In the Northeast, we’re fortunate enough to have not one, but several world-class climbing destinations within a few hours’ drive. Whether you’re looking for sport, trad, alpine, or ice, the mountains of New York and New England provide. So, too, do the guides of the Eastern Mountain Sports Climbing Schools. From the Gunks to the Whites, EMS guides have the experience, training, and depth of local knowledge to both get you up the region’s finest climbs and help you become a better climber. While there are tons of reasons hiring a qualified climbing guide is a great idea, my experience climbing with EMS always boils down to three really good ones: learning, exploring, and having a fun day out.

Three Reasons to Hire a Climbing Guide

Why Hire a Guide

1. Learn at Your Own Pace

“Seek qualified instruction” is a refrain common in the climbing community when it comes to learning new skills, and whether you’re heading outside for the first time or you’re looking to get your multi-pitch systems dialed, that qualified instruction can be found, most reliably, in a certified guide.

I’ve learned a ton from climbing with EMS guides in both group classes and one-on-one scenarios and while both are incredibly valuable, the latter offers a truly personalized educational experience. From movement and rope systems to the cool tech tip so-and-so posted on Instagram the other day and location-specific rack beta, this is where you want to be if you want to learn something specific. A qualified guide will help demystify the most complicated of processes and can answer questions, offer coaching, and get you on your way to being a better climber, all in real-time.

Learning is a constant in climbing. Each time I’ve gone out with a guide, I come back with new knowledge and that’s due in large part to each guide’s unique approach. There are many ways to improve—or to be safer, smarter, or more efficient—and each guide you climb with is going to have their own methods and techniques to add to your toolkit.

EMS Climbing Guide

2. Go Exploring

Among the many things that climbing has given me, a fresh perspective on travel is one that I especially cherish. It’s opened up a world beyond the natural, cultural, and professional destinations that drive most travel experiences, and has become a consideration for me when planning any trip, whether business or pleasure.

Tacking a day or a half day of climbing onto a work trip or a family vacation, however, doesn’t always leave a lot of time for finding partners and negotiating unfamiliar approaches and areas. A local guide, who knows the lay of the land, relieves a lot of that pressure and makes it easy to get some climbing in regardless of the nature of your travel.

What’s more, a local guide is going to know what’s up with the local area. They know these places, and will have the contextual information on conditions—like “this ice is out,” “this rock is wet,” “this classic is a conga line until about three o’clock, then it opens up”—needed to make the most of your time. They’ll also know key beta to get you up a big route in the alpine, like an ascent of the Northeast Ridge of the Pinnacle on Mount Washington. Also, odds are good that a local guide will know the best place for a post-climb burger and beer—absolutely indispensable information if ever there was.

Climbing with an EMS Guide

3. Because it’s Fun

It’s true: climbing is fun. And, at least in my experience, climbing with a guide is also fun. They tend to be really cool people, who also find climbing a worthwhile—and fun—pursuit, and bring the same gratitude for a day out in the mountains as any climber would.

Not once have I regretted going out for a day of guided climbing. You’re either learning, cruising classics, working harder stuff, or, frankly, doing all of the above. And you’re most likely ending the day more excited to climb than when you started.

EMS Guides

EMS Climbing Schools operate out of several prime locations in the Northeast, including Lake Placid (the Adirondacks), North Conway (the Whites), New Paltz (Gunks rock and Catskills ice), West Hartford (Ragged Mountain rock), and Boston (Quincy Quarries and Hammond Pond). Whether you’re looking to push your climbing, check out somewhere new, or just have a great day out, they’re the first call you should make.