Phoenix Chapter

Meet your Section Co-Chairs:

Ilan Berko, also known as Eli, began looking for something challenging in his late 30's after accomplishing his career goals. On a whim, he and his buddies hired guides and climbed Mt. Shuksan in the Northern Cascades. After a great time, he decided to go deeper in the rabbit hole by learning how to ice climb. He was hooked and decided to fully commit to a life of climbing. In a few short years, he has filled his life with numerous alpine ascents including trad, sport, and ice. Testing the boundaries between passion and obsession, he balances his climbing life with his day job and a wife and three kids residing in Phoenix, Arizona.


Ben Watson was born in Chandler, AZ. Ben grew up in a desert landscape with a knack for building things and observing systems, be it man-made or from the natural world. This curiosity for understanding the world propelled him into the field of mechanical engineering. Once the rigors of grad school subsided, he started working in the aerospace industry and began rediscovering his passion for the outdoors. Despite his desert roots, he pursues a love-hate relationship with the alpine environment, relishing in the suffering it takes to climb snow-capped peaks and glaciated ranges in mixed conditions. He has maintained annual visits to Mt. Rainier since 2011, with the intent of climbing its variety of routes among its many aspects. His studies have shown that climbing provides the much-needed balance to stressful work weeks.