Get Out | Guide Guide: Professional guides show would-be climbers the ins and outs of climbing up and down mountains. | Arts & Entertainment | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

Get Out | Guide Guide: Professional guides show would-be climbers the ins and outs of climbing up and down mountains. 

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Many of us have a friend who is experienced at rock climbing, ice climbing, mountaineering, ski tours and canyoneering, and it may seem easy enough to just tag along and try to pick it up as you go. But there’s a very noticeable difference when you hire a professional: While your friend may know what he’s doing, a guide is trained and experienced to make sure you have a safe and enjoyable time. That’s the key: Your good experience is the guide’s business. n

In America, unlike in Europe, anybody can call themselves a guide, whether they have any training and experience or not. The American Mountain Guides Association is an internationally recognized training and certifying authority for rock, alpine and ski mountaineering guides. The organization promotes a standard of technical proficiency, medical and rescue training and client care. While being AMGA certified is not required to be a guide, it is fast becoming the standard.


Several different guide companies operate in Utah. Utah Mountain Adventures ( is likely the largest ski-tour guide company in the country, although it also guides rock and ice climbing, and provides avalanche education. It specializes in split-snowboard touring to the point that one of its guides, Brett Kobernik, is actually credited with inventing the split-board. UMA can also cater to clients with high levels of skill and fitness, guiding tours which include 10,000 vertical feet of skinning (think the rise of Timpanogos from the valley—twice), and iconic peak runs of the Wasatch like Mount Superior. UMA chief guide Tyson Bradley is the author of Backcountry Skiing, Utah (Falcon Press, 2001). UMA is also the main provider of guided ice climbs in the Wasatch, including famous routes like Stairway to Heaven and Bridal Veil Falls in Provo Canyon and the Great White Icicle in Little Cottonwood Canyon.


White Pine Touring ( in Park City operates on the Wasatch Back and in the Uintas, guiding rock climbing, mountain biking and hiking in the summer, and snowshoeing, yurt trips, snowmobile-access ski trips and Nordic skiing on its 20 km track in the winter. WPT is the sole American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education (AIARE) course provider in the Salt Lake City area; AIARE courses are the prerequisite for AMGA alpine and ski guides.


The Moab area is serviced by Moab Desert Adventures, Jackson Hole Mountain Guides and Moab Cliffs and Canyons. JHMG (, which has been in operation for 40 years, is following a trend towards instruction rather than just guiding. It has led climbing classes as well as offered a weekend technical rescue seminar taught by Rob Hess, the technical director of the AMGA and third American to climb Mount Everest without carrying supplementary oxygen.


In addition to rock and canyon guiding, Moab Desert Adventures ( offers two unique services: Splitter Camps, a three-day, fully catered, intensive crack-climbing event, and Chicks on Crack, similar to Splitter Camps, but aimed at women. It offers scholarships for this event to encourage local women to participate, and it also raises money for Seekhaven, a family crisis center and women’s shelter in Moab.


Moab Cliffs and Canyons ( is also trending towards instruction, with technical canyoneering courses that prepare students for exploring on their own. Owned by Utahn Brett Sutteer, (born in Salt Lake City, his father is Ute), it also offers lodge-based trips out of Hanksville and trips that combine mountain biking in the Maze District of Canyonlands and climbing/canyoneering near Lake Powell.


On the other side of the state, Zion Rock and Mountain ( guides offer a full array of rock and canyon trips, including multi-day big-wall and self-rescue seminars taught by some of the foremost names in climbing. It also offers Wilderness First Responder training, a must for anyone spending significant time away from definitive medical care.


Beginning or expanding your outdoor career with professionals can reduce the learning curve significantly. The price spent on instruction can be saved in time, frustration … and maybe medical bills.

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