/ NOW LIVE Q&A - Martin Chester - British Mountain Guides
Ask Martin a Question!
Martin Chester of the British Mountain Guides (BMG) is going live on the UKClimbing forums this Friday (19th June) TODAY!.
If you have any questions about becoming a Mountain Guide, hiring a Mountain Guide or even on Alpine climbing in general, Martin will be on hand to give advice and explain how the...
Read more at http://www.ukclimbing.com/news/item.php?id=47966
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VIDEO: Britsh Mountain Guides (BMG)
We are proud to have had female Guides in the association guiding way beyond 50yrs.
I'll kick off...
There are a lot of climbers out there that i meet who are interested in becoming a British Mountain Guide. However, they seem to be under the impression that you have to be able to do E5 in big boots and grade VIII with one axe.
Other than on the website is there any way for people to get more info? I think that as there are less than 100 British Mountain Guides living in the UK (give or take) people seem to find it difficult to meet them and get the info on the nature of the job and the whole jua de vivre of being a Mountain Guide. (you can see i'm practicing my French there).
The members of the BMG are justifiably proud of their achievements - and the high standards of the award. Yet we would hate to be thought of as 'elitist'.
The reality is that you need to be a competent and experienced 'all rounder' rather than a superstar (I should know)! There is info on the BMG website as you suggest - but there is also the option (by looking up 'members')to find a local Guide and get in touch with them. An evening out cragging with a Guide must be the best way to get your questions answered - and most would be delighted to be asked.
We also run 'open days' every other year (next one in 2010) for interested climbers. Keep an eye on www.bmg.org.uk
Just reading James' question above got me wondering, just how many active BMG Guides are there at the moment?
Is it around 100?
is there any truth, in your opinion, to the idea that British mountain guides have to attain higher standards to gain the same equivalent qualification as French guides?
I thought about guiding once, but all that dragging people up horrible snow slopes, just sounds like drudgery to me (Mt Blanc again anyoone!), why on Earth would anybody want to do that for a living?
What else can you do?
Good answer re being an all-rounder, but what would you say were ball-park figures that aspirants should be looking to climb (UK Trad, Winter, Sport, Alpine)?
Just what are you getting at is it a crime to be a guide Mike ?
work in rope access ?
design things ?
teach geography ?
seriously - what with the MIC.org and grade increase discussions here and elsewhere would you advocate the increase in grades as discussed in the forums, E1 does seem to be a good grade with climbing at E3 being expected norm for safe margin...?
or would you see an increase ? to what tested on E3 climbing E5 ...?
Hi Martin, just in answer to Françoise's question, I think Peter Cliff was way over fifty when he joined the BMG. Certainly looked it, anyway! Jon de Montjoye
Trainees/Aspirants will be assessed at climbing E1; winter V,6; and a cross section of grades of Alpine terrain. That means you need to look competent and inspire confidence (with a client holding your ropes) in all conditions. It therefore seems reasonable that (to handle the stress of assessment) most people need either a few grades in hand (or simply masses of experience at the grade). Having a handful of multi day Alpine TD's gives you a depth of mountaineering experience to draw upon.
Being 'totally dependable' at those grades is more important than 'pulling on small holds' and exactly how much extra that takes depends on each individual.
Most Guides qualify in their mid to late thirties - so 40 is no way too late!
Thanks for your answer. I have another quick question, mainly as I'm sat at a desk and would like to be up a mountain!
As a mountain guide, there must be some amazing situations you find yourself in. Just a personal question - after you passed the guides test, did you have a day out working and think - "WOW - this is why I did this, this is what it's all about!"
If you did - where was it and what were you doing?
E1 eh? so if I see a guide resting on an E1 who do I report them to?
I noticed that MIA / MIC do not have to do some days training on the guide’s scheme. Would you advice people to do the training as more CPD is a good thing or save your time and money to go cragging?
