“Make travelers feel safe; challenge them; get them inspired; and last but not least, make them remember!” A personal story about the importance of the human element and the guiding flexibility built over years of experience and training. Or how a trained outdoor guide can turn any rainy/foggy/stormy day into a memorable experience?
I will tell you a simple but descriptive first-hand story from my mountain leading experience.
A story of a trained mountain guide
A few years ago I guided a small group of travelers to the highest mountain tops (no higher than 3000m) of my country. These hikes were “a piece of cake” for few of the group members, but not so for the majority of the hikers in the group. Apparently, some of the gentlemen in the group had technical and life experience, twice as much as mine. Their experience included climbing to some of the 8,000 meter-high mountains of the world! Having to guide travelers with larger experience than your own is an usual story for most of the local mountain guides, especially in the remote and off-the-beaten track hiking areas of world. But let’s return to the sample I was giving you about the importance of my previous mountain leader training by UIMLA (The Union of the International Mountain Leader Associations) and how it helped me to limit the risk and to keep the travelers content by their hike.
It was 6.30am, we were at the starting point, the clouds were already compiling, the jagged peak was 1000m above us, the clouds were already compiling. The weather was unsteady; there were thunders and lightnings in the nearby skies from the early morning. Part of the group was slow and unused to slippery and rocky terrain (apart of the three travelers with the great experience). At the time we got to the peak approach the clouds were already thick and just above our heads.
All signs were saying “Not a good day for the ridge”. So I had to communicate my decision with the group and of course, not unexpectedly, the 3 experienced hikers wanted to climb this “little piece of cake”, no matter what!
Moments like this are everyday life for the experienced outdoor guides, that’s why they usually have a pack of tactics based on good training and years of decision-making, if you add a “pinch” of humor, then this rainy day, might turn into the most memorable day of the trip.
What professional mountain guides are trained for?
As a trained outdoor guide and a local insider, I already knew the following trivia facts:
Fact N1: Heavy rainfall + storm was coming in less than an hour! But I also knew there was a cozy mountain hut in approximately the same time distance.
Professional mountain guides know the geography of the region they are guiding in perfectly and they always have a Plan B (that would turn every bad weather into a good opportunity for a new experience).
Fact N2: When joining an outdoor activity within a group, then we work as a group (small or big doesn’t even matter), if one couldn’t make it, none would make it!
Professional mountain guides are trained in psychology, group dynamics and decision-making in all kind difficult situations.
Fact N3: Thunders and lightnings are not the best travel company when on a mountain top.
Professional mountain guides are specially trained to take quick decisions and limit the risk for all participants. But also to explain that the views from this summit are horrible from inside the clouds! 🙂
Fact N4: In most cases, in the lower part of the mountains there are magical forests and trails with smooth floor and green “roof” which would be the ideal substitution of all “failed” hikes.
The trained mountain guides are your best local insiders; they know all the alternatives and are able to take at the right place at the right moment.
P.S. To sum up the above story, we escaped the rain and the thunders with a 2-hour sweet talk around the fireplace of the nearby mountain hut, all travelers “equipped” with beers and teas and me well-appointed with hundreds of legends, team-spirit games “in a hat”, maps with routes and the whole history of a millennium-old country! Later on we had a nice 4-hour hike through a magical century-old pine forest! “Make travelers feel safe; challenge them; get them inspired; and last but not least, make them remember!”
Good adventure guides will not only show you the way, they will show you the best way!