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What do you like about your guide?

Hello. I am curious about what most hikers/climbers would look for in a climbing guide that worth them paying the money and entrust their lives to.

Do you first and foremost look at their qualification (NOLS? Outward Bounds? WEA? AMGA? IFMGA)?

Would you be more confident under the guidance of someone who has a glittering mountaineering career (e.g. climber of 14 8000ers) or a local master who's been guiding for 20 years?

Just what specific qualities would you look for in a guide? Or just what do you expect from them?

These are just some suggestions, feel free to add your voice. Especially those who had been guided or work with climbing guides.



Jon - Personally I haven't had the oppertunity to have a guide. But if I did I would want AMGA cert. Nols as well. Both to be frank. I would like honest non biased opinion of skills after 3 days of safety drills and education class's with the client. IE me. It's unsafe for the guide to have to burden himself above his own abilities to keep a client safe. Yes I believe theirs a good reason for certifications for the safety of the guide as well as the client. I believe the client needs to know his or hers capabilities and it needs to be communicated to them. They also need to realize the reality that situations change in an enviroment where weather is the number one issue and the climb may not be successful. That and each person makes up the team and the guide is not a porter. Thats my idea of a guide. Honest and willing to tell someone some times what they dont want to hear.

To be a guide you have to be certified. AMGA, ACMG etc...  If you dont have it you're not a guide. That's for mountaineering and climbing. Same goes for white water sports. You have to be certified. As for other less "extreme" sports, I explain to people to look for a company/guide with a good reputation and resume. If your going to follow somebody for some overnight x-country skiing, you dont nescessarely need an full AMGA mountain guide. 

The best bet, IMO, follows something like this. 1. Where you going? 2. Do you have the nescessary skills for the the terrain/challenge you'll encounter? 3. If not who can you help you? 4. Does the person/guide/company have the nesscessary skill and competence to help you in your adventure? And that is when the certification come in play.

Thanks for the reply guys.

Certification is indeed the only valid verification of a guide's competency if you have not been guided by him(or her) before.

But what make them tick over the others: potentially hundred of guides with the same qualification?

And what would you be expecting from them while being guided? The ability to read into situation and communicate that to clients honestly to make the best decision being one, as suggested by denis.

Jon- Reality is when you have to think for yourself in a envirorment where weather is either an allie or enemy.Thats hard enough then add the burden of a client. You just multiplied that variable by 10. I will say you as the client also have to feel at ease that the guide can handle any situation and he can think on his feet. Like Louis said that comes with experiance and certification. Strong communication with skill shown and taught prior to enbarkment of your trip.

Remember this when you ask about "what makes them tick".

To become a certified guide is a long, costly, physicaly demanding task. Not to mention psychologically daunting. In Canada, candidates for the ACMG alpine guide course have to be able to do the following: Onsight 5.10b trad routes, flash 5.8 in hiking boots, possess a 40 hour first/survival in remote area certificate, (SIRIUS), climb WI4, ski at a high level, possess a AST 2 avalanche training certificate and have a multitude of mutipitch climbs in their background. And dont know about AMGA but my pinky says it's probably similar.

What makes them stand out is, what I figure, what you meant. First of all, knowledge of terrain. A guide based from Mt. Rainier is without a doubt capable of guiding a climb on Mt. Washington. But a local guide might have a few tricks in his sleeves. For one it's very hard to predict with exactitude the weather on Mt. Washington, your local guide will probably know more.

Another good point to take under consideration is the company he operates from. Visit their websites, some company's have all their guides listed and described. In that way you can check them out, know their guiding background, and hopefully customer feedback. Althought negative comments are usually deleted, you can get a general knowledge. 

