Sunday, July 26, 2009

Guides are Human Too!! The tale of the solitary crampon.

Photo: Maxime Turgeon, cold, clear and windy up high in the Mt Blanc Massif, gearing up for Pinnochio (winter mixed climbing) unrelated photo of similar area.

Hard as I try, it's certainly a chore for me to pack my pack the night before. Max, my logical, organized, engineering brained other half encourages me endlessly to embrace this as part of my normal routine. It works when I go climbing with Max because he packs my pack, no joke, totally serious. I'm completely ok with this! But when I'm guiding, and especially guiding a lot, I usually fail.

But last night, I managed. Maybe it was because I had the house to myself and less distractions as Max and Jonno were up in the mountains attempting to climb some heinous rock route on the Italian side of Mont Blanc, maybe it is because I thought about that extra half an hour of sleep the following morning, maybe I had over ambitious ideas that I would wake early, run, do yoga, read a book, read the New York Times, write in my journal, but really I hit snooze and slept that extra half an hour. Regardless, I succeeded. I packed my pack the night before.

As I stopped to dump the trash and recycling down the road from my house I realized I had forgotten my ice axe. No stress, I was less than two minutes from my house. Upon returning I saw a lonely crampon in the front yard, close to our storage "cave's". Without much thought, I tossed it into the rest of the pile of Max's gear I had dumped from his box last night looking for my missing crampons.

A few hours later, after doing the bits and bobs in town we needed, Matt, my client for this week, and myself arrived at the top of the midi, on a stellar, sunny day, with ambitions of climbing the arete des Cosmiques. As I unloaded my pack, harness, rope, gear, helmet and CRAMPON! NOT CRAMPONS!! I instantly realized where the other one was. For a moment, I convinced myself that I could walk down the steep, narrow, exposed, icy arete, safely while keeping Matt safe, with one crampon. That dream dissipated quickly and I swallowed my pride and headed to the worker's room.

I poked my head through the door. And with the biggest, cutest smile I could muster, asked if I could interrupt their lunch and ask for a favor.

The man looked at me and told me I had gone through the wrong door.

No room left for modesty, I pulled out the stops. I pulled back my top jacket flashing egotistically, and hopefully, my Guides badge. I think half of them choked on their first bite of lunch.

I am a guide. And I arrived here with one crampon. Is there ANY chance I can borrow a pair, I will bring them back in a few hours. I asked desperate, and at their complete mercy.

The mood quickly changed with the understanding that I, a female, was also a guide! The man, once skeptical man, Jean Michel, hopped to his feet, and brandished a pair of crampons out of his locker. Another, unrelated worker popped in right at that time and laughed out loud. Ahh you are lucky you are cute!

So yes, I worked it. I took advantage and in the end, we safely climbed the Arete des Cosmiques in crampons, safely. And I promised to bake brownies for the kind gentleman in return!

The thing is most people make mistakes, or forget things, but when you're guiding it usually happens in front of an audience and it's quite embarrassing!!!

A plus, a humble zoe.,

1 comment:

Spiderchick said...

Hey Zoe, I just started guiding in the US a year ago and I guided in Argentina, where I'm from, 5 years ago. I really thank you for this article :) I don't want to admit it sometimes because I'm supposed to be the responsible one (the super guide), but is good to recognize mistakes, ask for help and think safety 1st. The good thing is that since we are girls ;) and we can bake, we probably get sway with a lot more!!! Anyway, I have a funny story about teaching climbing technique in front of clients, and unfortunately my vocabulary is not very rich and around home everybody speaks in "movie" mode. So I missed a foot, realized about it and said: "this is the retard way of doing it", I swear I wanted to get myself inside of the crack and be swallowed by the rock. I lost points for professionalism that day :( Now I have everybody at home saying bananas instead of the other word. Hopefully it will catch :)