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Does guiding suck?

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Does guiding suck?

Postby hikerbrian » Sat Sep 26, 2009 9:56 pm

I've only taken a "class" from one full on paid "guide" in my life, and he didn't seem all that thrilled to be teaching it. And last weekend in the Valley I came across a dude who was teaching a class, and in response to how he liked guiding, I heard him say, "It's better than pounding nails", but it didn't sound like he thought it was much better. So to all you guides out there, does guiding totally suck or what?

I used to think it sounded like the sweetest job ever, getting paid to do what we all love. But lately I've been thinking that if you have to make your living that way you probably don't make a lot of money, there's not exactly a ton of upward mobility (ironically), and I suspect it's harder to enjoy being out when it's your job. I've kind of been thinking it might be more fun to volunteer with some outdoors group (Sierra Club, AMC, local Alpine Club, something like that) and teach for free. Seems like it might be more rewarding. And I've taken LOTS of "classes" from these types of people (mostly 'cause I'm cheap and poor) and they seem to dig it and I've generally found the learning experience to be quite high quality. Experiences from those of you who teach in one format or the other? Or both?
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Re: Does guiding suck?

Postby ExcitableBoy » Sat Sep 26, 2009 10:07 pm

hikerbrian wrote: getting paid to do what we all love.


There is the big misconception. Guiding is much different than climbing. I tried my hand at guiding and did not like it.
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Postby ksolem » Sat Sep 26, 2009 10:07 pm

Some people are really cut out for the guiding gig and love it. I know guides who come back from a trip beaming, having imparted to another some aspect of the activity they love.

I tried guiding for a couple seasons many moons ago. I was a good, and motivated, and probably self centered climber and guiding just got in my way. But that is just me. You have to figure it out for yourself.

There is upward mobility if you are an elite climber/guide.

Guiding is changing a lot too. Now we have expensive multi level certs, etc. I climb a lot in Joshua Tree and know the community there. There are AMGA certified guides who can't lead Illusion Dweller, and there's guides who have worked there for years, have no certs but the WFR stuff, and can climb just about anything. Those guys get the good clients though.
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Postby peladoboton » Sat Sep 26, 2009 10:10 pm

the small amount of guiding i have done produced mixed experiences. it was primarily guiding rivers in central idaho, and when you have a great group of people and everyone is working together, it rocks. you really get to show people how cool some of your favorite spots on earth are, and they are usually way grateful.

on the flip side (and it can be WAAYY flipped, that flip side), it can suck when people are not having fun to begin with and when attitudes get harsh. the best is when a couple starts fighting and try to get you involved.

it takes a special person. period.
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Postby barrys » Sat Sep 26, 2009 10:53 pm

I'm not answering the original question because I've only had experience from the clint's side but I have spent more money on tuition and guides than I like to think about now. However, it was all well worth it. In Europe anyway, especially the Swiss guides, I've really only found guides who just wholeheartedly love being in the mountains and what I paid for was to pick their brains and absorb as much of their knowledge as I could and they seemed to enjoy taking part. Whether this is a well rehearsed act or not I don't know but I always tried to find out more about their profession from them and out of 6, 5 didn't like the insecurity of being a guide, the fact that their chosen career has a more limited lifespan than most leaving them where? and that the work was seasonal, most being ski guides too. The one exception to that happened to also be the president and boss of a very busy bureau des guides so I guess he has a bit less to worry about in the long run. So, from a client's point of view all my guides seemed to love their jobs, or were very good actors. Doesn't seem like it sucks over here.
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Re: Does guiding suck?

Postby hikerbrian » Sat Sep 26, 2009 11:17 pm

ExcitibleBoy wrote:
hikerbrian wrote: getting paid to do what we all love.


There is the big misconception. Guiding is much different than climbing.

Great point, didn't think about that. Painfully obvious now that I do.
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Postby JHH60 » Sat Sep 26, 2009 11:39 pm

I'm going to extrapolate here from my experience as a dive guide and would be interested to hear whether mountain guiding is similar. It probably matters a lot whether it's your only job or whether you are just doing it for fun (e.g., have retirement or private income, or a day job). I was a scuba instructor/guide for ten years in Monterey and I mostly enjoyed it but I wasn't doing it for the money since I had a day job that paid much better (though the pro deals on gear was nice). It was fun meeting new people and showing them something I loved. The 1 in 4 or so people who were psyched and actually going to ever dive again after whatever tropical vacation they were planning made up for the people who were trying to conquer their fear of water by taking diving (bad idea!), weren't even able to swim a lap in the pool without fins (also bad idea), or who expected you to be their lackey because they were paying you. I eventually quit because I got a family and wanted to spend my spare weekend time fun diving or climbing and not in a pool or classroom. The people I knew who did it full time mostly burned out in 2-5 years, although in some cases that was island fever as they had moved to a tropical location to dive all the time, and eventually got sick of living in an isolated place. The first time I guided a bunch of student divers in the ocean was the first time in 20 years I was scared in only 20' of water - stuff that's trivial for you becomes much more serious when eight other new people are relying on you to keep them from killing themselves.
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Postby cbcbd » Sun Sep 27, 2009 3:20 am

Most guides I have met, if they are not going the IFMGA route, eventually try to find some other source of income or just learn a new career that actually pays ok to well - teaching, nursing...
One of my friends guides full-time, is one exam away from his IFMGA, and is always looking to make some extra income here and there.