I dont usually hire guiding services, but when I do this is what I expect. 1. I want certifified guides. 2. I always try to get a local company or one that operates a lot on the terrain I'm going. 3. When guided, I hate to feel patronized. I love a guide who doesn't think of himself as the almighty god. I know he is ten times better than me. I like it when I get guided but dont have the feeling of being incompetent by the person who's supposed to help me learn, and get through it all. 4. If going on technical/difficult terrain I expect them to contact me a few weeks in advance so that we can establish a first communication and talk about my competence/fitness level and if what I'm undertaking is realistic. I expect em to have a lot of question and easily understandable/comparable questions. After that, and before the actual expedition, a expect a shake down in actual condition. After all that you and your guide should know each other a lot more. And hopefully you'll know what makes him tick, and it will transmitted to you the best way possible, in the mountains he's dedicated his life to.

Louis-Alexis, aspiring guide.

I think Louis nailed a lot of it.

I would want someone certified, and also depending on the terrain, would look for additional certification that might be elective, but still important.

Also, it is important for the guide to be knowledgeable about the terrain being climbed. Sure someone from multiple Everest expeditions is well seasoned and understands much about alpine sport, but their altitude advice and experience may be pointless on a climb that doesn't require it. I want someone who either knows the area from experience, or who has researched it religiously to give the client peace of mind.

I like what Louis said about not feeling patronized and knowing what's coming. As a client, maybe I feel a fair amount of anxiety about the upcoming trip, and I want to know what we are doing. While I want to be challenged, I want to know that the guide won't try to push me beyond my limits. Communication about these things is crucial.

jon- I think Louis and I climb just said everything possible that you meant or were looking for. I am not an alpine climber. Iam a rock climber and boulderer and backpacker. They have those skills. From what I just learned reading their posts. Is its a plethra of skills one needs to know. I have read both of theirs trip reports in the past and I believe 110% they are accurate and have those skills. I have no doubts, if I wanted to gain those skills and aspire to their level. I would heed them. Louis, I climb bonne chance on your next outting.

Thanks guys. There are some gems here no doubt.
Just what I was looking for.

There's no such thing as too much learning!

I wish the same to you Denis. As with learning luck (chance) is something we never get enough of.

Bring back the peace you find up there. Everybody wins that way.

It seems interpersonal politics are a part of many extreme adventures.  A good guide will try to defuse personal politics before they adversely affect a climb.

A good guide will ask what you seek from the experience, and try to help you realize that objective.

A good guide will earn their pay, and not just be along for the walk.  Sometimes you hire a guide for local knowledge, sometimes for technical skill, sometimes to impart technical skill, and sometimes to have someone be the organizer, among other reasons.  A good guide will understand your expectations, and deliver the goods accordingly.

A good guide will do their best to assure individuals who are a bad fit for whatever reason are not on your trip.

A good guide will not let his jaded view of paying clients seep into how he relates to you or the rest of the group.


Good one Ed.

The situation might be a bit different if you're guiding for a company though?

For instance: In my first guided trip back in 2008, with a world renowned guiding company, we didn't get to know more than the name of our guide until first day of the trip. He got to know our fitness level, experience etc only through what we submitted with application. It was the same with him, he was just being 'assigned' to guide us. Like another day in the office, another job.

Turned out a girl was way over her comfort zone, myself and another guy had to carry most of her load and in the end we also had to forfeit half a day of learning and changed our plans a little to accommodate her.

Even though we were in a 4 to 1 guide ratio; I can't helped but felt left out at times. Communications were a mixbag, sometimes I thought he was really encouraging while some other times I felt awful. He was obviously skillful and overqualified to guide us newbies but I went away not entirely satisfied for a couple of reasons. The main reason was my expectation of the level of learning and experience was not met; while the other clients sing praises of him happy to sit back with what they've gotten out of the course. Not anyone fault I reckon, perhaps I have too high an expectation. I may be a strange client in that I wasn't there just to learn his technical skill but his guiding style.

He is still an exemplary guide alright and I sure learned a whole lot from him, especially his guiding persona you may call it. But of course I also take note of what I thought could have been better and strive to do better myself.

Overall it was a positive experience.

What whomewhory describe's is exellent. It put in light something I had forgot to mention. Good one!

November 28, 2020
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