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
Now that I am in the midst of my fall road trip, I have lots of ‘rest days’ in between climbing days to make videos and catch up on tons of photos… so I have been playing with new toys and came up with a quick video about what happens in the summer at Valhalla Mountain Touring so that everyone can enjoy the winter powder without too much effort.
Everyone thinks that my life and job at VMT as owner and lead guide is all fluffy powder skiing all the time, but some times — in fact, lots of times — it is hard labor to get the job done.