Why Your Next Expedition Should Be Guided
There is an undeniably romantic quality about being alone in nature. Reality shows like “Survivor Man” and “Man vs Wild” have elevated the solo outdoorsman to rock star status; climbers like Alex Honnold demonstrate the breathtaking beauty and present-ness that is free climbing massive rock faces; a solo swimmer crosses the English Channel and a solo sailer circumnavigates the globe in a bathtub boat. We glorify those who take up the quest without support or guidance and only their training and wits to keep them alive.
The cost of all this is a sense of “cheating” when it comes to hiring an outfitter or company to assist in an expedition. I don’t know if this is more of an American thing — I tend to hear it less from Europeans, for example — but there are so many benefits to engaging a local expert that it’s something you may want to consider seriously for your next big expedition.
Here’s what you’ll be getting:
Logistics & Travel
There are companies that will do everything from handling your international flight, securing your visa and permits and getting you from the airport to your accommodations to the trailhead, etc. It does not lessen your achievement to get a ride to your hotel.
For some expeditions, guides are almost the only way in. For some trips, working with a guide is the best way to obtain necessary permits without months (or years) of wrangling with the local bureaucracy. And let’s be honest, a local who spends 365 days a year climbing, trekking or skiing in a mountain range has an infinitely better idea of what aspects, elevation or areas are in good condition on any given day. If you only have a week, sometimes its better to spend it getting the goods than trying to figure out how to navigate the region.
With the prospect of tackling a 8,000 meter peak renting space in your mind, it’s a huge relief to know that your food and shelter is taken care of. A “full service” base camp package will handle the following details for you:
High output adventures like mountain climbing require a good deal of experience and a great deal of energy expenditure. A quality outfitter can stop the gap in the former and address the latter by handling things like rope fixing, porterage of gear and supplying oxygen for high altitude ascents.
Safety & Communications
This, in my opinion, is the biggie. I’ve brought up safety steps in a past post, and I know first-hand some of the dangers that can strike even the most prepared traveler and adventurer. When you hire a guide or expedition company, you’re not just getting a hot meal and a dry bag. With the right group, you’re getting a med kit, emergency kit, plus a line of communication (and the equipment) to the outside world. If they’re really good, they’ll also know how to handle an emergency situation, like altitude sickness or a dealing with a broken bone on the side of a mountain.
Yes, all this comes at a cost. A real, monetary cost. But better to have achieved the goal — and come home alive and intact — than the alternative.
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