I get asked a lot by different folk if I’m a mountain guide or if I want to be one in the future. It’s something that I’ve thought about a lot in the past few years and with the application deadline around the corner I’m thinking about it again! I’m sure I will be thinking about it again in the future too. I wanted to put some of my thoughts, feeling and influencing factors down to try and rationalise my choice of not starting the scheme yet and to offer an explanation to others too, if they care, which I’m sure most won’t. Perhaps no one cares but hey it’s my blog…my diary… and one day I might look back (as a guide or not) and want to read this. I’d welcome any thoughts or feedback from guides or anyone else in the comments section at the bottom btw.
A few years ago all I wanted to do and be was a mountain guide. I worked my whole life around ticking off the routes that the British Mountain Guides training scheme asked for. I took a 6 week trip back to the UK especially to tick off the remaining multi-pitch rock routes. It was the reason for getting on my first big routes (the Ginat and the Colton MacIntyre) and if I’m honest it was a great way of staying focused and having an objective or end goal to aim for. It’s a great tick-list to work through and I’d recommend any climber to use it as a way to grow into a better Alpinist/Mountain person.
However after a while I began to think that it might not be for me. Don’t get me wrong I love the idea of being in the mountains most of the time and I must admit it would be great to be able to make a decent wage from my passion. Having not actually been a guide I can’t really say whether or not I would be any good at it or if I’d actually enjoy it but I just have a feeling I wouldn’t. I think for the time being I’m just too selfish. I do love taking psyched friends into the mountains and giving them rich and fulfilling experiences. For the most part I want my time in the mountains to be for me and my objectives. I’ve got a lot of good mates who have either been part way through or are still on the scheme. It’s interesting talking to them about what it’s like to be on the training scheme and hearing some positive and negative feedback from various people (not naming any names). By all accounts it sounds like a tough scheme to make it through and kudos to those who have. I’m always keen for a challenge but when a mistake might cost you and a few thousand pounds and a year off your chosen career then I’m sure the pressure is huge even for the coolest of applicants. Not something I’m that motivated for at the moment, if I’m honest.
One of the biggest factors for me is the cost. I don’t have a way of paying for it other than putting it all on credit cards/loans, which I really don’t want to do. Having been in debt for most of my adult life already it’s not something I enjoyed, I don’t ever really want to do again if I can avoid it. Sure it’s an “investment” of sorts but what happens if you make it half way through and decide it’s not for you, which has happened to a few of my friends. If I could easily pay for all the training and assessment modules no problem and comfortably be able to take the time off to train specifically for the tests then I would be a lot more psyched to start the scheme. I’d also need to be able to pay for the travel from here (France) to North Wales/Scotland which adds up quickly especially if you fail any of the tests. I’m not saying it’s impossible to finance and if I were to sacrifice some of my mountain time to work more in rope access for example I’m sure I could pay for it quite easily. Right now though I don’t really want to sacrifice my time in the mountains to work a job I don’t really want to do. I do enjoy rope access work though. I just didn’t enjoy doing 7 days a week living out the back of my Citroen Berlingo in London.
Another factor is the type of work you’d get when you’re actually qualified. If I could guarantee good fun clients who wanted to climb or ski interesting objectives whilst keeping the standard (Mont Blanc and Vallee Blanche) routes down to a minimum I would also be a lot more motivated. Most people want (and please correct me if I’m wrong) to climb or ski things that other people have heard of. Hence why we have ‘honey pots’ such as Everest, Mont Blanc, Vallee Blanche, the Hornli ridge….etc. Most people want to climb these types of objective as a tick in the life box. That’s fine and I’m not saying it’s the worst problem in the world and for most ‘real climbers’ it’s beneficial to have the hordes heading to these routes as it keeps the rest of the mountains quieter. For me I’d want to give clients a taste of what a climber’s life is actually like. Why we pick the routes over the summits and what actually makes a really memorable experience in the mountains. I think it would be hard to convince most who have the money to pay for a guide to aim for the lesser, quieter summit via the better route over objectives that have a real standing point for their non-climber friends and peers. Is it possible to find enough clients who are willing to go further or harder or to different, more adventurous places? I’m undecided on this one. I’m sure some have found the right balance but could I?
For me it’s a question of where my motivation really lies. If I had all the money that I needed to pay for the guide’s scheme in my hand right now I think I’d choose to spend it on a series of greater ranges expeditions or maybe the deposit on a house. I think to embark on the guides scheme you need to be 100% committed to getting the badge. You need to be able to bounce back from a failed assessment quickly and easily and basically really WANT to be a guide. I’m personally just not there right now. I’m not saying that I won’t be in the future but right now I’m happy enough pursuing my own goals in climbing and skiing, and one day, maybe even next year, I might apply.