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I will preface this by saying that I have met many and have personally known some and as a whole I find them to be cool folks.


But I keep seeing a segment of the guide population that consists more or less of cold, pretentious people (mostly young men) who seem to view independent climbers outside their client group with disdain. I can understand being wary of unprepared parties or parties that are putting your group at risk, but the terse, inane replies to simple questions and the awkward, competitive vibe displayed on the mountain toward fellow climbers is a downer. Reminds me of the worst of surfing.


What is the deal? Do you think your company owns the mountain? Do you prefer climbing as a business rather than a hobby? Are independent climbers undeserving of acknowledgement because they haven't paid your company money?

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... a segment of the guide population that consists more or less of cold, pretentious people (mostly young men) who seem to view independent climbers outside their client group with disdain.


I believe it's the typical "one bad apple" sort of thing ... there are truly some very talented and sincere people out there guiding


From personnel experience, I found the "A-hole" issue to be very prevalent on Rainier in the mid-to-late 80's. After the Park opened the concession to more competition and people had choices, the number of "ass-hole-guides" seemed to be reduced dramatically. Some of them were 10x the jerks that some of the old "pre-Mike G" Rangers were.


I will agree .. I've never run into an "ass-hole-guide" that was female. But I also don't get any where close to what I used to.



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Some of them were 10x the jerks that some of the old "pre-Mike G" Rangers were.


Were the rangers of old more likely to be jerks than today's rangers? I cannot honestly recall a negative encounter that I've had with a climbing or wilderness ranger (and there have been times when a younger, dumber me deserved to be harshly reprimanded). But my experience would be limited to the last 10 or 15 years.

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Descending the DC route about 3 weeks ago a guide had 2 rope teams hot on our heels for a while after leaving the summit. I believe we offered or they requested to pass, either way we were happy to accommodate and stepped aside. The guide (female) was very condescending and dismissive and spoke all-importantly about how they needed to get their clients down and couldn't have anyone holding them up. Ok, whatever, be on your way.


It turns out that they just rush the clients on easy terrain and then grind to a halt whenever there is anything tricky to negotiate. We caught up to them a mere 15 minutes after their passing and ended up waiting behind them numerous times, adding an extra 1-2 hours to the descent.


At the top of the DC itself we waited and gave them a good head start to avoid getting stuck behind them, but shortly after we got backed up again going down a steeper section of loose rocks and wet snow. At the bottom two clients took a short fall on snow which was arrested by the guide grabbing onto a boulder.


They appeared unhurt, but we gave them a few to sort themselves out, however they still weren't descending after being very patient. They were in our fall line and didn't want to knock anything down on them, so I shouted out that we were in a terrible place to stop (rocks falling here and there, people coming down behind us) and needed them to please move so we could continue. They replied that they were still busy doing work on a hand line anchor and we needed to stay put until they were done. After some more waiting we finally got down.


I know this is a noob route (which is why I was on it, my first climb of Rainier) but asking to pass with the knowledge and intention of holding everyone up afterwards is a load of shit. The attitude that I should sacrifice my safety for the safety of you and your clients is also a load of shit. Mount Rainier is a national park and having someone pay you to drag them up doesn't give you any kind of priority.


There's my asshole guide anecdote. No disrespect to not-asshole guides, as I am sure there are plenty.

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On the Emmons yesterday during our descent there was a guided group that was moving slower than my team but sprinted ahead of us, apparently just to be first to cross back down the schrund and all the other snow bridges. Then they slowed down between all those obstacles. No communication about anything. A stupid grin on the guide's face when we got back to base camp.


Rainier is an awesome mountain; such a shame that it is geared toward trophy hunters rather than climbers or aspiring climbers.





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I have climbed the DC guided as well as unguided. Even when climbing guided I found that the guides were a bunch of abrasive assholes. Then again I find most people who try to spend every possible moment outside of society in the mountains to be like that, my own friends and self included. Let's at least be honest with ourselves that there is a certain no bullshit attitude you cultivate when taking risks on a regular basis.


