Mountain guide

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Austrian mountain guides Anselm Klotz (left) and Josef Frey (right), 19th century
Alice Manfield, a pioneering female mountain guide in Australia in the early 1900s wearing self-designed clothing

Mountain guides are specially trained and experienced mountaineers and professionals who are certified by a mountain guide association, affiliated to the International Federation of Mountain Guides Associations (IFMGA in English). They are considered to be high-level experts in mountaineering, and are hired to instruct or lead individuals or small groups who require this advanced expertise.


Their skills usually include climbing, skiing and hiking. Their knowledge includes furthermore the topics rocks, snowcraft, weather, navigation, avalanches and health, each practically and theoretically.

Mountain guides, or more formally high mountain guides, are employed by groups or individuals assuring the safety of the climbing or skiing party. This professional class of guides arose in the middle of the 19th century when Alpine climbing became recognized as a sport.

The title of Mountain Guide is (in most countries) reserved for individuals who have received full certification through their countries mountain guide's association of whose curriculum and training are approved by the International Federation of Mountain Guides Associations (IFMGA). Certification is earned through a rigorous examination process encompassing rock climbing, alpine climbing and ski mountaineering. Typically lasting between 3 and 7 years, mountain guide certification required a high level of commitment, dedication and technical skill to achieve.

In addition to assuring safety, professional mountain guides frequently offer other desirable services to their clients. These services can significantly improve the alpine experience, especially when the client climber has limited time or equipment, lacks a qualified partner or is visiting an unfamiliar area. These additional mountain guide services may include:


Mountain guides are commonly organized in national and international associations. The world's oldest guides association is the Compagnie des guides de Chamonix, established in Chamonix in 1821. It remains today the largest association with nearly 250 mountain guides. The biggest international organization is the International Federation of Mountain Guide Associations located in Gstaad, Switzerland.

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