Interview with guide Sam Tyler

Where did you grow up and where do you call home now?

I grew up in Nantucket Massachusetts and I currently call Huaraz, Peru home although I still travel quite a bit for work.

How did you first start guiding?

I first started guiding in Alaska assisting on sea kayaking trips and glacier treks and climbs.

Where do you guide and what activities do you guide?

I’ve been guiding in Peru, Washington, Alaska, and Nepal the past few years. I am pretty nomadic with my work. It helps keep things interesting and diverse.  I mostly focus on mountaineering and alpine climbs, courses, and expeditions.

What is your favorite route or location to guide?

This is a tough one question. Usually if I am guiding something new or in an area I have not been to in a while that becomes something of a favorite because it’s a bit more fresh than something I have guided over and over. I pretty much love anything in Peru. It’s high altitude climbing, usually at a technical level, and the scenery is just amazing. Peru also offers peaks that are quite accessible for their height. You can climb multiple 6,000 meter peaks in a two week period. Most of those climbs a scenic trek, some big glacier climbing, followed by alpine ice, all of which keep things interesting and the group sizes down.

The southwest ridge of Ama Dablam in the Himalaya is an amazing climb. It offers moderate rock and ice climbing in a big mountain environment. The route is fixed and gives a great diversity to those looking to get on a mixture of different terrain. After you arrive in in Kathmandu you take another plane into Lukla which is located in the Khumbu. From there you trek through villages past monasteries and across suspension bridges high above rivers and the valley floor. Base camp has an amazing view of the peak and is on grass which is nice compared to some of the other camps that are rocky and dusty. You use a total of three camps on the mountain and you should plan on 30 days in country.

What do you wish more people knew about outdoor guiding?

I wish more people knew how much work it really is. All the pre-trip planning and packing. It’s not like a 9-5 job where you can just flip a switch and be done at a certain hour. Sure, there’s some tent down-time but it’s a 24 hour a day job. You are there for your clients from the start to the end of the trip no matter the time of day or night. It’s not just cooking, it’s terrain and weather assessment and risk management. Risk management is huge because it’s what keeps us coming home.

What tips do you have for someone looking to hire a guide?

For someone looking into hiring a guide I would look at how many years they have actively been guiding and the type of trips and terrain they frequently guide plus what certifications they hold and training programs they have been a part of.

What is your next professional or personal challenge that you are most looking forward to?

My next big move in my personal life is marriage and in my professional life working on getting a small guide service off the ground.

What do you do when it is raining outside?

Rain is one of those things which depends a lot on how hard and the consistency on which it’s coming down and where I am. Usually if it’s on the lighter side I’ll just throw on some rain gear. If it’s really nasty out hopefully I’m in my tent waiting for it to clear if not usually pushing to get out of it and begin drying off.

What piece of equipment can’t you live without?

My pee bottle pretty much goes with me on every trip.

The best way for people to reach me is by email.

Styler.alpine@gmail.com

Interview with Bolivian IFMGA/IVBV Mountain Guide Jose Camarlinghi

This week we chatted with IFMGA certified mountain guide Jose Camarlinghi, a native Bolivian with experience guiding throughout South American who is currently living and guiding in New Zealand.

Can you talk a little about your background? How did you first start guiding?

I spent my childhood in La Paz, Bolivia. It was a very nice small city with around 300.000 people. The city is located in a wide mountain valley in the central part of the Bolivian “Altiplano”, the high flat land. On the east side, some peaks and mountains of the Cordillera Real can be seen, with Mount Illimani, the second highest peak in Bolivia, being the most prominent. It can be seen from almost any neighborhood. The mountains are ever present but hardly anyone notices them.

I was not very sporty type of kid. I preferred to read books and wander in the hills around the city. My brother and I, along with our German Shepherd, would spent hours walking in the hills to have a better view of the mountains.

My parents used to buy all types of books and which my brother and I eagerly read. I remember once reading an account of Herman Bull on Nanga Parbat. Afterwards I felt a profound dread and could not understand why people would risk their lives going to such places. I decided I would never ever climb mountains.

Some years later my father took my brother and I to the Amazonian side of the country. He thought that there would be an opportunity for a business in Guanay, the center of a gold rush at that time. We took a bus over the Andes and crossed the mountains. Seeing them up close, I fell in love with them. After returning to La Paz, my brother and I started going to the higher peaks. At the time we didn’t understand the big risks we took without having any equipment or any knowledge of mountaineering techniques. Years later we engaged some training organized by small mountaineering clubs.

