Why hire a guide?

Jason climbing in style!

This is a question that comes up quite frequently within the climbing community among beginners.  I can answer it quite simply by pointing you to a previous blog I wrote on the safety of climbing (http://aiclimbingguide.com/rock-climbing-safer-than-you-think) .  The answer is actually quite simple.  In climbing and in the wilderness in general experience alone can make all the difference between success and failure.  Unfortunately in climbing failure can sometimes lead to injury, especially in the face of inexperience.  As my previous posting pointed out the majority of failures are human error.  As a long time climber and guide I read a lot about climbing, rigging, rescue techniques, gear placements, and many other books and articles to help me continuously  build my wealth of knowledge.  As a climber you can never stop learning.  However, as a climber the best way to learn is through practice.  I often build mock anchors and rescue systems in my house for practice after seeing a new technique in a book.  This is a great way to make sure my knots are tied right, my hitches set tight, and everything is placed just perfectly.  That all changes once you’re outdoors though.  You won’t always have a perfect crack to place a piece of protection.  You won’t always have a perfect group of cracks or places to wrap a sling to build a text book anchor.  Your circumstances will actually more often than not be much less than perfect.  Mother nature can be a cruel beast in that regard.  Suddenly everything you’ve learned in that book becomes useless.  Useless that is unless you’ve acquired the experience it takes to see the options that are in front of you.  An experienced climber will look at that less than perfect situation in front of them, and find a way to turn it into something textbook and perfect.  Or as we call it in climbing “bomber”;  in reference to the fact that a bomb could hit it, and it would still keep us safe.

What I’m saying is that books are great.  Read books and watch instructional videos (from reputable sources).  There are a multitude of climbing “bibles” that every good climber will read, and go back to time and time again.  However, these are not replacements for practice.  That is where your guide comes in.  Your guide should be someone who climbs, and climbs a lot.  Your guide should go above and beyond reading books and getting certified.  Your guide should be a climber above and beyond just titling themselves so.  If you were to interview your guide, they should have a long list of climbs and summits both with and without clients.  They should be a person passionate about climbing, who is continuously learning through practice.  There is much more to guiding than setting up a couple ropes on beginner climbs and spending the day belaying your clients.  A good guide will explain to you the why, the how, and the “what if’s” of what they are doing.  They should be able to answer your questions about climbing, and about safety as you go through your day with them.  They should be teaching you along the way, and you should be able to feel the passion they have for climbing.  By the end of your first day climbing outdoors you should have at least a general knowledge of the systems in place to keep you safe, and you should feel that you were in fact safer on the rock than you were on your drive to get there.

People always ask what it takes to get into climbing.  My first answer before I even became a guide was “Get a guide”.   It’s a worthwhile investment for many reasons.  Whether you have your own gear or not, your Adventures in Climbing (AIC) guide will have everything you need to ensure that you are well equipped for the climbs of the day.  Whether you’ve spent weeks practicing knots, and techniques, or have never thought about climbing before that day, your AIC guide will be well equipped with all the knowledge you need to safely accomplish the climbs of the day.  If you are an avid gym climber with a wealth of climbing knowledge, but just haven’t taken it outdoors, your AIC guide will provide you with the tips you need to apply that knowledge to real rock.  Lastly, if you’re a beginner outdoor climber who just isn’t confident yet in their safety systems or techniques, your AIC guide will give you the advice and critiques you need to go off on your own confidently.

A guide is the easiest and best way to safely try out, or get involved in the rewarding activity of climbing.  If you want to try it once, because it’s on your bucket list, or if it’s a lifelong dream to become a climber, hiring a reputable guide is the absolute best way to get your feet off the ground for the first time.  Research your guide, and choose a guide who will fill you with the knowledge and the passion that they have.  At AIC we pride ourselves on climbing for our own recreation as often as possible.  Our guides are continuously furthering their climbing knowledge through training’s, reading, instructional video, and most importantly lots of practice.  We guide because we enjoy sharing our passion and our “elevated” view of the great outdoors with other people.  That’s a quality every guide should possess, and possibly a question you should ask your guide before hiring them.  “Why do you guide?”

-J Miller (AIC Climbing guide, blogger, photographer)