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After five months of worker’s disability checks and a slow re-entry into the world of climbing, it was time for me to start guiding again. I am a firm believer in doing what you love to do for work, if possible, and guiding is my perfect pursuit. Like any profession, you have to pay your dues, get trained/certified, and work the jobs that people don’t necessarily love to do, but eventually if you stick with it, it pays off. At the end of the day, any job as a mountain guide has you out in the hills, and not behind a desk, so how bad can it be?
Many people might view mountain guiding as a superfluous, luxury pursuit, but there are a few arguments that I believe in that justify its pursuit, and mountain climbing in general as well. At the heart of the matter is that the world is a better place when there are more happy, satisfied and motivated people in it, and skiing and climbing and the guiding of those activities is one of the best ways for me to make the world a better place.
This summer I really feel like I got a fresh perspective on the joys of guiding. Maybe it was the five months of not working and minimal activity with my injury recovery; maybe it was the few days of really high quality and rewarding guiding I did. My guess is that it was the combination of the two. So what were the days that made me so pleased with my chosen career path and my return to it?
First was getting the chance to guide my favorite multipitch route in the world, Freeway, in my home of Squamish. After the five minute stroll from your car, you are greeted with 1,000’ of sustained 5.11 climbing. Roofs, corners, traverses, slabs; Freeway has it all, and is a standard test piece. I can climb it again and again (and have probably climbed it over 40 times) with out ever growing weary of it. But this summer I got my first chance at guiding it. Freeway might only be guided once or twice a year at most, due to its sustained difficulties. There are also only a handful of guides that would feel comfortable in front on 5.11+ terrain. For me it became a litmus test of my confidence at returning to my favorite activities at a high level of performance. There is no doubt that I was nervous and apprehensive at accepting the work, but in the end, I decided to give it a go.
Fortunately, when I met the client in the morning, my confidence was boosted even more. Patrick was a climber who certainly has gotten a lot done over the years and he wanted a day out on the rocks to push his personal limits. As soon as he styled the first pitch of the day, a tricky 5.11a warm up, I knew we had it in the bag. All in all, we both cruised the route with no falls and were back at the car bright and early celebrating an awesome day on the rocks.
The other day that stands out in my mind was a lap up the Grand Wall, also in Squamish. At 5.11- and 10 pitches long, it is also considered a classic test piece. Sustained, with pitch after pitch of brilliant climbing, many climbers spend a few weeks in Squamish with their focus being to train for and send the Grand Wall. This route gets guided more frequently, and I have guided it a few times, but my client on this day was a little different. At 12 years old, Joe is a future star of the sport for sure. His sisters, with their coach Elliot, were on a rope team right in front of us. Both of the siblings have climbed 5.13 and train with a crew of young crushers in Boulder, CO. Don’t be surprised if you see their names in the mags in a few years, pushing the limits of rock climbing. However, neither of them had multi pitch climbed before, or for that matter done much trad climbing at all! Even though 5.11 climbing is well within their abilities, eight hours hanging in a harness with food, water and gear strapped to you is an entirely different beast. Whatever these two lacked in experience, they more than made up for in sheer psych. Joe was right at home with 1000’ of exposure beneath his feet, swinging and hanging around in his harness, cruising through cruxes. It was so enjoyable to have fresh perspectives, with no expectations and no complaining. Young people really have a unique and unbiased view of the world, and it was a pleasure to see an old favorite route of mine through the fresh eyes of a 12 and 15 year old.
- 15 year old Isabelle on the Grand Wall
There were definitely a bunch of other quality days guiding for me this summer, these were just the two that stood out the most. Really, every day has brought a lot of reward to me, helping folks to enjoy the vertical stone and fill their lives with a bit more excitement. As I said before I can’t imagine ending up in another career!
- 12 year old Joe on the super exposed bolt ladder mid height on the Grand Wall
Over 500 youth from across the Nation met in Central Park in New York City this past weekend to discuss opportunities and new ideas to inspire more people to go outside and seek active, adventurous lives – just like our Backwoods Mission Statement. This was a unique experience and the first of its kind. Thank you to Backwoods and Osprey for sponsoring a delegate and myself to attend this phenomenal event – Outdoor Nation Youth Summit.
The delegate we sponsored is Dezi Howard from Cape Girardeau, Missouri and I had the privilege of meeting him in NYC. Armed with his Osprey Halo daypack and small duffel he set off to the big city for this energetic gathering of his peers. Dezi had a smile as wide as the state of Texas and full of excitement to be involved with the first ever Outdoor Nation Youth Summit.
This Summit gathering consisted of youth from all 50 states and Canada to discuss their ideas with each other on the following issues:
- Cultural Diversity and the Outdoors
- Education and Recreation – Redefining the Outdoors
- Health and Active Living
- Media and Culture
- Green Jobs and Outdoor Careers
Each table in this huge tent in Central Park was focused on one of the issues above and generated suggestions to share with their peers for voting. Each suggestion was presented to all the delegates where they were immediately able to vote on the importance level to them via a hand held electronic survey device that was used throughout the event. The delegates were able to see their results immediately and they were even able to sort the results by age, gender, location and race. During this two-day Youth Summit, President Barack Obama’s staff were also present and actively involved in hearing what the delegates had to say.
Outdoor Nation Youth Summit was supported by the Outdoor Foundation and a coalition of more than 50 organizations. This event focused on outdoor activities and advocacy to help raise awareness about the vital role the outdoors and recreational activities play in leading active, healthy lifestyles. More than $300,000 in funds were announced during this Summit to support concepts generated by the youth delegates.
It was exciting to be involved with such a revolutionary type of event that is promoting people to go outside and seek active, adventurous lives. Following this event, Dezi was inspired to head back to Missouri and encourage more people to use the local parks in Cape Girardeau. He has several ideas already spinning in his head and is anxious to make a difference in his community. We will check back with Dezi in the months to come to see what progress he has made in inspiring his community to seek active, adventurous lifestyles.
The world needs more people like Dezi and the delegates that attended the Outdoor Nation Youth Summit, who are excited and motivated to make a difference.