My sister sent me a photo of this article from The Guardian recently and as a previous outdoor guide I could really relate – despite the confident, bubbly exterior that you portray there are many moments of ‘self-doubt’ churning away inside:
What I’m really thinking – The Mountain Guide:
I am the trusted outdoor professional with the well-worn jacket and the skills to keep you safe in the mountains. I certainly do look and sound the part: fit, weather-beaten, with a reassuring voice.
Inside I am churning with worries, about my own adequacy, about yours, and about the unforeseeable events of our imminent trip together. Most likely, nothing at all will go wrong. But there is a risk that something will go badly wrong, and then it could get scary for all of us, very quickly.
I have to be good at first aid, even though I can’t practise it for real and therefore end up forgetting half of it. Will I rise to the occasion when someone is badly hurt? I don’t know.
I have to be able to navigate in all conditions with a very high degree of accuracy. You did not see me during my training when I got slightly lost on a Scottish mountain in thick fog.
I have to exercise gentle leadership whatever happens. I can do this when things are fine, but can I do it when the chips are down? I may look indomitable, but I can get cold, hungry, miserable and scared, too.
It flatters and worries me that you are so dependent on me and that you have no idea how dangerous the mountains can be. The yellow helicopter clatters overhead, and I hope it is just on a training flight.
During the working week I am an accountant, in a safe, dry, warm office. But when I look out of the office window, despite all my worries, I yearn to greet another group of eager clients, ready for their day in the mountains.
I remember guiding a group along The Overland Track with Cradle Mountain Huts years ago and on the first day we hit a blizzard. Our guests were struggling with the adverse conditions and having to walk through knee-deep snow. Everyone was miserable. Due to the slow pace we were making, we were also running out of light to make the distance to the hut. All I could think about was immersing myself into a nice, hot BATH with a bottle of red! Shame on me! 🛀
I was soon lurched back to reality as the sleet kept hitting my face. I really felt for my guests in front of me whose idea of a hiking holiday in Tasmania, probably didn’t include this reality.
We finally made it to the hut – cold, wet and tired. We cooked up a storm, opened a couple of bottles of red and reveled in the return of the group morale. It is always worth it in the end – regardless of any sneaky thoughts of hot baths or tropical islands! Especially when it was a blue bird day the following day and we were spoilt with views like these! Xx