Honest Question Regarding Guides

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Honest Question Regarding Guides

Post by gsh935 » Sat May 25, 2019 8:04 pm

Hey all,

Still pretty new to the site but was excited to find an overseas section in the forums.
I am looking a couple years ahead, but the planning needs to start now.
At what point does a peak become "undoable" without guides. Now saying that I know that everywhere and anywhere someone went and did something crazy alone. I am more asking that for the much larger peaks of the world, are guides a necessity? At what point can an experienced group go on their own without paying the outrageous fees many places ask? I want to branch beyond the realm of 14ers, but the price tag on guide services is discouraging. Where do I start?


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Re: Honest Question Regarding Guides

Post by Ptglhs » Sat May 25, 2019 8:20 pm

No peak is undoable without guides, assuming those doing it have the requisite gear and experience. Everest was summited many times by unguided expeditions for decades before paying guides started taking people up the mountain. Those with some experience, and who are willing to put in the time to learn more by attempting more challenging peaks, and reading about mountaineering, can work up to the same mountains that earlier, 1st ascenters did. If you're trying to attempt a peak far above your abilities and experience then hiring a guide is probably a good thing. If you're wanting to avoid the hassle of permits and logistics for longer trips, a guide service will do those for you, usually. I think a better question to ask yourself is what is your comfort level? Do you have experience with: class 5, roped, multi pitch climbs? Glacier travel? High elevation? Read up on the mountains you're thinking of, and if what is needed for an ascent is beyond your abilities and comfort level, do something easier, while still pushing yourself, or think about a guide. Cheaper guiding services on lower peaks can teach you a lot which you can use on higher mountains: Mt Baker, Rainier, etc. My knowledge is mostly academic, I did do a 6 course in WA though.

Note: some governments require guides on peaks, either to generate employment, or reduce the chance of tourists needing costly rescue. Kilimanjaro is one such peak, I believe.
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Re: Honest Question Regarding Guides

Post by Urban Snowshoer » Sat May 25, 2019 8:30 pm

The short answer is: it depends.

If you really want to learn glacier climbing and high altitude mountaineering, there are places that teach that: e.g. Colorado Mountain Club's HAMS School. Be aware that it is a huge investment in time and to, a certain degree, money. For this reason, I would only pursue this course of action if it's something you'd like to do a lot of. If there are only a couple of peaks that you would need a guide for, stick with a guide.

Knowing your group and their abilities is important any any level of difficulty; however, the more difficult the climb the more important it becomes. If you are thinking of doing glacier or high-altitude climbing unguided, you really need to know and be able to trust your group because you are literally putting your lives in each others hands. I'm not just talking about technical skills and fitness level, although these are obviously essentially, but things like temperament as well: i.e. how well does everyone hold up under pressure? How well you and your group make decisions under pressure, or when things don't go as planned, can mean the difference between life and death.
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Re: Honest Question Regarding Guides

Post by Conor » Sat May 25, 2019 9:14 pm

To me it comes down to a matter of style. And what kind of climber you want to be. Some enjoy the guides, someone to make the tough decisions, herd cats, cook, carry stuff for you when the going gets tough, handle logistics, navigation etc. Others enjoy the freedom of going unguided - more flexibility (e.g. summiting denali from 14 camp, faster pace), challenges of arranging everything a guide service would etc.

I probably won't ever go guided unless it is mandatory. That's just what i like doing, it goes beyond the $$$ aspect (although that is part of it). I don't want to be that climber that goes guided on "big peaks" but cant pull together a 5.6 alpine climb locally with just me and a buddy.

An alternative to doing the CMC stuff is just spill the cash for a guide locally to work on what you would like. You and your partner split a guide to work on snow technique, rope work and crevasse stuff vs devoting a month of saturdays thru CMC. Much more efficient, you get quality instruction from actual guides and the guide client ratio is whatever you make it.
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Re: Honest Question Regarding Guides

Post by Mike Shepherd » Sat May 25, 2019 10:59 pm

A peak becomes "undoable" without guides when you or your team (or lack of team) don't possess the necessary skills to get to the top on your own.

As for starting to prepare now for the future, it would be useful to know what your goals are.
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Re: Honest Question Regarding Guides

Post by ltlFish99 » Sun May 26, 2019 12:07 am

I think the Colorado mountain club HAMS school is excellent! Personally, I would only use a guide if:

A) It was mandatory.

B) I had no one else who wanted to join me.

Here in Colorado I go most places solo, but glacier travel And Anywhere a rope is needed, A partner is very helpful imho.
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Re: Honest Question Regarding Guides

Post by pvnisher » Sun May 26, 2019 5:16 am

Sometimes the logistics make it better. If you have 5 days in country X, never been there, don't speak the language, don't know how to make hut reservations, know there are 15 routes, cable car options, want fall back if there's bad weather, etc...
I have used a guide in the Alps and we did peaks I am comfortable doing, skill wise, on my own. Also did some that I would never have led, but was ok seconding.
I learned a ton about the area, climbing, and essentially got some 1 on 1 instruction at the same time.