The early 1980s were a troublesome time in Bolivia and it profoundly impacted our lives. I was at university trying to study a career in Geography and History when the Army took over and smashed democracy. They closed the universities because the students were the main social movement against the dictatorship. The Army reopened the universities in an attempt to give some sense of normality to Bolivian society, and fortunately that government lasted less than two years. Bolivia suffered an embargo as the military government had an alliance with the cocaine traffickers. Unfortunately, the return to democracy after two years of military rule did little to turn the economy around. With the turmoil I lost interest in the ever irregular classes. Fortunately the German government had several programs to assist Bolivians, including a three year program to train mountain guides and instructors. With that I saw an opportunity to continue developing my love for the mountains and the sport.

Where do you guide and what activities do you guide? What is your favorite route or location to guide?

Outside of Bolivia I have also guided in Peru, Chile, Argentina and México. The place I love most is the Cordillera Quimsa Cruz. It is a small, unknown range with very pretty mountains. The southern part is glaciated and the northern end has hundreds of granite peaks, towers and spires. The eastern side of the range has not been spoiled by humans and holds one of the most pristine alpine and cloud forest mountains in the Andes. I go back there every time I can. Unfortunately, as it is not famous, I do not get many clients willing to go there. They don’t know what they are missing.

In the south there are several valleys with road access to quite close to the glaciers. It is possible to set up a base camp and climb several peaks from it, all of them within a day’s journey. And there are several valleys. In the north you can have the best rock climbing in Bolivia. The most visited valley is called Cuchu Mocoya and from it it is possible to climb faces and ridges of more than 500 meters. I would love to live there!

What do you wish more people knew about outdoor guiding? What tips do you have for someone looking to hire a guide?

In Bolivia there is no law to regulate guiding activities. There are many companies and guides who organize treks and climbs but very few have real, professional staff. Their services are inexpensive but lack quality. Often the trips end in failure, or worse, in accidents. Unfortunately,  many tourists are more concerned with saving money than staying safe. Many look for the cheapest options and do not ask about safety or professional credentials. What makes it even worse is that the cheaper companies pay peanuts to their staff, exploiting the guides and keeping their families on the verge of poverty. I wish our government would take on the problem but tourism is the last thing they are interested in.

That is why I try to educate travelers and tourists about the issue. If they hire non-professional, cheap services they support the exploitation of the staff, including not only the guides, but also the cooks, mule drivers, drivers, and others. Bolivia’s Mountain Guides Association (AGMTB) is 33 years old and its school has the recognition of the International Federation of Mountain Guides Associations (IFMGA/UIAGM/IVBV). Bolivian trekking guides are also members of the AGMTB but are trying to get the Union of International Mountain Leaders Associations (UIMLA) certification. It is a long process but hopefully they will get it soon. People looking for trekking and mountaineering services should ask for those certificates. Of course, some companies will lie about having certified guides, but with the internet it’s easy to check if your guide is properly certified, as both the IFMGA and the AGMTB have websites that list certified guides.

What is your next professional or personal challenge that you are most looking forward to?

As a professional I believe I have succeeded. Many of my clients are return clients and after so many years they have become my friends. Those relationships have become quite special and they endure no matter the distance or the time. At this point in my life my challenges are more personal, not professional. There are places I want to visit and climb and I have other activities I would like to pursue.

What is one piece of equipment that you can’t live without?

I like gadgets and like to try new ones. I find that I love some of them and others I hate and never use again. There is one piece of equipment I make sure I always bring along, no matter if I am rock climbing, trekking, mountaineering, mountain biking or four-wheel driving: a headlamp. Whatever happens, it’s good to make sure you aren’t caught out at night without one, things can go bad quickly in the dark.

You mentioned that you guide mostly in South America but are currently working for a guiding company in New Zealand. Can you talk a little bit about your current guiding work?

In Bolivia you cannot work as an independent guide. You have to work for an agency or an operator. For that reason I have a company in partnership with my best friend. We started climbing when we were 15 and went to Mountain Guide School together.

At the moment I am guiding in New Zealand. I was hired by a local company. I heard that they needed mountain guides for their summer season so I applied to three different companies. To my surprise all three companies offered me a job. At first I didn’t know how to decide on which company to work for. I looked at their websites and read their clients reviews but remained undecided. Finally, I got a phone call from one of the three and had the most particular (and personal) job interview. The questions were about my kids and wife, my dog and so on… I immediately accepted their offer.

