager

1471305_10152062613350435_1258809974_nHana has recently moved to the LA from Sydney, Australia and was shocked at the urbanization of the cities in America and how it has caused so much loss in the appreciation of the wilderness. She is an avid camper and hiker and is passionate about increasing awareness of the wilderness to city-dwellers to broaden their perspective.


Board of Directors

Katharine Mullen

kateKatharine Mullen holds a Ph.D in computational physics, an undergraduate degree in computer science, and firm to the idea that sleeping on the ground and climbing rocks puts our place in the scheme of things into perspective.

“Some will remember, no doubt, not only that they went to the college, but that they went to the mountain. Every visit to its summit would, as it were, generalize the particular information gained below, and subject it to more catholic tests.” –Thoreau

Liz Nagler

Originally froLiz Nagler photom metro-Detroit, Liz received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan in economics.  Since then, Liz has launched her career as a Product Manager in technology at the Walt Disney Company.  In her free time, Liz takes advantage of the mountainous landscape of Los Angeles, hiking nearly every day in the Verdugos and the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument. She enjoys leading her friends and coworkers on day hikes and backpacking trips, and ultimately wants to foster a conscientious in the wilderness community.

Russell Cowen

Russell grew up camping with his family, and brought his love of the outdoors to New Village Girls Academy, an all-girls high school he worked at for 8 years before transitioning to the Bay Area and a new role as Program Coordinator for Outward Bound California.

In his current role, Russell has been able to narrow his focus to his passion for providing opportunities to youth who are traditionally undeserved in the outdoors.

While thriving in the Bay Area, he sure does miss hiking regularly around the San Gabriels.

Kristian Solem

Kristian grew up in the outdoors, and began rock climbing at age twenty. Today, nearly 40 years later he is an active climber with a long list of b9c6f673063018c730baf8cb4076caa1accomplishments. While climbing is the thread of his life, Kristian has also enjoyed several interesting careers. After attending the Manhattan School of Music he worked in New York City and on tours throughout the U.S. and Canada playing trumpet with the Metropolitan Brass Quartet and the New York Pro Musica. After moving to Los Angeles in 1982 Kristian shifted gears, using his musical training to work as a music editor and sound engineer, eventually building a successful practice as a mastering engineer at L.A.’s prestigious Future Disc Systems. In 2006 Kristian decided to leave the music business and entered the Pilates Teacher / Trainer program at Core Conditioning in L.A. Two years later he was certified and working at that facility as a trainer and physical therapy aide when a sudden neurological crisis put his plans on hold. Several years of difficult treatment and recovery followed and today Kristian is back to his usual pursuits; rock climbing and hiking, as well as studying and teaching Pilates. You can keep up with Kristian’s activities and ideas at his website.

Clement Wong

Clement was born and raised in Los Angeles, loving the sunny So. Cal weather that none can compare. Growing up, he’s always been an adventurist/thrillist, always pushing his abilities to the limit; leading hiking excursions, mountain biking, mountain/wall cClement Kayaking Photolimbing, kayaking, sky diving, etc.  He also received a series of certificates and licenses: Motorcycle, SCUBA, Personal Trainer, and Lifeguard.

His first true outdoor experience was when he was around 10 years old at a Boys Club camp in Big Bear. A fire sparked and grew while learning how to create fire, use a bow and arrow, know which plants/insect/animals that are safe or dangerous, pitch and sleep in his own tent, and track animal footprints. As these joys have been put on the side burner, he still has the passion to share those experiences with others.

Working on the Board of LAWT has given him the opportunity to achieve some of his personal goals and to give back to the community. With his past experiences and knowledge, he hopes to continue building a stronger awareness of this organization and as an end result, bring more people to experience and learn of the many offers LAWT has to provide.

Aya Obara

Aya was born and raised in Southern California, and after living and working around the country and in Central America, is now back in Los Angeles working in project management for a health analytics company. She loves to car camp, travel, and pursue the completion of hiking all of the SoCal six pack of peaks with friends. A previous environmental educator, her passion continues to be in engaging the public to utilize and explore local outdoor spaces to aid in growing healthy and socially responsible communities.