‘We are all aware this can be a dangerous profession’

Ben Tibbetts is a professional mountain guide, ski expert, designer and photographer based in Charmonix. He explains the job of a mountain guide’s – and why one is often necessary

24 May 2017
By Connexion journalist

What does a mountain guide do?
A mountain guide is a climbing and ski expert. He/she should have a wide knowledge of the risks and methods of mountain climbing and skiing.
Their job is to lead and escort hikers but also to teach and share their knowledge to them.

How did you become a guide?
Becoming a guide is something I had thought about for many years. I began working as an instructor in indoor climbing gyms. I also taught in outdoor education for young people.
Years later, I decided to begin the professional guide’s training scheme. It takes 80 days of training and assessment spread over four years to become an internationally qualified British Mountain Guide (IFMGA).

What did you do before?
I studied Fine Arts at the University of Edinburgh and then arts and design at Geneva.

How does your family feel about your work?
My family has always been supportive of my work. But, of course, it is understandable that they have certain worries and concerns, as we all are aware that it is a serious and dangerous profession.

Are you currently working?
Currently I do more work as a professional photographer than as a guide. I am passionate about it as I enjoy the creative challenges that it provides. I still work as a guide on projects or expeditions that interest me.

Is having a guide a vital requirement?
Having a guide is not crucial. Beginners can go on a hike or climb without a guide and there normally isn’t a problem. But, the choice of hiring a guide is usually taken if you want to try a more serious challenge than your personal experience might permit.

It is preferable to have an expert to manage the risks in the field that you are not comfortable in. A guide can lead the way, and also teach the person or group how to be able to manage the different types of fields and the obstacles they might face in the future.

What risks could occur if a beginner goes out without a guide?
Risks depend on many aspects, like the area, the mountain itself, the weather conditions etc. When a person prefers going alone he must be aware about the type of risks that are out there and how he or she can avoid them. A guide is trained to face all those risks, so it is clearly safer to follow a guide even in quite extreme conditions.

Can you guide during complicated weather conditions?
The effect of the weather in the mountains also depends on different things. In Britain many people go mountaineering in terrible weather, but in the Alps, where landscape is generally steeper, most people prefer to do technical climbing only when the weather is good.

Weather conditions could be harmful and threatening. But sometimes we can still do our activities even if it is pouring rain or stormy.

What do you do in summer?
I still guide in the summer months. I teach different levels, from introductory to more advanced types of climbing.

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