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Don Nguyen    

Founder of Climbers of Color & Mountain Guide

Don Nguyen is a first-generation Vietnamese-American and founder of Climbers of Color, where he and his associates provide supportive mentorship, technical training and access to key resources including gear and scholarships to help close the adventure gap. His parents were refugees of the Vietnam War, and his ancestors fought against the nation and culture of people that invented mountaineering, the French who are still the leaders of it today. Nguyen is one of few outliers in the mountain guiding industry that in the U.S. would be described as majority Caucasian male.

Among many other reasons, the historical events in POC and marginalized community history plays a big part in why the mountains and crags are less diverse than the population of this country, otherwise known as the adventure gap. Seeing these colonial parallels across many people's history beyond the Vietnamese is what inspired Nguyen to help found Climbers of Color, a Washington State non-profit established in 2017 that aims to promote diversity, equity and inclusion in the climbing and mountaineering community by developing leaders of color. The mountaineering community is modeled upon a mentor-mentee approach to pass on knowledge from one generation to the next, making it exceedingly difficult for people of color to start climbing. Instead of someone spending their entire career trying to catch up, Nguyen's program prepares outdoor leaders from grassroots diversity and inclusion organizations to be successful within their current leadership roles as outdoor guides and educators. Nguyen defines success as this: "I’m going to train the mentors so they can mentor someone else."

Nguyen was also a contestant in 2015 on the Reality TV show “Naked and Afraid” in Namibia.


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Don Nguyen’s first commercial guiding trip out of Mt. Rainier did not go as planned. Midway up the mountain a slow moving client stopped suddenly in his tracks while clutching his chest in pain. He was having a heart attack. It was Nguyen’s first time in charge of a rope team on Rainier and one of his clients was in serious danger of dying.

Climbers of Color Brings Diversity to the High Alpine

A black man, a Mexican American woman, and a Filipino American man walked into a park. On a gloomy April afternoon in Seattle, they’d been given a set of coordinates and were instructed to find each one, in sequence, using their maps, compasses, GPS apps on their mobile phones, and, on occasion, their wiles.

Voices Heard | Changing The Face of Mountaineering

With just three days left in his 23-day, reality television ordeal, Don Nguyen was the very embodiment of the show’s title, “Naked and Afraid.” Cold rain and winds pounded and compromised his primitive shelter in the Namibian wilderness.

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