Monday, May 24, 2010
Not All Guides are Created Equal
In the 30 plus years I’ve been in this business, I’ve gleaned a few simple truths about adventure travel. One of the most important ones is learning which element of a trip has the single greatest impact on the quality of experience a traveler brings home. More important than the itinerary, the quality of accommodations, the food, or the companionship of one’s fellow travelers, the most critical element is the leadership, your guide(s).
Over the course of the years, it’s inevitable that unforeseeable problems will arise. After all, we’re dealing with mountain weather, which is nothing if not unpredictable. To list a few of our more memorable past problems, an outbreak of plague amongst the yaks that were supposed to carry our gear through the Lunana region of Bhutan, avalanches that roared all night and blocked the Larkhya La on our Manaslu Circuit trek, a snowstorm that rolled in off the Bay of Bengal in Nepal’s dry season, dumping a load of snow that forced us off of Jaljale Himal.
These are the times when you really find out what the guide is made of. And when you’ve got a truly top shelf guide in charge, it’s very possible, or even probable, that the trekkers will come home and tell me it was one of the best trips of their life. Of course we all, outfitters and trekkers alike, hope for blue skies, wind at your back, and everything goes smoothly. But it’s the stories of the times when things don’t go smoothly that bear retelling years and decades hence. And almost inevitably, if the story has a happy ending, it’s due to the skill of the leader more than any single other factor.
It’s for this reason that when you go searching for your next adventure, I’d suggest that you shop as hard for your guide as you do for your trip. With the right guide, you can learn a great deal about the mountains, the people, leadership, and maybe even yourself.
Above the Clouds