Secondly, if you had limited contact with guides, i.e. only on NGBA’s courses, chats in huts and routes and work in an area with few active BMG’s what’s the most effective way to be able to get a rapport so that a guide can “attest to the candidates good character”. I understand the committee can appoint someone, so would you have to hire them? I'd rather get a reference from some one who wants to than some one who is appointed!
Thanks for the advice,
Seriously though - I have seen some great Guides who barely climb E1 (but excel in other areas) as well as great MIAs who only climb VS (but could climb ANY VS in ANY conditions). Holding these folks back would have been a travesty - and only their future clients would have lost out from their otherwise broad experience, wisdom and care).
It's a good one though - because everyone bangs on about assessment grades - but what you do after that is up to you (as long as you remain current). With all these qualifications - you can be sure they 'made the grade' on the day.
The final stage in getting your carnet is 'logging your days' as an aspirant. I got my final day (and my badge) in the middle of a week's work - so one Thursday I was suddenly a Guide - and working on my own.
I left the Moiry Hut for the Pointe du Mourti - weaving a way through the glacier in the dark. To reach my first summit as a Guide with my team - on our own was fantastic. It was made all the better for some other climbers thanking us for finding the route, then as everyone else set off back to the hut - we continued along the ridge to the next peak - which we had to ourselves.
The other gem was breaking trail in the Silvretta Alps - over the col to the Silvretta Egghorn. We escaped the crowds and found a great slope of virgin snow (and - being a Guide - you always get to ski first tracks)!
I've always wondered why guides pin their badges to their waterproofs, surely this makes the jacket leak?
In terms of 'getting a rapport' I know of very few Guides that will turn down an invitation to go climbing. You will also find that you get to know more Guides as you get closer to the scheme (and we have long memories). I know that you , for example, have been through PyB several times over the last few years (and have been on skis with myself and Spanker). Most Guides would gladly get involved with helping you - you shouldn't have to pay for it - but they do have to 'know you'!
(ps - assuming it's the same Simon - come cragging!)
hang man game now is it ?
Given that the number of "instructors" of all levels in our sport seems to be increasing at the same exponential rate as elvis impersonators were a few years ago, what is your favourite kareoke track?
Do I have to choose an Elvis track?
Yep , you got the right Simon Wells. Amazing memory! You must have worked with hundreds of clients over the last few years.
Bel and I are skill buzzing from the ski course and what we learnt, the resulting trips have been just kept the buzz going.
Thanks for the advice,
I have been interested in working towards the guides scheme for quite a long time now (mainly so I can take my clients ski touring), but the only thing that puts me off is the seriousness of the Alpine North faces, so much so that this would be the pure reason I have decided not to go for it. I feel that these routes have so much objective danger that it is really a survival game than anything else.
Could the BMG consider a point system for alpine experience. eg 50 points for north face TD, and 10 points for a AD 4000m peak? And have the entry requirement of 500 points.
Another thought that has struck me is: As we have just run a big series on all the qualifications available in the UK:
There are lots of guides and instructors (of different levels) to choose from.
Knowing a few guides myself, I know that they actually do quite a bit of work in the UK, not only in the Alps.
Is this normal? Do a lot of BMG members do much of their work in the UK?
If you are out of action for any length of time due to an injury what do you have to fall back on in terms of insurance/income?
This question isn't specific to guides but instructing in general. Given the high injury risk of the profession coupled with how essential your fitness is towards carrying out your work it seems like a very fragile career, or am I missing something?
Presumably the bigger companies cover you to some degree, say if you are a permanent employee, though i'm assuming as a freelancer you are much more vulnerable? Could you clear this grey area up for me?
Hi Dan, I'm not a guide but can answer your question from a ski instructor point of view... I've been teaching skiing on & off piste for 15 years now & also climb..
Have looked into income protection type insurance a couple of times but tbh its outrageously expensive for the cover provided. If your profession is 'adventurous' and your pastimes 'adventurous' as well it really doesn't add up.
As a freelancer if I don't work I have no income, so I try to keep a bit of a 'buffer' financially. I have been very lucky to stay injury-free so far in my career, but know plenty of people (ski teachers & guides) who have had months or longer off due to injury/illness, and some with career-ending injuries...
