Guide Skills: Mentorship in Guiding

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By Trevor Husted 

As part of our Guide Skills Development Series, this next post focuses on the importance of mentorship in guiding and where to find it. 

Look into the origins of the word mentor and you will find links to Greek Mythology, more specifically Homer’s poem “The Odyssey.” In this epic, Odysseus goes off to fight in the Trojan War leaving his son Telemachus in the care of his good friend, Mentor, to impart wisdom and guidance.

In the mountains, mentorship is an invaluable relationship that can be extremely beneficial for both mentor and mentee. From the novice looking to work their way into guiding to the skilled guide with years under their belt- mentorship opportunities within an organization- especially a large guide service like Alpine Ascents International, benefit guides at all career stages. But why is mentorship so important? Is gaining the knowledge and skill really worth it when it could involve hours spent with an older guide who is constantly repeating tales of the glory days and how guiding used to be….I’d say so!

Today, mentorship is becoming harder and harder to find. Those tales and wisdom that experienced guides hold can forge a newfound respect and gratitude for the mountains. What about different more efficient methods or skills in doing something? The sharpness in keeping the mind and body up to speed to be able to handle the literal ups and downs of the many mountains we encounter over a long span of time? It can be a powerful experience to receive first-hand knowledge from a guide who is dialed and an excellent teacher, but the question then becomes, how does one go about finding a mentor?

Look within an Organization/Community

There are ample opportunities within organizations to find a mentor. Even specific groups online such as Facebook can be a great place to look for expertise. Just think about all the dialed guides who work at Alpine Ascents. These adept guides have been in the game for years and hold the keys to understanding the different types of terrain, situations, techniques, and communication it takes to bring forth success. If you are able to strike a good relationship with one, it never hurts to ask if they would be willing to take you out to show some of their skills or sit down for coffee and talk through some of the more nuanced aspects of the guiding world. Beer is a common exchange for knowledge or expertise that has a high success rate in this line of work (a 6 pack for a wealth of knowledge… seems like a pretty good deal to me).

Mentorship Camps

Over the years, organizations like the AMGA, Arc’teryx, North Face, She Moves Mountains, and more have created single and multi day programs meant to bolster guides. These organizations also provide communities chances to train in small ratios with a team member or experienced guide as an instructor. These efforts have helped to promote mentorship and learning in an intimate setting. Some of these programs stopped throughout Covid but it appears that they will hopefully pick back up again in the near future. It’s also a great way to meet other folks on the same track!

Hire a Guide

Another option for guides looking to gather insight and acuity is to hire a guide. Whilst this may seem a bit odd given that it’s what most of us do on a daily basis, it can be an inspiring experience and provide new ideas and perspectives. The support, guidance, and encouragement can be a great way to learn new tricks of the trade, as well as gather specific knowledge to change the way you approach guiding.

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