Mountain Guide  What They Do

Just the Facts

Insider Info

dotDo you love mountain climbing and the beautiful outdoors? What if you could do what you loved -- and get paid to do it? Mountain guides are experienced professionals who safely lead climbers through challenging terrain.

dotMountain guides lead clients on climbing treks that can last hours or days. Guides do much more than lead people up a mountain. Experienced guides must plan climbing trips, secure necessary gear, be extremely knowledgeable about the terrain and equipment, and teach clients how to climb.

"Most of my time is spent outside. Inside work occurs mostly when dealing with my own clients and answering e-mail requests for a guide. When working as a contractor or employee, very minimal time is spent outdoors," explains Alison Andrews, a mountain guide.

dotImagine guiding a client hundreds of feet from the ground when a violent summer storm hits. Mountain guides are dedicated to keeping their clients and themselves safe and secure. Guides are trained to minimize climbing risks while maximizing client enjoyment. Climbing can be treacherous, so experienced guides must ensure clients have fun -- safely.

"Hiring an untrained guide can be simply dangerous," warns Doug Skiba, program manager for a mountain guide association.

dotGuides can choose to work for a mountaineering company or for themselves. Self-employed guides work some "office" time during their non-climbing days. Outside of leading climbs, self-employed guides must obtain necessary permits and insurance, train other guides and successfully market their business.

dotFor most people, guiding is not a full-time job. The summer months are usually the busiest, and climbing trips may last anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks. Because internationally certified guides are proficient in many areas, these special guides can work year-round as ski, alpine and rock-climbing guides.

dotAlthough technically dangerous climbs may be popular one year, another type of climb may be "in" the next. Savvy mountain guides keep up with recreational trends.

"Currently, there is a move towards adventure-based activities, such as trips which include hiking and river rafting," says Karl Klassen, president of a mountain guide association.

dotCouch potatoes need not apply! Mountain guides need to be in excellent physical condition. Guides will be leading clients through treacherous mountain terrain, so superior physical fitness and stamina are essential.

Special climbing tools are necessary for this profession. Mountain guides typically use special all-season camping gear, glacier glasses, ice axes and climbing harnesses.

At a Glance

Lead climbers on challenging treks

  • Guides can choose to work for a mountaineering company or for themselves
  • If you are certified internationally, you can work in any country
  • You can get training at a mountaineering school