An Intro to Mountaineering: My Journey to Guiding Mountains
Words by Mike Hamill, mountaineering guide & owner of Climbing the Seven Summits.
I never planned to be a year round guide or mountaineer- having grown up in wilderness and endurance sports, I more or less fell into it. I spent my childhood in a small town in rural New England where the land, mountains, waterways and sport (skiing, hiking, climbing, canoeing, fishing, hunting) was very much a part a part of our family identity. It pervaded our lives and played heavily into our philosophical outlook on life. We felt a connection with our environment that was visceral on both a conscious and subconscious level.
As I matured, resort skiing and hiking gave way to alpine climbing and backcountry skiing. A weekend warrior at first, my proficiency grew and so did my passion for these pursuits. After college I applied for a job to guide on Mt. Rainier as a greenhorn-- with not much experience but plenty of enthusiasm.
Imagine my delight at finding out I could make my vocation and avocation one in the same. Immediately my eyes were opened.
I now had a view of the world from above and, as I began to travel, I gained a more international perspective. I realized my university degree was only the beginning of a lifelong education that stretched far beyond the lecture hall.
I was addicted. Obviously I loved climbing but experiencing the world through climbing- using it as the catalyst for travel, adventure, ascents, experiencing cultures and learning about our world, is what convinced me to become a year round professional mountain guide. One opportunity led to another and before I knew it that curious kid who loved hiking in rural New England was scaling the "Seven Summits", the tallest peak on each continent including Everest, almost every year.
I recently had lunch with a client that I have climbed with several times. He's almost 60 and only began climbing a few years ago. Self-admittedly not an athlete, he has already completed four of the Seven Summits and is now looking to climb Everest in the Spring. Simply put, the mountains are open to anyone.
Mountain climbers are not a selected, untouchable bunch of elite athletes. If one sets their mind to it, anyone can experience the amazing things I have over the years: cultures, environments, people, self-growth.
For me mountains have been a facilitator and have given me the best education one could get. I encourage all of you, whether it's climbing Mt. Everest or simply exploring your world, to be close to nature and let your adventures help you see the world with new eyes.
"The mountains are calling, and I must go." -John Muir
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