It doesn’t matter whether your bag is rock, ice, alpine, seven summits club, top rope. If you guide people from terra firma into the land of the vertical, you are probably varying degrees of the same personality.
Most of us got into it for one reason. We love climbing. Once you are in the throes of it, you’re a goner. Some do it for love, some for money, some for fame and recognition. From the outside, the life of a guide seems exotic and adventurous, like Thailand – but for those of you who have ever really known a guide (ladies, you especially) it is a gritty, dirty, and hard world. More like Bangkok, than Phi Phi. For those who don’t think so, you you have never done it full time.
Jaded you say: hell yes, I am jaded. You see enough people die, get divorced, or deal with career threatening injuries. When you start guiding, you feeling like Elvis, and by the end you are struggling to notch the belt buckle over your silk jumpsuit and get through Viva Las Vegas without having a heart attack.
I have seen a 16 year old kid fall 300 to his death, and had to tell his father; I knew a guide who told his wife of 3 years, via text message on Everest, that he was sleeping with a repeat client of his for the past 2 years; I have seen strong guides struggle with chronic injuries related to their profession.
I know it seems as if I reek of gloom and doom, but it hasn’t always been this way. I have seen climbing break, weld, and mend brotherhoods, sisterhoods and families, and allow autistic and special needs children accomplish things they never before imagined they would do. Watching a client labor and struggle one step at a time up a hulk of ice, to stand on top, and even if just for a passing moment, feel invincible… These are the reasons I do it.
It is about freedom, it is about climbing, and it is about guts that I guide. It is about being empowered on the inhale and getting humbled on the exhale. It is about love and mentorship fueled by perseverance and tenacity.
This is the life of a guide.