Advice For Yosemite Mountaineering School – Rock Climbing Guides

My wife and I are visiting Yosemite for a week with my cousin Jimmy. Prior to coming here, I decided I wanted to do some rock climbing in what is known as the Mecca of climbing. My wife and cousin are not climbers and none of my other climber friends were coming. I thought about walking over to Camp 4 and making some friends, but thought that I wouldn’t have enough time for that and also wouldn’t know how safe the climbers I joined up with would be. I also am not a trad climber so I would only be able to follow and clean. I did some research for professional guides and found that the only option was Yosemite Mountaineering School. I called them and set up a one on one guided day.

The person who scheduled me on the phone told me that I couldn’t request any routes or talk about plans on the phone, and that I wouldn’t even know who my guide was until the day of the climb. I was hoping to maybe do a long and easy multipitch route like Royal Arches, or a shorter and harder route closer to my limit.

On the day of the climb, I showed up at the climbing shop and met with my guide Allen . He asked me about my climbing experience and I said my limit is about 5.9 – 5.10a in Joshua Tree for climbing without falling, and that I had only followed on trad a few times and never led. He said okay and told me to take the #20 bus to the #8 spot and meet him there.

I went to the bus stop and waited 15 minutes for the bus then took a long bus ride to the #8 stop. I arrived at about 9:30, and my guide Allen was waiting for me. We walked over to his apartment so he could get his gear, then hiked up a trail to the wall. We did see something really cool then- a bobcat attacked and killed a squirrel right in front of us.

We got set up for the climb and started a multipitch 5.8. It was mostly pretty easy for me, though I did have a challenge figuring out a chimney move that took me a couple of minutes working through. I have six years experience belaying leaders on sport, but a lot less on trad. My guide said if I short roped him we would come down, so I made sure to always leave him with plenty of slack to work with. My guide showed me how to work on the anchors safely and move quickly.

After the multipitch 5.8, we did a very easy 5.7. Probably did a total of 7 or 8 pitches, then the guide called it a day around 3 or 4.

I had fun and learned a little bit, but I definitely wish we had climbed more challenging climbs and had a longer day as I had paid for the long day. I do not think that I got my money’s worth overall. If I had either learned a lot more about setting gear and anchors on easy climbs, or really challenged myself with climbs closer to my limit I think it would have been better.

My advice for climbers with Yosemite Mountaineering School:

  • Be very clear about your thoughts for the day right off the bat with your guide
  • I’d recommend doing a group class. I wish I had done the intro to trad climbing now. I read other reviews online and people said they got all the climbing they wanted to, and also learned how to set gear and build anchors. Plus it’s a lot cheaper to do a group class than a solo climb.

My advice for Yosemite Mountaineering School:

  • You have a monopoly on climbing in Yosemite, but I think it is still important to look to your competitors in other regions for best practices.
  • Talk to your climbers more about what they are looking to get out of the day. Some newbies may just want you to tell them what to do, but I am guessing that a lot of climbers have certain hopes for what they would like to do. I would start the day off with a standard series of questions: What is your climbing experience? What are you looking to get out of today? Did you have any routes or types of climbing you are specifically interested in? Is there anything you wanted to learn today?
  • Overdeliver on your services… don’t call it a day early. Ask your climber how they feel and if they can do more.
  • Set up communications ahead of the day of between the guide and the climber. That way the guide doesn’t feel rushed in the morning and the climber can have time to clearly communicate what they are hoping to do.

I think next time I will just try to recruit a climbing partner on my own.

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Joel Gross

Joel Gross is the CEO of Coalition Technologies.

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