The mix of routes (and grades) required does maintain a 'depth and breadth' of experience to draw upon. I learnt so much more from the multi day commitment of those big routes than I would have ever expected.
Also - I don't think it's appropriate to make sweeping generalisations based on grade alone. I found more objective danger on the SE ridge of the Taschhorn (AD), than on the whole of the NE spur of Les Droites (ED - which I enjoyed far more)!
For me - it's all about climbing these routes in the right conditions and therefore being patient (especially now that I'm a family man).
Any idea where I could get a copy of Off Piste Essentials? I've heard it is pretty good
The list goes on, and is fascinating!
I'm one of the lucky ones - with a full time job - as I work for a big enough organisation that they could find me 'useful things to do' whilst I recover. Here at PyB we are often supporting folks through one injury or another.
On a more mundane note - it is also tricky to get suitable life insurance for mortgages; loss of earnings for injury/illness; etc, etc
It's one of my favourite rants this though - and packed full of irony. For example - a client gets cheaper insurance if they ski off piste with a Guide (than if they go without one) yet my insurance is hard to get because Guiding is so 'dangerous'!? I'm sure it must be down to frequency (or they've read my comment above about always getting to ski fresh tracks) but really . .
> Given that the number of "instructors" of all levels in our sport seems to be increasing at the same exponential rate as elvis impersonators were a few years ago, what is your favourite kareoke track?
We've just done a bit of number crunching in the office on another issue. It might be relevant to reveal that up to today 926 people have passed their MIA and 505 people hold their MIC. (Many of the current MIC's will also have passed their MIA but not all; some pre-date the MIA scheme). There's no telling, of course, how many are currently active but I would guess that in the UK there are around 1,100 holders of MI qualifications some of whom may be 'retired'.
Hi Martin, fancy coming to the pub tonight??? I keep failing on getting up to 8000m, and also Valeries Rib is too bold for a Severe - what ya gonna do about it? Nikki and Neil :-) PS. No reply expected!!!!!!!
Does the MIA numbers include the MIC's as well?
, than on the whole of the NE spur of Les Droites (ED - which I enjoyed far more)!
This route is top of my summer alpine Ticklist - well the direct anyway. any top tips/beta would be very welcome. Where about did you bivi? Did you use the hut?
P.S I've spoken a few guides who no longer enjoy the mountains and rarley climb for themselves. this is what most puts me off the guiding. Have you found this?
P.P.S Do all guides marry on of their clients? ;-)
To help you get to 8000m I would have to say that I'm not the man for the job - but I know who to recommend! It sounds like Russell Brice organises the slickest and most well managed expeditions on the big hills; Shaun Hutson has recently been up Everest from both sides; and it looks like Kenton Cool is pretty handy at Guiding that sort of thing. You can find them (and many more) on the BMG website!
As for Valerie's rib - now that "My Crane" has removed all the vegetation, there will soon be a new first pitch - which will guarantee it's no longer a Severe anyway;-)
We stayed at the hut - providing a fairly civilized start to the first day. We then bivvied at the obvious breche (which needed some serious clearing from snow). With hindsight (if conditions allow) I would suggest climbing another three pitches where there is a truly superb (and objectively safe) bivvy ledge. We then topped out in a bit of a blizzard - so we bivvied again on the descent (which totally paid off).
Your PS surprises me - as most Guides I know have a total passion for the mountains. When Graham and I climbed the Walker spur it was almost all Guides (for fun) who were on it. All except the Girlfriend of a Swiss Guide (which maybe answers your PPS)?!
I worried that climbing professionally may spoil my enjoyment - before I did it - now I just find it helps me get more out of my own time!
Another thing... would you recomend wearing lighter boots like sportiva Trangos, or stiffer boots like Nepal Tops?
I'll let you know how I get on.
So, in summary, the British Mountain Guide website is the place for me to check out.
Keep up the good work :-)
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