03 Aug The Value of Guided Progression
Scroll through any social media feed, and you’ll notice that everyone’s posts seem preoccupied with “ests”. The biggest, the longest, the hardest, the fastest. In a crowded field, to stand out there has to be something somehow special about everything we do. Even as guides, we can find ourselves falling into this trap. As a small guide service which has the most IFMGA and discipline-certified guides in the state, we enjoy showcasing the incredible climbs and tours we get to show with our guests, many of which are in demanding and challenging terrain both in our local mountains and ranges around the world. The Haute Route, the Evolution Traverse, the Incredible Hulk. These are some of the high-end objectives which SMG guides have shared with guests. Being able to cultivate the partnerships that have allowed for some of these successful trips has taken many of our guides years, slowly and steadily increasing the skillsets of our guests and preparing them for the next ambitious objective. But at some point, everyone had to take that initial step and do their first. First ski tour, first time tying into a rope, first mountain climb.
While we love bringing back stories from cutting-edge adventures that we have shared with clients, there is simply nothing like getting to be there for someone’s very first time. Those who have never climbed, or perhaps climbed in a gym, experience something outside that nothing indoors can prepare them for. Hikers who have long stared up at the lofty peaks above them have their minds blown while traversing easy, yet exposed alpine ridges. Who better to facilitate these first forays onto the walls and into the mountains than a certified guide?
Over the past week, I have been fortunate to work with two motivated and excited guests who came to us with either no or very little experience and introduced them to the mountains for the first time. Neither of them had ever visited the Sierra Nevada, and both of them come from as far from the mountains as you can possibly get (Miami and Manhattan!). On the first trip, a new instructional alpine climbing programming we have been developing, Bryce came out and spent 2 days learning how to tie knots, to move on the rock, and to multi pitch climb in the Mammoth Lakes Basin and on Crystal Crag. Her course culminated with a 2 day ascent of the classic NE Ridge of Bear Creek Spire, which at 13,720’ dominates the Rock Creek drainage and provides an incredible place to put all the newly learned skills to use.
The following trip, Rich visited us from South Florida, and while the allure of Whitney’s summit, the highest in the contiguous US provided the draw, the appeal of adding more summits to his trip proved too hard to resist, and signed up for a Whitney/Muir/Russell trip. He told me that if I led the way, he would follow, and that he was ready and willing to give it all he had. While not technically difficult, coupling the Mountaineer’s Route on Whitney with Mount Muir is a big day out, and Rich made great time as we jogged back and forth from Whitney’s summit to Muir’s small summit perch. The next morning, departing again before dawn for an early summit attempt on Mount Russell’s East Ridge, we watched the sun rise over the Inyos, casting a pink-orange glow on the Whitney Massif. Roping up for the moderate but exposed East Ridge, Rich wasn’t sure yet if he wanted to reverse the route or take the easier descent back down, but by the time we reached the summit at 8am, he exclaimed, “Of course I want to go back the way we came, that climb absolutely exceeded all of my expectations!” We are already planning on taking a trip to the Pacific Northwest so he can experience his first glaciated peak.
It all starts with that first step. Whether you visit the mountains for the first time, or you have aspirations of climbing and skiing the routes you’ve long read about and want to upgrade your skills, we have programs that can help get you there, and we are excited to share the experience with you.
Author: SMG Guide Ryan Huetter