A guide to Guides

Posted 27-04-2012

So you love the great outdoors, the mountains and a good challenge. Now you want to take it to the next level, however for that you’re going to need a High Mountain Guide! But where do you start looking for one? How do you know if they’ll be able to fulfil your mountain ambitions and most importantly, how do you know they’re going to keep you safe?

What exactly is a High Mountain Guide?

In short, a High Mountain Guide is an extremely experienced skier, climber and mountaineer who is certified as being capable to lead people into the mountains in challenging and hazardous terrain and conditions.

A strong amateur background in climbing and skiing is required to even qualify for the training scheme. Experience of top Alpine courses and remote climbs in mountain ranges around the world along with skills of mountain survival techniques are also highly valued traits in a potential candidate. This breadth of experience as an amateur is crucial to developing the patience, understanding and professionalism necessary to lead clients in the high mountains.

After qualifying for the training scheme, each guide typically spends a minimum of 5 years honing their skills, knowledge and techniques with a rigorous training and assessment programme. This programme includes rigorous courses and tests in rock climbing, mountaineering, off-piste skiing and ski touring, avalanches and mountain safety and coaching and is exercised in all weathers and seasons.

Each guide holds a certificate issued by the International Federation of Mountain Guide Associations (IFMGA or UIAGM) – the highest qualification in the world for leading people in the mountains – only around 50 candidates per year succeed in attaining this qualification, these guys and girls really are the crème de la crème!

This certificate is also a legal requirement to work as an Alpine guide in the European Alps and requires a high level of commitment, dedication and technical skill to achieve.

Why do you need one?

Above all, a Mountain Guide is there to ensure your safety, giving you peace of mind knowing that you are being led by a professional who has spent years perfecting their skills and knowledge of the mountain environment in every season and weather, both practically and theoretically.

They can also help you improve and develop your technique and mountain skills to whatever level you aspire, whether on rock or snow.

Where did it all start?

In Britain, the history of Mountain Guiding as a profession can be traced back to the mid 19th century though it wasn’t until the following century that specific organisations began to develop and the term Mountain Guide was nationally recognised.

It was in 1944 that the first British Mountaineering Council (BMC) was created and the first national diplomas were issued in the 1950’s. During this same period, Mountains Guides across the channel in France also created their first national syndicate (the SNGM). This syndicate helped to lay the groundwork for an international federation of all mountain guide associations (IFMGA or UIAGM) with representatives from Italy, Austria and Switzerland also contributing. This international association was inaugurated in 1965, though it was not until 1977; after the BMC was recognised officially by the UK government; that the British application to join the IFMGA was finally accepted.

This move to create an independent national body to manage professional standards and training programmes has been crucial in the development of Mountain Guiding as a respected profession as it ensures a parity of standards and benefits between guides of member countries of the IFMGA.


Mountain Guides and Undiscovered Mountains

Collectively, our guides share a common passion for climbing, mountaineering and skiing. As at Undiscovered Mountains, they are also highly committed to the protection and conservation of the mountain environment and its inhabitants and promote and believe in sustainable tourism.

All our guides are fully qualified UIAGM certified high mountain guides from the area who know the Southern French Alps like their back garden. They will make your safety their priority as well as taking into account your aspirations and objective to ensure you get the most out of your time with us here in this beautiful Alpine region.

Have a look at our mountaineering, ski touring and ice climbing trips for more details on our guided trips. Alternatively, if you have a mountain that you would like to conquer that isn't on one of our trips or are looking for a private guide for a tailor made holiday, please contact us.

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