I was roped to Jake during the climb he mentioned above. I was in the rear of our rope team and I was the one who talked to the guide. We were descending from the crater rim when the female guide started immediately talking trash about how much rope we had out between us. I did not say a single thing to her before this started. She just started complaining how we didn't know what we were doing and it was obvious because of how much rope we had out. We had about 40 feet I would guess which is longer than most parties. For us it is faster to descend with a bit of slack and a longer rope than short roping the entire mountain like the guides do. I tried to ask her for advice and offered that I am still relatively new and I am always open for advice, especially from a professional mountain guide! She was unwilling to work constructively with me and she demanded to be let by. I would offer to let her by and she would say something obtuse like "you guys are just going soooo slow." It was very awkward to offer to let her pass and to have her just talk trash instead of accepting.


We let them by when after declining our offers to pass she demanded to be let through. I felt really cheated how she had insisted that I was going slow, had no idea what I was doing, and should move out of the way for a faster party. As it turns out even in the flat open areas our team was able to move MUCH faster.


I can only imagine it gets worse when dealing with belay and rap stations.

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Perhaps, as the the profession of alpine guiding matures in this country, we'll see and hear of much less of this kind of complaint. Though no nationality is immune to arrogance and pride, it seems that European and Canadian guides, often families with many generations of experience and tradition, view their work as a fellowship of service, a calling, not just a job. And in my experience there is a recognition among truly professional guides, that independent climbers are often more skilled in a strict climbing sense, because they have to deal with the demands of a particular route for perhaps the first time, sight unseen, while the guide may have the advantage of having done the same route numerous times.


The independent climber relies on beta and guidebooks and their own ability and background, while the professional has, in addition, been over the same route repeatedly, in all conditions. Perhaps the arrogance among some young guides stems from compensating for an underlying sense of being actually somewhat LESS adventurous than the independent climber, in that regard. To more mature guides, it's a distinction that really doesn't matter in terms of their own self image and self respect. They consider themselves guides in the broadest, truest sense,that they are there to open doors to experience and perception for those less independently skilled, to a profound,magnificent, and magical world above the clouds. I think of alpinists like Rebuffat, Comici, Terray, Chouinard, Buhl, Gervasutti, the Whittakers and many others others who both climbed and worked as guides, who exemplify that attitude.


And while competition and jealousies among climbers are common to all times and places, among the best alpinists and guides there is a nobility and magnanimity, a readiness to encourage and applaud those who surpass them, and take the sport to higher levels, because they recognize that the mountains are beyond all personal ego and pettiness. Unless brought up and trained to be on guard against it, pride and arrogance are an all too common characteristic of youthful skill and energy.


While the mountains are wild, manners are as necessary and appropriate on the heights as in the home and business. And those with real experience in the hills have learned that the peaks have their own capricious etiquette, sometimes quite severe, taking the proud and heedless down a peg in no uncertain terms. Smallness of mind and heart have little place in the mountains; the high places demand of us our highest and best at all times.


Rebuffat states that a guide is something much more more than just a professional who gets clients up and down the mountain as safely and quickly as possible, for a price; rather the guide is also an actual friend "who is able to inspire confidence and to interest another in sharing the beauties of his domain. The guide is happy when the climber he takes with him is happy." Therefore the true guide is a friend and compatriot to all whom he encounters in the mountains as well as elsewhere. It takes time, and long experience, to develop this kind of maturity and equanimity.


And Rebuffat again says, "Effort and comradeship are the pillars of our sport. To be able really to see, it is not enough to open the eyes, one must first open one's heart."

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GerritD sorry your experience was so negative. Not all guides feel a need to make independent climbers feel stepped on or disrespected. I'd say the majority don't. It's too bad that isn't the perception. That's something the profession needs to work on if CC.com and other message boards are any indication.


Rainier specifically has a bit of a "history" as far as guiding culture goes. I think that is changing though. 'nuff said there.


+1 to Mtguide's post above.


From my standpoint, my job is to mitigate risk and ensure my client's well-being and positive experience while at the same time ensuring we don't put anyone else at risk. Hopefully I've always been respectful of those around me...but I know there HAVE been times when I've been stressed and focussed on my work ... to the point that I might have been curt with other parties. I try my best but I don't claim perfection.


