Devil’s Lake and Beyond – Hiring a Guide

Located just minutes outside of one of America’s historic and well known summer vacation spots, the Wisconsin Dells, Devil’s Lake is a must see natural attraction if you’re in the area.  If you live anywhere in the Chicagoland area or Wisconsin it’s well worth the drive to come spend a weekend camping and take in the activities and natural splendor of the area.  There are two magnificent beaches, and miles of well maintained hiking trails that all offer stunning outlooks with breathtaking views of a pristine Ice Age formed valley and lake.

Our favorite thing to do at the lake though, is climb.  Devil’s Lake offers the Midwest’s absolute best rock climbing; and its rich history in climbing is proof of that.  Regular Devil’s lake climbers and guides often come across old pitons, and bolts that  range in age to a time period that goes back to before they were even born.  Devil’s lake carries a strong heritage in climbing, and it’s carried on by the guide companies that service the area.  The state park knows that it is a major attraction for this activity and will continue to encourage it so long as the community strives to keep climbing safely, maintain clean land, and help take care of the park while bringing in more visitors each year.  This is something it leans heavily on it’s fantastic climbing community and guide services to help take care of.

This can make it complicated for new climbers to pick out a guide service when so many are advertised right on the state park website.  This article isn’t to advertise Adventures in Climbing as the best.  This article is to educate climbers looking for a guide whether it is in Devil’s Lake, or Joshua Tree.  There are some key things to look for that can make all the difference in your trip.  One thing AIC prides itself on is the number of repeat clients that we receive, because of the level of service, fun, training, and experience we deliver to every single client; no matter if it is their first climb or their 50th.

Here are some things to look for when you’re hiring your guide:

Are they trained –Unfortunately many climbing areas don’t even require that a guide be trained.  A trained guide is better than someone just going out and claiming to be a guide, collecting your money, and taking you out for the day.  A trained guide has taken the time to learn best practices from an institute focused on climbing.  However, a trained guide means that a professional Institute like PCGI actually stands behind that guide and their skills.  That guide not only took the course but has been assessed and tested on their personality, safety, ability to perform in emergency situations, and setup the absolute best and safest systems by industry standards.  Is your guide trained, or just someone looking to make a few bucks while out climbing?  Make sure to ask that question.

Does your guide climb?  – This seems like a question one shouldn’t have to ask, but it’s an important one.  Many guides end up focused so much on guiding and making money that they lose site on their own climbing.  However their own climbing makes them better guides.  AIC actually mandates that our guides climb.  We make sure that all of our guides have adequate time off just to go climb for fun, advance their skills, and keep their personal passion alive.  That personal passion for climbing is what makes them a better guide.  It becomes infectious.  They can pass it down to their clients, and push them to levels they never expected to get to.  Most guide companies use social networking as a tool for marketing.  This will make it easy for you to look at their pictures.  They should have at least a few of their guides out climbing, and having a good time on the rock as well.  It keeps the guides sharp, it keeps their skills progressing, and it keeps them excited to work with their clients.  Every one of AIC’s guides is an advanced climber who is climbing when they are not guiding.  Often times, our guides will run back up and climb so more after a day of guiding; we enjoy it that much!

What options does the guide service offer – Can you get more out of your guide service than a standard day of top rope climbing?  When you call your guide service do they ask you about experience levels?  Do they suggest options like mock multi-pitch, following single pitch climbs, and do they get excited about other options that may be available to you?  Do they jump right to the price or do they discuss the options that are available to your group?  Outdoor climbing offers a plethora of amazing options.  Some of which you may have never even thought of, and my change your experience from something fun to do on a day in the Dells, to something life changing that encourages you to climb Devils Tower one day.  Ask lots of questions.  Find out what your options are.  At AIC, your options are nearly limitless.  We only hire guides with the ability to lead clients up some of largest most demanding climbs in the U.S.  If you can dream it, we can lead it.  We also teach courses to our advanced climbers, so that you can grow your own skills to one day lead your own climbs.

Our guides are all climbers, with a wealth of impressive summits and classic climbs under their belts.  Our training isn’t just to improve us as guides, but as climbers; something we look forward to passing on to you as a future client.  On behalf of our staff we look forward to sharing our passion with you this climbing season, and many after that.

-J Miller

Climbing Guide and Photographer

View from atop Devil's Doorway