/ advice on becoming a guide

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ford23 - on 19 Nov 2012
I'm currently studying for a Masters degree, but I'm struggling with the workload at the moment and I'm considering dropping out soon, which means I need a plan for what I want to do next. I've been thinking for a while about becoming a mountain guide, and maybe working in my local area in the Pyrenees. However, although I am very enthusiastic, I don't really know anything about the process or what it would involved. I'd be extremely grateful for any information or advice that you could offer or coarses that could help the process.
andyb211 on 19 Nov 2012
In reply to sethmford: then click the link How do I become a mountain guide best of luck and I hope you make it.

Pyreneenemec - on 19 Nov 2012
In reply to sethmford:

The selection criteria to become "Guide de Haute Montagne" are draconian.

Conditions d'inscription à l'examen probatoire :

- être âgé de 17 ans au moins au 1er janvier de l'examen
- présentation d'une liste de 55 courses et escalades (comme prévu) sur une période d'au moins 3 ans, dont au moins :
* 10 courses en rocher de niveau TD (6a) ou plus effectuées en montagne au dessus de 2500 mètres de 350 mètres de paroi minimum
* 10 courses en neige et glace dont 5 au moins seront de niveau D ou plus, et de 500 mètres de dénivelée au minimum
* 10 courses en mixte dont 7 seront de niveau D ou plus et de 500 mètres de dénivelée positive.
Une de ces courses comprendra un important engagement technique, physique et moral. Signaler cette course dans la rubrique "engagement".
Cette course doit se dérouler en haute montagne, à une altitude supérieure à 3500 mètres.
A titre d'exemple, quelques courses type, qui entrent dans cette catégorie :
* voie de la Face Nord des Grandes Jorasses ; Pillier du Freney (envers du Mont-Blanc) ; Face Nord de l'Eiger ; Face Nord Directe de la Meige ; Face Nord de l'Ailefroide ; ou expéditions lointaines engagées.
* 10 escalades rocheuses d'un niveau TD+ (6b) minimum, effectuées en falaise (150 mètres de paroi minimum)
* 10 journées de ski de montagne (800 m de dénivelée positive minimum)
* 5 escalades de glace de 100 m au minimum et de difficulté minimale 4+
Ces courses et escalades seront réalisées en premier de cordée ou en réversible.
* une liste de 10 canyons variés et une attestation de natation.

The option of becoming a guide in Britain would appear somewhat easier !
rlines - on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to sethmford: I think that if a 1 - 2 yr masters is a long haul, then guide training will be a whole new level of grind. The biggest barrier I can see is how to earn a living while you get enough experience to start the program (which you may already have, but your post on skis suggests you're at least new to skiing) and then to fund the mandatory training courses and continual development. If you wanted to do it in the shortest time possible, don't count on having much time to earn money at all. It's not only tough during training, but a very tough job in my opinion.

Good luck!
rlines - on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to rlines: not that i'm a guide or have even done any of the training - I'd have loved to, but can't pass the medical!
graham F - on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to Pyreneenemec: Here's the Britsih pre-rquirements

Looks a lot harder than the Pyrenean list to me.
beardy mike - on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to graham F: I was going to say exactly the same! The carnet is not easy whatever route you take! Each association tunes their requirements to their particular country, i.e. the french do not concentrate on trad climbing outside the alpine environment. Their requirements are different but I cant see where BMG is less difficult! 50 E1 multipitch routes with leads of 5c and above, i.e. you want to be climbing E3-E4 really, 50 winter routes with a majority at IV-V scottish, 30 days ski mountaineering, 15 on linked tours, and 20 alpine routes, 10 at TD or more and 5 of these being 800mH and preferably mixed, i.e. classic big routes.
Jamie B - on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to mike kann:

BMG is no easier. I think the suggestion may have been that it would be easier to pursue the UK-based Mountain Instructor progression than work towards the guides scheme, which is correct to a point...

The OP's question is posed frequently on here, normally by people who have no conception of the length of journey required or the total immersion in the world of mountaineering that is required, whatever scheme is followed.

To the OP: Are you prepared to spend the next 5 years living out of a rucksack, being permanently penny-less and climbing to the exclusion of all else? If so go for it. But if you thought this was an easy profession to get into think again!
beardy mike - on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to Jamie Bankhead: Not really how it was worded though was it... and besides, if the chap wants to be based in france he's pretty much got to go through the French channels...
george mc - on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to mike kann:
> if the chap wants to be based in france he's pretty much got to go through the French channels...

Nope not correct - that's why the the British Mountain Guides are members of the IFMGA. Most British Guides appear to be based over in France permanently i.e. live and work there but became Guides via the British scheme.

Cortijo Pino on 25 Nov 2012 -
As well as those qualifications look at which offers the IML route to getting qualified to work in the mountains. Not a technical or climbing guide however you can work in the high mountains.
Dave Cumberland - on 25 Nov 2012
In reply to sethmford:
> Hi,
I'm considering dropping out soon, which means I need a plan for what I .. .. ..