Ask yourself, are you ok living out of your truck for how long? ;)
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Postby jasonburton » Sun Sep 27, 2009 9:11 pm

To me:

Guiding is not for those who want to make their hobby into a career. It's not for those who love climbing and want to climb every waking moment. It is not for those who think that - because they can climb well and understand travel in technical terrain - they can thus impart that knowledge to others.

Guiding is for those who are passionate about others first, and then the activity of climbing second. It is for those who love to educate, love teaching, and are good at it. It is for those who are patient and don't mind climbing the same 5.6 a thousand times. It is for those who have taken a buddy out climbing, did a 5.3 climb, and when finished, saw the same look on their friends face that they had the first time they climbed something... and that is what made the trip worth while, even though the climbing might have been forgettable.

Guiding has always been a complete joy for me. I've guided with others who thought it tedious, pandering, baby-sitting type work.

You won't get rich (though i thought it was funny i (as a guide) was mentioned in an article in Fortune magazine), but then again, living in your truck forever is just fine for some of us.

Gaining and maintaining certification isn't all that bad unless you are attempting to guide at the highest levels. SPI or Rock Instructor from the AMGA is as far as most guides will ever need to go.

That said my work has always only included guiding as a portion of my career, not the sole thing that I relied upon day in and day out. Balance, as with all things, is key.
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Postby The Chief » Sun Sep 27, 2009 9:42 pm

It sucks when a client dies in your arms and you did all ya could to keep em alive.

It sucks when ya got clients that do not tell ya the truth about their real abilities and when put to the test, blame you for putting their lives in jeopardy.

The rest of the time, it is pretty rewarding.

PS... It really teaches ya to be humble and patient with fellow human beings, that's for sure.

cbcbd wrote:Most guides I have met, if they are not going the IFMGA route, eventually try to find some other source of income or just learn a new career that actually pays ok to well - teaching, nursing...
One of my friends guides full-time, is one exam away from his IFMGA, and is always looking to make some extra income here and there.

Ask yourself, are you ok living out of your truck for how long? ;)


It has amazed me for the past 15 or so years how some of the best Guides on this planet, have absolutely ZERO Certifications, NADA! And they do not live out of their trucks. As a matter of fact, I know more Cert'd guides that do live out of their trucks now because of all the thousands of $$ they had to spend to get Cert'd!

Here's a very short list of those that never had a cert in their lives...

Alex Lowe
Jeff Lowe
Peter Croft
Jim Bridwell
Mark Twight
Will Gadd
Craig Luebben
Jared Ogden
Lou Whittaker
Dave Hahn
Tomaz Humar
Willie Benegas is just now in the process of getting his Alpine Cert
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Postby The Chief » Sun Sep 27, 2009 10:20 pm

Borut Kantušer wrote:I know Tomaz is a certified rescuer.
Haven't heard of him guiding, though.


When I spoke to him several years back in the Valley after soloing the Reticent, he mentioned that he had done some on and off for the local Kamnik branch of the Slovenian Alpine Club of which he has pertained to for many years.
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Postby jasonburton » Sun Sep 27, 2009 10:44 pm

Craig held multiple certs with the AMGA.

I believe the reason folks are getting certified now is that they are made to by insurance companies and guide services they work for. It's all part of our litigious society. I know plenty of very skilled climbers and guides who have no certification and certification has only become "mandatory" in recent years (land management agencies requiring it for permits, etc.) so your list is a bit outdated Chief. It's a sad state of affairs to be sure.

That said, I have no doubt that i gained a great deal of knowledge from the pool of wisdom that has been gained by a certification program with some of the best in the world being those who are certified. Chief, you named some famous climbers who guided, but there are plenty of amazing certified guides who climb as well... I won't make a list... it'd be too long.
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Postby Luciano136 » Sun Sep 27, 2009 10:57 pm

Making a job out of a hobby often scares me. You might lose the passion for the hobby.

I personally would do it as a volunteer (if I actually had enough skills to teach). That way, you get to pick the people you go with and there are no high expectations.

Most of the time, when I took people on a trip, it was very rewarding. Not that I would call it "guiding" but it somewhat is.
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Postby The Chief » Sun Sep 27, 2009 11:21 pm

jasonburton wrote:Craig held multiple certs with the AMGA.


I am sorry but you are wrong.

His latest Bio prior to his death. BTW, he died while actually on his Alpine Cert exam.

He was Rock Cert'd only. He got that cert two years before I got mine Cert...1991.

Back then it cost a whole $650 for both the pre-course (3 days) and cert exam(1 day).

We don not even want to let the folks here know how much it costs to be cert'd for each individual discipline today, do we now!

Do not get me wrong about Certifications. What bothers me though, is validity for the whacked out price of getting one these days.

For a complete Rock Cert, your looking at 3-4 grand. For an Alpine, add an additional 2 grand to that.

What good climber that lives out of his truck can afford that?
Last edited by The Chief on Sun Sep 27, 2009 11:27 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Postby jasonburton » Sun Sep 27, 2009 11:24 pm

Well, he held a cert still!

and no, you are correct.
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