The recent avalanche in the Khumbu Ice Fall on Everest leads me to weigh in on guiding.
Much guiding on rivers, mountains, or climbing technical routes is a noble profession. It involves having a skilled professional take an unskilled person to an area or endeavor they would not tackle on their own. The very nature of such an excursion has hazard involved, that you accept guided or not. No one asks for a “bowling” guide, because it is not very dangerous.
Becoming a guide follows a similar path for most – developing an interest in the place or activity, privately, a skill set that allows for completion in safety, and an interest in sharing the experience, eventually, with those who do not possess the skill set, to enlighten them and enhance their enjoyment. You become a educator, (if your clients are receptive), a mentor, partner, and hopefully friend.
When it gets too commercial then none of those things are foremost.
You have clients, customers, or public, and become little more than a highly skilled waiter.
In private excursions my partners, and even my wife understand that should some calamity befall me, your life is not to be endangered for my rescue. I willingly took the risk knowing full well the possible outcomes.
However, when it becomes so commercial that a parade of low paid yet willing support staff are employed for the the success of your adventure, I question your drive and desire.
I also would question the guiding entities true colors. Is it all about the experience? Or the money paid for success, which can never be assured. You could go bowling, where success is not assured either. But it is cheaper.
Over 30 years I have experienced all kinds. But the best are the ones I Inspire, or who get inspired by the place, experience, and knowledge they gain, and most importantly, the knowledge they gain from the world and themselves.
I have several friends who guide, and are happy taking 1% from the 1%.
Great. That is not what it is about to me.
For the Sherpas ( High Altitude) I cannot speak.
But I know this.
They are the gentlest most even keeled souls on the planet.
They get payed dirt for THE most dangerous job on the planet.
Although, it is CEO compensation, for Nepal. $5,000/year.
Not to many CEO’s in this country DIE in the course of their work load.
While western climbers commonly pay $75,000 – over $100,000 to climb Everest. And the clients do nothing but be guided.
Climbing a peak in Nepal is a huge cash cow for their economy.
Reliable income is scarce. So the Sherpas do this to make 5-8 times their neighbors income. At great risk.
Western climbers would not do the trips through the Khumbu for 10 times the amount.
If you want to climb a big mountain, then do it. Develop a skill set that makes it work. Part of doing it, is doing it yourself. Take responsibility for your self.
I could be wrong, but I am pretty sure John Wesley Powell was NOT Guided down the Grand Canyon.
Sometimes the Doing of the Thing is more important.
Try it. You might find yourself. With no help from anything or anyone but yourself.
So, we have people willing to risk their lives for less than a tenth of what it costs someone to have a “guided” experience.
It reminds me of a Bill Whithers song. Let’s just keep using ‘em
Till we use ‘em up