As a side note, I routinely see some "head scratchers" up on different mountains/routes. There is always a moment or two of reflection on whether or not I can do anything to improve the situation - specifically to make it safer for those involved. It can be difficult to not become a little jaded when you see so many incidents or potential incidents. Part of the job is responding to SAR requests when needed. Seeing a very unnecessary potential incident in the making can get a little ... annoying. But it comes with the territory.


That's not to excuse the guide(s) in question in the posts above or intended as a critique of your own (GerritD) technique/skills. Just hopefully filling out the picture with some additional perspective.


I regard what I do as my Profession. I'm absolutely stoked to do what I do and hope to do it for a long time. Part of that is acting as something of an ambassador to the rest of the climbing community. I take that role seriously.


And I really like to have fun playing in the hills. Always stoked to see others doing the same.



Edited by bevans
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My hypothesis is that since guides are typically surrounded by people (clients) with a limited understanding of the mountains, they get jaded and begin to believe that everyone else is like that. My (limited) experience with guides is not so much that they are being intentionally rude, but that they automatically assume that I am making decisions from ignorance rather than a large body of knowledge that might be a little bit different than theirs.


I think this is probably just an unfortunate side effect of their trade. Often IT workers develop similar attitudes. Also, amateur climbers can be like this too, but I think it is less common.

Edited by Alan Trick
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I've also experienced jerk doctors, jerk lawyers, jerk bartenders, jerk baristas (especially snobby jerk baristas), jerk wait staff, and jerk flight attendants. And a jerk taxi that cut me off on I-405 as I was driving home from Index yesterday - why do they act like they own the road?


There can be huge difference between a guide in their 20's who's only a year or two into the profession - and may be out in another year or two - and another guide in their 30's or 40's that has been at it for 10+ years. One has been around and has seen a lot - the other may think they've been around and seen a lot.


To provide a bit of balance, I've also experienced jerk independent/non-guided climbers and climbing teams who thought they were more skilled, experienced, or entitled to be there than me and my guests. And for every story I've read here about jerk or unsafe guides, I have three for the weird, foolish, or unsafe practices I've seen of unguided climbers - likely because I spend +150 days/year in the field, not because unguided climbers are more likely to be weird, foolish, or unsafe.


Folks, there's more than enough room for everyone to be be out here in the mountains. Sometimes I think that the land management practice of separately managing and permitting guided teams from non-guided teams only contributes to this "us versus them" attitude I've seen on countless occasions from both sides. But the guided public is equally valuable as the unguided - the more people who experience how fantastic this environment truly is, the more it will be valued for its intrinsic worth and not simply for its resource extraction opportunities.


But of course that means sharing space with other folks - and some of those folks will be jerks.


So I try - really hard. I make a point to say hi to my neighbors in camp, and let them know what our plans are - I've found that if I start by admitting what we're up to, you're more open about what you're up to. If we figure out that we may meet on the mountain/route, this makes it much easier to work together. It may take a bit of time and shenanigans - have you ever seen 5 people on one multi-pitch bolted anchor? - but it's always easier to deal with someone you know with a grin than a stranger with a curse.


And all of you are more than welcome to PM or email me any sort of question, including the "WTF did they do that?" questions. I'm proud of my profession, its history, and of our shared mountain culture.


This was my fourth draft of a response, and I hope it reads as thoughtful as I tried to be. Off the soapbox now. Your turn.

Edited by chris
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Chris nailed it. This exact same thing used to happen when I was a cop and people found out; out came the "once an asshole cop did me wrong" stories. People all have an idea what people in certain professions ought to be, which boils down to "just like me."

People judge others by their actions and themselves by their intentions. They seem to walk around wondering, "why can't everyone be more like me?"

Guides vs. non-guided is reminiscent of the old frat guy vs. GDI arguments.

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Though no nationality is immune to arrogance and pride, it seems that European and Canadian guides, often families with many generations of experience and tradition, view their work as a fellowship of service, a calling, not just a job.


I'd say 20-something French guides are just as arrogant and obnoxious as 20-something Nepali guides who are just as arrogant and obnoxious as 20-something American guides. That said - climbing near and with 20-something kids is usually painful regardless of whether or not they are guides.


Most obnoxious apprentice guides burn out in their 20s. Those who hang on usually figure out that the only way to make a career out of it is to be friendly and cordial to everyone.

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