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Guiding in Chamonix

September 5th, 2012

With Chris and Gavin from the UK on the summit of Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in the Alps at 15,782 feet, a couple weeks ago.

Guiding in the Alps surrounding Chamonix is the norm for American IFMGA guides. Over half of America’s 80-something fully certified guides are here this summer. Why? Not because the pay is great. The plane ticket here is expensive and the dollar is lame against the euro. It’s also not because the US doesn’t have great rock for guiding. The western US has some of the best rock in the world. It’s not because Chamonix is the birthplace of mountain guiding, either. We’re here because the guiding is AWESOME! With our customers we can zip to the alpine on a tram and climb impeccable rock all day, then whisk back to a comfortable town where guides are socializing and living their normal life. Small, non-knee crushing backpacks are another bonus.

Here are some photos from my recent trip to Chamonix…

Sorting gear in the early morning below an alpine rock climb. The Matterhorn and Monte Rosa in the distance.

I spend more time with my Osprey Mutant 38 than any other piece of gear. Luckily it matches my outfit, just kidding! Actually I'm looking a little too coordinated for comfort. Maybe I should add some dirt.

When not guiding we can head off with other guides and climb steeper, more challenging routes (ie, ones that we may fall off).

Gearing up for a climb in the Alps.

People sometimes ask me if I’m moving from Alaska and staying in Chamonix. No way! I have yet to see wilderness in the Alps, I think of them as urban mountains. Kind of like going to the pub—a great time, but if you’re after peace and quiet, then don’t come to the Alps. Go to Alaska!

Joe Stock is a mountain guide and photographer based in Anchorage, Alaska.

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