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Part 2: Things you’ve always wanted to know about climbing guides …but were afraid to ask


A year ago almost to the day, I wrote the Part 1: Things You’ve Always Wanted to Know but Were Afraid to Ask article.  I guess Part 2 is long overdue!

After almost 30 years of guiding, and being in my 23rd year at CMS, it occurs to me that I’ve been asked A LOT of questions while I’ve been out in the field with folks. Last year’s post focused on questions like: Isn’t it frustrating to teach beginners? Doesn’t it get old doing the same routes repeatedly? Have you regretted choosing to guide over climbing? What’s your favorite climb?

bobThis year I’d like to answer some of the questions that got edited out of that first post. Questions like:

Have you ever thought of doing something else professionally?

I was an accountant for two years around the time I was 20 – I even ended up as the head of the accounting department at the Savings and Loan I worked for. The most fundamental thing I learned from that job was…I wasn’t made for sitting behind a desk! When my dad meets someone new, he still tells them that when I was growing up I was always more comfortable sitting in the dirt than sitting on the couch watching TV. I guess some things never change!

What’s the longest you’ve been out of the field?

I had wrist surgery back in 2008. Between the surgery, time in a cast, and the slow rehab on the tissue I’d injured, I didn’t guide for five months. CMS kindly put me to work in the office during that time. I say ‘kindly’ because my office skill set is..let’s just say ‘lacking’! But if you read the answer to the last question, you know I was going totally stir crazy sitting behind a desk for five months. In fact, my first day back in the field, a day of ice top roping, I was like a kid in a candy store. Five months out of the field certainly gave me a renewed appreciation for how blessed I am to be able to combine my passion and my profession!

What’s your best guiding story?

I have a ton of stories…but I’ll share two.

The first, is about my youngest and oldest climbers. Actually neither of these experiences happened on guided days — they were both personal climbing days. And while it may not be guiding, these two folks are pretty impressive!

The youngest climber I’ve taken out was my 2-1/2 year old nephew. Yes, he climbed. And yes, he did great. However, he had a major meltdown at one point (as any hungry 2-1/2 year old is prone to do). His dad tried to distract him mid-meltdown by pointing out a bird. Jack stopped crying just long enough to give his dad his absolute best 2-1/2 year old blazing angry look and said, “I–DON’T–LIKE–BIRDS!” I had to walk away so I didn’t make things worse by laughing out loud! Yes, I’ve been accused of being a mischievous uncle on many occasions. But, before you accuse me of child abuse, I don’t think I damaged Jack too much because, at his request, we climbed Long’s Peak together a few weeks ago to celebrate his 17th birthday!

The oldest climber I’ve taken out is our dear friend Virginia…just last week, at the ripe young age of 94! Yes, she climbed (5.2 no less). And yes, she did great. Actually, for anyone who’s ever said the words, “I’m too old to climb”, Virginia’s taken that excuse away from you! The first time she ever rock climbed she was 79! And before you accuse me of elder abuse, it was her idea each time I took her out. There was absolutely no way I was going to tell someone with such a fierce spirit of adventure that she was too old to climb…especially because she proved she wasn’t. She cracked me up when she got to the top of the climb. She looked over at me (since I’d been climbing next to her in case she needed any help…which she didn’t) and with a twinkle in her eye she asked, “Is my record still intact?!” I think her record was pretty safe the last time she climbed at age 87!

My second story happened to me during my first summer of guiding as CMS. I took a dad/daughter team out for a half day of climbing. When we got back to the school after we were done, this amazing 10 year old got out on the same side of the car as her dad, while I got out on the other side. I heard her whisper to her dad, “Dad, we need to give Bob a tip.” I have no idea where she got the idea because her dad was a momentarily befuddled. But after giving it a little thought he said, “Well Sweetie, it will have to come out of your allowance. How much do you want?” She said boldly, “All of it!” And then she walked around to my side of the car and proudly presented me with one US dollar. Talk about the ‘widow’s mite!’ To this day, I’ve never received a better tip! Experiences like that may not make me financially rich…but they’ve made me rich in the ways that matter most!

Well, I’ve taken up more than enough of your time at this point. And, like Part 1, I’ve got many questions I had to edit out of this installment. I guess Part 3 will be forthcoming…maybe next summer!

Climb fun and climb safe, Bob

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