Do NOT drop out! Stick with it. Grunt, graft and be dedicated - life is like that. Finish the course, it is a fraction of your life, then later you will be even better motivated to become a climbing obsessive. Whatever you do in life, you can always climb. You will be better paid away from climbing than you will as a climbing bum, and the chance of making a living guiding means years of very hard apprenticeship and no guarantees.
French Erick - on 25 Nov 2012
In reply to Dave Cumberland:
+1 on that statement. I'm told it's an amazing career. But any career can be like that.
If I won the lottery, I would entertain myself by entering the scheme, that would be my only chance to become a MG without pretty much dropping my standards of living drastically low (I could still fail!).

As for schemes being easier abroad/ here. I remember looking at the requirements here when I 1st arrived and thinking they were...then I realised what the meaning of finding 50 routes in conditions (you, your mental and the cliffs) meant.

I always think of the guide as the PhD of climbing if that means anything to the OP.
augustus trout - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Dave Cumberland: +2 MA's are brutal due to the speed you have to get to grips with things but succeed and no matter what the subject is it will have given you pretty handy skills in terms of focus self discipline and tanacity. Personally it was after a MA I found the personal confidence to get into climbing. Success has a tendency to breed success, unfortunately the inverse can also be true and I wouldn't like to embark on a new career with that baggage.
Guv - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to sethmford:

Firstly, good luck.
Secondly, finish the masters IF it means a job you can do 3 months of the year and climb the rest.
Move to Chamonix and become French alpinist. Simples. Do the English system. The French respect Scottish winter climbers.
1. Because we don't bolt
2. We climb in really bad conditions which by our standards are normal.

Ok, this question is for the nay-Sayers.
What would be easier, Sponsorship from Petzl or UIAGM?

A lot of their athletes are guides.
ice.solo - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to sethmford:

another for dont drop out now.

whatever international guide qual you go for will still be several years away, and if any job needs another string to its bow its guiding.
economies are changing which has affected guiding, which was already a saturated field for earning real money (unless you went beyond just guiding and got into other aspects of industry).
also: international guiding quals are still hard work. if this is about workload, expenses, outcomes etc then dont think youve found a way out. learning, training, assessments, refreshers, the novice years, logging hours etc all adds up. and never forget its a job qual - youre not there to just mess about. plenty fail or drop out, or deferr and dont come back.
basically its a uni level of learning for what is essentially a manual labor qual for a marginal market. think about that.

id argue that guiding indeed only works well with another parallel career. i know lots of IMGs who either have other careeers or who do little old lady stuff between seasons. it takes years to get to the point of making good money, and then the peak years are not going to last forever. its a slow career path to develop due to its seasonal nature. fine as something you do for half the year, but hard if you want the other half to be your own climbing, harder still if you have family.

a way thru it that many go with is to either specialize in something/somewhere no one else is doing, or to be involved in other parts of the climbing industry that may not involve climbing (managing climbers lodges, gear production, industrial rigging etc).

if this is just to live a climbing life its not the only way. you will have more freedom working in a related job that either has you near the climbing area, gives you access to it, or gives you long holidays - all with decent pay.
my own path has been to do the training modules, including other aspects of specialist training, but ive never been to half the assessments as i dont climb in places where either the assessments or the quals are granted relevancy. its the pirate-path, but 6 years in im making more money than friends who have been IMGs for decades and who struggle in what is really a limited ambit.

get into guiding because you like guiding, ie the people management stuff, the guiding lifestyle, the volume of time spent doing it - but dont get into it as a sole career if you want to climb serious stuff. theres better ways to do that. guiding is still a job - you have to work, its not paid climbing. 50% of guiding isnt climbing, and theres lots of industry/scene bullshit you many not be into.

all said, as a young persons thing its great for a few years. really makes you think. but as the saying goes 'the only thing harder than getting into guiding is getting out of it'.
you wont regret having having other options, especially hard earned ones
Jon Bracey - on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to ice.solo:

more like 90% of guiding isn't climbing!
ice.solo - on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to Jon Bracey:

shhhhhh......gotta keep some of the fantasy alive
Andy Perkins - on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to sethmford:

Hi there. Having been through both postgraduate academia and the BMG training scheme, my view is that becoming a guide is significantly harder.
For more info see
My advice would be to stick with the Masters for now and once you've got it, think about guiding.
That way, even if you do become a guide later, you'll have an alternative to fall back on if you get injured or just find the guiding too hard.

Good luck whatever you decide to do.
donny - on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to Dave Cumberland: completely agree with Dave finish the masters and improve your climbing at the same time. Whatever route you chose these days you need to be prepared to be resilient and grind it out - nothing is easy unless you are dead lucky. Everyone has periods of self doubt but those who are happy in whatever they choose to do will have had really tough periods at some point.

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