Thursday, April 21, 2016

Five Reasons to Hire a Guide

While many of us are experiential learners who have developed their outdoor skills through trial and error over many trips, there are many benefits from using a professional guide to help you turn your dream adventure into a reality. While there are certainly numerous reasons to seek professional guidance to safely “learn the ropes”, I will highlight five of the top reasons to hire a mountain guide.

1. Local terrain knowledge.
So you just saved up all your vacation time from the past year to be able to take a trip to climb a peak in a mountain range you have never visited. Do you want to spend half of your trip wondering if you are off-route or inadvertently in dangerous terrain? Snow, glacier conditions and avalanche conditions change rapidly and dynamically- going with someone who has intimate knowledge of your route in a variety of conditions will keep you safer and perhaps more successful.

2. Ability to match your ability and goals to a trip.

Whether you are a casual climber or hiker who wants to do a unique and fun trip once a year, or a keen mountain climber looking to develop skill sets to be more self-reliant, working closely with a professional guide can help you customize your mountain experience. Guides carefully match the challenge of a route with the desired outcomes of their guests to deliver the best education or experiential outcome.

3. Experience in managing groups in the mountains.

Sure, you just joined a local Meet Up style group that offers climbing trips. But what kind of qualifications do these trip leaders have, and how much responsibility do they have for you if something happens? Signing up for a group trip through a guide service will ensure safe and prudent group sizes, and attention to risk management so that all participants have their needs met. Plus, you usually eat a whole lot better on guided trips!

4. Qualifications and certifications.

Mountain climbing and backcountry adventuring can already be a dangerous activity, so seek out a guide who has passed formal internationally recognized exams through the American Mountain Guiding Association (AMGA). The long and rigorous process to become a certified guide involved not only guiding exams and professional development courses, but also wilderness medical training and attention to teaching outdoor-based curriculum.

5. You just want to get out and hike or climb, but can’t find a partner!

It can be frustrating to have to deal with schedule conflicts, partners who bail, and friends who just aren’t interested in another one of your half-cocked trip plans, so hiring a guide can take away a lot of the stress of planning a trip. Guide services work with your schedule, deal with the logistics and permits, and get everything lined up so that you get to show up and have fun without all the hassle of finding an appropriate partner.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Spring Skiing in the High Sierra

 Wow. I am always surprised when I realize how long it has been since the last post, this time no exception. Time has just been flying here on the Eastside. The climbing and skiing have been fantastic, and the guiding season has really not slowed down at all, so it has been quite a busy time for me.

The only trips I have been able to take out of the area this winter, since returning from Europe, were professional development courses or exams. Happy to say I am now an AIARE Level 1 Instructor, and a certified AIARE Level 3 Avalanche professional.

Recently, with the amazing spring-like conditions we have been experiencing, Sierra Mountain Center has run some very fun winter mountaineering programs, and the first of several Sierra ski tours. We have been patiently waiting for a good winter to run these tours again, and have found that conditions are great once you arrive at the higher elevations.

A couple weeks ago, Richard and Tony joined me for a great ski from Mammoth Mountain to June Lakes, via the PCT High Trail. Great views of the Ritter Range were had throughout, we had a couple of incredible campsites, one underneath an ancient looking juniper looking south to the Silver Divide, and fine snow conditions. Ending in June also meant that we got to end the trip with a fun run down the Hourglass Couloir in the Negatives.

 After a fun climb up Mini Morrison Peak with a bunch of enthusiastic scouts from La Jolla, SP Parker and I took 4 guests out on another ski tour. Both of us took our guests out of June Lake, up and over San Joaquin Ridge to Thousand Island Lake, where the snowpack is fat and the coverage is good. SP left early on day 3 as his trip was a shorter introductory tour, while I continued on with Andrew and Madeleine to complete the Yosemite High Country Tour.
 This great tour takes you into seldom visted terrain along the Eastern Border of Yosemite National Park. We went over the high passes of Lost Lakes and the Kuna Connection, and had some really good ski runs along the way.
 We ended at Tioga Pass, and skied and walked down the road to our waiting shuttle.

 Now it looks like winter is returning to the Sierra Nevada, with a week or more of forecasted snow in the high country. This means that the skiing up high will continue to be good, so we are looking forward for both personal and guided ski tours to begin again once the weather clears.

All the best! Ryan