Summer 2012 guiding on Mt. Rainier

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 PeakX Q & A with Alex Barber to discuss his summer guiding on Mt. Rainier.

So how did you get into guiding? “I grew up with most of my mountaineering idols getting their start as RMI guides, so it was always a dream of mine to work with the crew at Rainier Mountaineering inc. and perfect my skills, taking care of not only yourself but the clients up high on Mt. Rainier, there truly is no better training ground for the serious mountaineer.”

How many “summit climbs” did you guide this summer? ”This summer I was on 25 summit climbs and personally summited 17 times.”

What does it take to do that many laps on Mt. Rainier? “Well a love for the mountains and a passion for sharing it with others is essential, but I think physically the first few summits are the hardest then you fall into a grove as long as you have a baseline level of fitness coming into the summer.”

Do you think of your job as especially dangerous? “While every year people do die on Mt. Rainier, I’ve never thought of my job as dangerous, if I did I wouldn’t guide it. But some dangers like the Ingraham ice fall or rock fall zones, we reduce our exposure to these objective hazards and that’s all we can really do.”

What’s the one piece of gear you never go without? “Well most pieces of gear are essential to having a comfortable and safe summit, I don’t carry anything that I don’t use or need for the safety of my team. With that said, my IPod is pretty clutch to get me through sleepless nights at altitude.”

What was the most challenging part of guiding on Mt. Rainier? “Turning clients around is always a hard decision we make with them, they put so much into preparing for their climb, time and money that its never easy. Then I would say climbing in bad weather it throws a lot at you high winds, rain/snow, reduced visibility, cold temperatures and breaking trail it can be hard not only for the guide but for our clients as well.”

Do you have a favorite moment from this summer? “My favorite moments this summer are usually back at RMI Base Camp after our summit climb having beers and pizza with our clients and sharing their joy of accomplishing a goal that they spend year or more preparing for come to fruition.”

What ”go to” foods do you eat when climbing? ”Junk food is my “go to” up high, I’m really not a fan of traditional ”hiking” food, that stuff doesn’t taste good at sea level, so it definitely wont at 4am pushing 14k.”

What one piece of advise would you tell someone preparing for Mt. Rainier? “Climbing such a long endurance and technical glacier climb like Rainier is 70% mental and 70% physical so I think it comes down to a few things, having a baseline fitness, being efficient with your energy and staying positive. And skills like rest stepping and pressure breathing, things that RMI teach their clients and I believe helps many people summit in good style with energy reserves to make a safe descent.”

How did this summer prepare you for the Andes 2012 expedition? “Guiding truly requires you to develop systems that are dialed and work well for you as a mountaineer from rope systems to heat management. Guiding has sharpened my awareness of all aspects of mountaineering, in a way that only spending 75+ days on Mt. Rainier can. Now going to the two highest peaks outside of the Himalaya I am looking forward to pushing myself in my sport, continue to learn and hone my skills.”

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