Should I Become a Climbing Guide?

One of my favorite guiding memories is the time I got the call to take a pot-bellied and bald(ing) hard rocker and his band (with bodyguards) out for a day of exercise on the stone.

I’m considering becoming a guide. Any suggestions?

—Bron Hefron, via


“I get paid to do what I’d do for free!” is the guide’s mantra. But really, guiding does to climbing what being an adult-film star does to fornication: You get paid to scratch that interminable itch, but after a couple of seasons not even a quart jar of Viagra can get you to tie in on your day off.

Perhaps I paint too ghastly a picture. If you like to read, guiding is your vocation—the seasonal employment also means seasonal unemployment. Tomes such as Atlas Shrugged, A Man in Full and Archaeology, History and Custer’s Last Battle: The Little Bighorn Reexamined (I have a signed edition) make that idle time just flutter by.

One of my favorite guiding memories is the time I got the call to take a pot-bellied and bald(ing) hard rocker and his band (with bodyguards) out for a day of exercise on the stone. Never mind that it was 105 degrees midsummer and you could have grilled brains on the granite slabs. Also never mind that Lord Rocker had been up most of the night romancing the love of his life, a shapely woman plucked randomly from the previous evening’s concert crowd. It had been, said the rocker as we Hoovered down breakfast waffles, a vigorous night for him.

For an hour he regaled us with the honest, salacious details of human anatomy that are normally reserved for your sister’s diary.When, near the culmination of his tale, he described how the woman swept her arm to clear off the coffee table (“needed a hard work surface”) and sent his beloved ghetto blaster crashing to the penthouse floor, I thought he actually might cry.

“So,” I asked, “where is she now?”

“Who’s that?” he replied.

Heat radiated off the stone in visible waves, but the band and Lord Rocker relaxed easily in the shade of a dark hemp cloud, humming, strumming the air guitar and giving the humpty-hump pelvic action to anyone who walked past.

They took turns “gang banging” a 5.10 undercling flake that I’d strung up over a little spring-fed pond that the band kept diving into despite me pointing out an adjacent heap of old transformers, the lids of which had been pried off and the liquid PCB mysteriously missing.

The undercling flake smacked of Yosemite’s own Wheat Thin, about 60 feet long and sharp as a ginsu blade out where you grabbed it, except that this blade was, unknown to me, held to the wall with fairy dust. When the lead guitarist, a bony-fingered rocker, white as Dracula and with a mane of hair you could sweep the house with, reached the end of the flake, it lurched out from the wall a solid foot, then cut loose trailing a comet’s tail of fine granite dust. The axeman, wide-eyed, bobbed onto the rope, grabbed his crotch with both hands and let out a scream that could have pierced a kevlar vest.

I froze. Directly below and buck naked except for a fat bandana he kept firmly knotted around his baldness (the rock star’s equivalent of a comb over) basked Lord Rock. The granite blade torpedoed into the water, sending up a 50-foot geyser that hosed down the entire band and snuffed out the Lord’s smouldering doobie.

Certain that I was about to be fired for nearly rendering Rock Lord into an unrecognizable red pulp, I quietly lowered the guitarist. For a moment it was as quiet as a nunnery. All eyes turned to His Lord. “Cooool,” he said, then rubbed some of the pond water into his chest. When at last the day was over and it came time to settle up, the band’s manager tipped me 50 bucks. “Lord Rock wanted to thank you personally,” said the manager, “for the best time he’s had since stumbling into the contortionists’ convention in Vegas, but he is indisposed.”

The manager leaned against the band’s tour bus. Airbrushed from stern to stem, the Greyhound blazed with a garish scene from the Northwest Face of Half Dome depicting Lord Rock penduluming madly across the rock while flipping the Devil’s horns with both hands and Kung Fu kicking the air. The bus lurched and I could hear muffled screaming inside. For a moment I thought his Lordship was disemboweling one of the bodyguards, then I recognized the title cut from his most recent hit album.Lesson: Forget guiding. Get yourself a guitar and take voice lessons. Next!


This article appeared in Rock and Ice issue 182 (December 2009).

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Feature Image: Caleb Scott on Rafe’s Chasm, Cape Ann, Massachusetts. Photo: Brian Lewis.