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Why Hire a Mountain Guide: An Interview with a Mountain Guide-in-Training

Lindsey Hamm is the recipient of the 2016 AMGA GORE-TEX Scholarship, and she lives, works and plays in beautiful Durango, Colorado. She’s also a passionate climber and adventurer, currently training to be a mountain guide. We were fortunate enough to interview Lindsey and find out exactly why she recommends that you hire a mountain guide for your next expedition. 

Why is it important to hire a guide?

LH: There is a ton of benefit to hiring a mountain guide. They can help you plan the best route and will know exactly what kind of equipment to bring for the climb. They’ll help you learn and practice technical skills, correcting you as needed, and teach standardized safety practices, which will keep you and your friends safer on all of your future climbs.

What does it take to be an AMGA Certified Mountain Guide?

LH: AMGA Certified Guides undergo intense training and examinations. The AMGA evaluates guides-in-training on the following characteristics: professionalism, experience, quality, risk management, personal attention, comprehensive guiding, and teaching. Guides also embody the culture of American mountain craft through their love affair with climbing’s rich history, stunning natural landscapes, and ceaseless explorations.

What sparked your interest in climbing, and how long have you been involved in it?

LH: I started climbing about 7 years ago when I was going to school at Texas State University. My friend Connor brought me to the gym to go bouldering one day, and at that moment I was hooked. Another friend of mine, Josh Armour, took me on a climbing trip to Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming, and Utah, which is where I was exposed to beautiful climbing areas around the U.S. and learned more about the different rock types there are to climb on. Gary Newmeyer (my boyfriend), who I met on this trip, introduced me to traditional climbing, multi-pitch climbing, technical systems, and what it means to be safe and topping out on badass summits! Marcus Garcia, my trainer, has refined my climbing technique this past year and a half, and I have bumped up in grades with his help! He has sparked my interest in the mixed/ice world these days. All these guys helped open my eyes about climbing. Without them I wouldn't be here today. I am looking forward to what the future holds.

What made you decide to seek mountain guide training and make it into a career?

LH: Growing up, I really didn't know what my ‘passion’ was or would be. I worked at 9-5 jobs, which were really amazing opportunities, but they weren’t keeping my stoke up. When I moved to Colorado almost 3 years ago for a great job in Denver, I knew that I would start climbing more and more and more, which turned my casual climbing into an obsession. As I got more and more involved in the sport, I found myself wanting to protect those who climbed with me and I wanted to be confident placing my own ropes. I want to inspire people from all over to free themselves from their comfort zone for just a moment; to alleviate stress, in turn, help them build confidence they didn't know they had. Working at Kling Mountain Guides for the last two years, I've had the opportunity to work with all different types of clients and go to very different areas with them. The moments I have with my clients have helped fuel that fire to go all he way through the IFMGA program (thank you Josh Kling for mentoring me through the AMGA programs). Recently, I was guiding three gentlemen from Texas; we climbed at a local crag called East Animas. A full day of jamming our hands in cracks, bleeding from pushing ourselves, and all the laughter and crying that comes along with climbing, failing and succeeding—I would say this was a successful day. After the first day with these guys, they ended up hiring me for two more days. In addition, last year I was scheduled for a half-day at X-Rock in Durango. After I met my client, we said goodbye to my fellow Kling teammate, we jumped into the van, and the first thing the woman said to me was, “I am so happy you are a female.” My stoke meter went from 7 to 100 after she said that to me, and for the rest of the day we crushed it! There is a market for female guides, I have been told by both men and women who I have guided these past two years. Right now there are only nine women fully certified (alpine, ski, rock) by the IFMGA. I want to be one of those women.

What’s the one piece of advice you would give to a beginning climber?

LH: Be patient with yourself, don’t rush into things. Climbing is a progression, and you aren’t going to learn it overnight. Be patient and allow yourself time to practice and refine the skills. You have to work at it. As a guide, this comes into play because you have to help people be patient with themselves, and the struggle and difficulty is normal and expected. People can be really hard on themselves. We all need to get past that.

The American Mountain Guides Association is gearing up to hold their annual meeting in Salt Lake City, UT on October 22nd through 24th at the Petzl Technical Institute. Join them for an unforgettable weekend filled with more than 17 professional development clinics brought to you by the AMGA and the GORE-TEX Brand. Register for the event now!

  Photo credit: Gary Newmeyer

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