I have been in New Zealand for two months and so far I am enjoying it. The mountains are more challenging than the ones I am used to. I have to confess that it took me a while to adapt. Maybe I am a bit old and not as flexible as I used to be?

I understand that you also offer trips focused on photography? How did those come about?

After working as a guide for a few years I decided to go back to university. I got a bachelor’s degree in filmmaking and a masters degree in scriptwriting. At the same time I also studied photography as part of filmmaking. I saw that photography trips were increasing in popularity so I developed a few programs. I know places were my clients can take really very beautiful pictures. I have worked with several professional photographers and filmmakers, too, but my tours are designed for amateur photographers.

How can people best get in touch with you?

I mentioned above that I partnered with my best friend to lead climbs i South America. The best way of contacting us is via our website www.andeansummits.com or at info@andeansummits.com.

Interview with IFMGA/IVBV Mountain Guide Gonzalo Vilches

How did you start to guide?

I have done mountaineering all my life. When I was younger my family liked to go to the mountain every weekend, but I never thought I would be a mountain guide. I never even knew it was an option and in fact, I studied civil engineering. It was at that time, on a trio to the Llaima volcano with the mountaineering club, that a good friend suggested I become a mountain guide. At first he had to explain what a mountain guide did, and that you could be paid as a guide. Once I realized that I could earn a living as a guide I began to take the required courses, spent more time climbing outside and preparing for the guide exam. In the end, I never worked as an engineer.

Where do you guide and what activities guide?

I guide in South America and in Europe. I live in Holland, and yes I know it has no mountains, but it is a great base of operations for me. I am currently in Andorra for the winter season.

What is your favorite route or place to guide?

I don’t have a favorite route. I really enjoy guiding new itineraries and discovering new locations with my clients.

What would you like more people to know about the outdoor guide?

I would like people to understand that mountain guiding is a profession. In South America people sometimes attempt to act as guides without the necessary training which is irresponsible.

What advice do you have for someone looking to hire a guide?

That they hire a professional guide certified by the UIAGM/IFMGA/IVBV or the UIMLA.

What is your next professional or personal challenge that you most look forward to?

I am in the Chilean National Ski and Snowboard School (Enisschag) which is a very good school for ski instructors affiliated with the ISIA (International Ski Instructor Association) certification. I want to achieve the level of alpine skiing coach.

What do you do when it is raining?

I guide in good weather and bad weather. When the weather doesn’t cooperate I will change the routes. I only stay home in storms that would make it unsafe. When I’m not working I enjoy windsurfing and fly fishing. I’m only ever indoors if I’m forced to be.

What piece of equipment can you not live without?

I have a piolet that Philippe Gabarrou gave me which was blessed in a ceremony by an Italian priest in Bolivia. I could lose everything except that ice ax. That ice ax has also accompanied me for many years.

How can people get in touch with you?

People can visit me website www.guiademontana.com for more information or e-mail me directly lonpay@gmail.com.

Gonzalo is one of thousands of guides you could be matched with for your next outdoor adventure. Be it mountaineering in South America or hiking in a National Park, www.AllTheGuides.com is where you can find your next guide.

Introducing AllTheGuides.com

The idea for this platform came about as I chatted with my guide, Sam, on our way down from an attempted summit on Mt. Pisco in Peru. As Sam recalled his years of professional guiding around the world, he also described how relocating to follow climbing seasons made it difficult to establish steady business. As I thought about my own difficulties finding a guide, the idea for a new online platform for guides developed.

I envisioned a place where outdoor enthusiasts could plan custom trips and receive quotes from certified guides. I envisioned a platform where guides could guide on their terms and more easily connect with potential clients searching for a guide with the knowledge and skills to make a dream trip a reality.

Since that day I’ve slowly worked on the idea, first by researching other travel platforms and the travel industry, then through conversations with guides and clients, and finally by finding partners interested in the journey and starting work on the website. Not wanting to wait until I completed he first version of the platform I launched the current version of the site to allow visitors to connect with guides in a more curated process. I also continued to discuss the idea with outdoor guides, guiding agency owners, outdoor industry insurance representatives, and other members of the outdoor community.

The first version of the new platform is nearing completion, but we don’t want to stop there. We envision a platform not only to connect members and guides, but also a place for members to connect with other members and guides with other guides. We want to create a community of outdoor enthusiasts who connect in person through shared passions. We want to enable guides to learn from  and encourage one another.

What that community looks like and how we get there is up to you. First and foremost our goal is to serve you, members and guides alike, so please help us. Share our platform with your networks, sign up to be part of the beta, and give us honest feedback and suggestions. We thank you in advance.