by JESSE JAMES ….
I always wanted to be a guide. Oh, the glory. The pride. The fame (well, maybe not).
But as you might guess from my experiences teaching newbie friends, I wasn’t quite ready for my ACMG guide exam. I wasn’t even ready for the pre-test. Maybe not even for the pre-pre-test. I could climb hard enough, sure. And I knew all about knots and anchors and pulleys. What was holding me back was a dollop of schadenfreud. That wouldn’t do for an ACMG guide. Imagine I put a newbie client on Burning Down the Couch (5.11d) for her first climb. Not only would I lose my coveted ACMG badge, I might be locked up in an asylum. Because that shit would be crazy.
No matter. I soon realized you don’t need to be a guide to be a guide. One day in Skaha as I was rope-soloing a route, some weekend warriors at the base hollared up at me that I was too close to their terrified top-roper nearby. ‘I’m a guide,’ I hollared down, and that seemed to shut them up.
Later that week I found myself at the Doctor’s Wall in skaha, gazing up in amazement at the ultra-classic route The Spell. Three ambitious climbers eyed the line greedily from the base, itching for the tick. But I leaped in front of everyone; ‘I’m a guide.’
A few years ago on the Northeast Ridge of Bugaboo Spire my friend and I had to pass five parties, including one group from Texas who were stuck on pitch one for three hours (it was their first time trad climbing – who could blame them?). In their soft Texas drawl they told us to ‘get comfortable.’ I shot back: ‘I’m a guide.’ We passed them as they hurled obscenities up the wall. I also tried to pass the Smileys later that same day, who were real guides, but they were having none of it. ‘Reckless!’ shouted Mark Smiley. The word hung in the cool mountain air for a moment, pregnant with condemnation. ‘Reckless asshole!’ he shouted again. I turned to Janelle, his wife, with whom I was sharing a station, and nodded: ‘I’m a guide.’
Nowadays I don’t need any special occasion to bust out the three magic words. Passing someone on the trail – ‘I’m a guide.’ Strutting into Zephyr Cafe in Squamish; ‘I’m a guide.’ Taking a shower: ‘I’m a guide.’
And when my climbing karma finally catches up with me, you can bet I’ll be banging on the Pearly Gates, shouting to Saint Peter: ‘Dude, let me in, I’M A GUIDE.’