I've also done some trips to the Alps without a guide, and was super glad I knew the area, the procedures, etc.
I used a guide on Rainier in 2007 or 2008. I was just getting into mountaineering and wasnt ready to do it my own. I've since done it twice more, once as a member of an independent team, and then as the team leader. I know the area, the process for permits, some tricks and tips, have the gear and skills I didn't have 11 years ago...

I think sometimes guides, or using a guide, get a bad rap on this board. For Colorado peaks, probably true. Although still, it's a faster way to gain skill than all DIY, and what's wrong with that? Better than learning from your buddy who may or may not be doing things wrong. I've seen lots of people passing on bad knowledge, or groups with plain unsafe behaviors.

And for overseas stuff, it's expensive but in the end you'll probably end up with a better trip and some skill improvements.
Where are you looking to go? In any case, I recommend Rainier. It's awesome.
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Re: Honest Question Regarding Guides

Post by Alpine Guy » Sun May 26, 2019 7:00 am

You mention long term preparation and that's a great place to start. Technical climbing is a steep learning curve with serious consequences, as you obviously know. Some people are fortunate to have mentors to teach them the ropes. If that isn't available to you, guided climbs can be an alternative way to build your skill set. The key is to pick objectives that fill in gaps in your skill set, then arrange for a guide. If you use the same guide for multiple trips they tend to give you more freedom as they learn your abilities.
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Re: Honest Question Regarding Guides

Post by seano » Sun May 26, 2019 7:13 am

I personally fall into Conor's camp: I like to figure stuff out for myself, and don't like to be led up routes and peaks that are far beyond my abilities, so guided climbing doesn't appeal to me. I will probably never climb in the Himalaya, but peaks exist on a continuum of difficulty, and I have patiently worked my way up that slope, from hiking easy 14ers to tackling over half of the Canadian Rockies' 11ers and the Alps' 4000-meter peaks, as well as a bunch of stuff elsewhere in the lower 48. A friend of mine went from hiking to summiting Denali and climbing in the Cordillera Blanca in only a few years, all without guides.

I was fortunate enough to have friends and climbing mentors, some of whom are guides, who taught me enough to climb trad without killing myself or others. If I didn't know such people, I would consider taking a course on rope-work, because it's hard to pick up from a book. However, I think mountaineering judgment can only be learned by spending time out in the mountains making your own decisions.

I guess it depends upon your goals and patience. If you're young and have the time, I would recommend working your way up the difficulty continuum, perhaps branching out from the CO 14ers to the Sierra Nevada (for rock), Tetons (for alpine). and then North Cascades (for easy glaciers and general suffering). If you're in a hurry and want to tag specific peaks, a guide is more efficient, but guides are never *necessary* for going beyond the 14ers.
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Re: Honest Question Regarding Guides

Post by LetsGoMets » Sun May 26, 2019 7:22 am

Mike Shepherd wrote:
Sat May 25, 2019 10:59 pm
A peak becomes "undoable" without guides when you or your team (or lack of team) don't possess the necessary skills to get to the top on your own.

As for starting to prepare now for the future, it would be useful to know what your goals are.
This and only this. The lack of team comment is a good thought.

Other answers in this thread are far too pretentious and not helpful to your question.
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Re: Honest Question Regarding Guides

Post by Eli Boardman » Sun May 26, 2019 8:20 am

A peak is "undoable" without guides when a guide is legally required and you are not a certified guide. That's the only time a peak is "undoable" without a guide. Kilimanjaro is one example; I believe some of the Ecuador peaks are like this too.

Everything else comes down to how long you are willing to delay your trip in order to gain the necessary experience and skills to do it yourself. Personally, I think good things come to the patient, and there's an added satisfaction knowing that you "paid your dues" and brought yourself up to the level of the mountain, instead of bringing the mountain down to your level.

Hiring a guide for purely instructional purposes is different, and that's an approach I used and recommend to ensure that what you're practicing is actually up to the current risk-management standards.
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Re: Honest Question Regarding Guides

Post by OrngChocD » Mon May 27, 2019 7:29 am

Mike Shepherd wrote:
Sat May 25, 2019 10:59 pm
A peak becomes "undoable" without guides when you or your team (or lack of team) don't possess the necessary skills to get to the top on your own.

As for starting to prepare now for the future, it would be useful to know what your goals are.

The above is also true if a peak is to be a metaphor for any of one's goals and a guide is a service provider who helps one attain one's goals "successfully", given the time, money and effort one is able and willing to assign to attain the goal -

* Do I use my parents (guides) to help me walk and talk or do I learn the skills on my own?
* Do I use a CPA (guide) to do my taxes or learn the tax code so I can do them on my own?
* Do I use TA(s)/TO(s) (travel agent/tour operator - guide) or do I learn to plan, book and execute all my travels on my own?
* Do I use a guide when visiting a historical site or do I learn the history of every site that interests me?
* Do I use the services of landscapers, plumbers, electricians,... (guides) or do I learn all those skills plus the building codes of every city I live in so I can manage the challenges of home ownership on my own?
* Do I go listen to a preacher/life-coach (guide) or do I try to figure out morality, the meaning of life,... on my own?

Is a mountain peak special (different from any other goals)? Or only on this forum?
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