4 Tips For Making The Most Out of a Guided Rock Climbing Experience

Max Lurie is an AMGA certified Rock and Alpine Guide, as well as an accomplished alpinist. Max has been climbing since 2004 and traveling to the world's greatest mountain ranges in pursuit of his passion.
Written by
Max Lurie

Choosing to hire a guide or instructor for rock climbing can be an intimidating proposition for a lot of climbers. Guided rock climbing can be a big financial investment as well as time and effort. It isn’t something that you want to get wrong and there isn’t a lot of information out there to help.

This article aims to help answer some of your questions and demystify the process a bit. 

If you find the right rock climbing guide whose teaching style and personality you get along with, it can be the beginning of a great friendship. Having a certified guide as a mentor and coach can significantly expedite your learning process.

The Benefits of a Guided Rock Climbing Experience 

Rock climbing is an inherently dangerous sport and as such, it is hard to progress without mentorship in some form or another. 

By hiring a certified rock climbing guide, you can advance much faster than you would be able to with your own trial and error. 

I often say that “good decision-making in the mountains comes from experience and experience comes from making poor decisions”. 

A good guide will not only help you avoid the mistakes they made in the past, but they will provide a controlled environment so that you can make mistakes without suffering the consequences. 

The learning process offered by a guided rock climbing experience will greatly accelerate you towards your goals, whatever they may be.

Practical Tips For Having a Fun and Educational Guided Rock Climbing Experience 

Colorado Rock Climbing Instruction

Tip #1: Have an Objective or Goal in Mind 

Setting the expectation for the day is really important, as this lets your guide know what a successful guided rock climbing outing is going to look like for you. 

I often tell people that we can either do an educational day or an experiential day. However, most often the reality is somewhere in the middle. 

This is a great question to ask yourself: Are your goals to learn something new? Or do you want to just go climbing and have a great time on the rock? 

For example, it is unrealistic to learn how to trad climb while on a big alpine objective. Those two things would have to be separate days and for good reason. Having a goal or objective also really helps frame your climbing career. 

Tip #2: Hire a Certified and Independent Rock Climbing Guide

Previously I mentioned hiring a certified guide, but what is that exactly? Aren’t all guides certified? 

The simple answer is no, they aren’t all certified. 

Being examined by your peers is not a prerequisite in the guiding industry. You simply have to get a job working for a guide service who can staff you on any given day. 

In order to become a certified guide, you have to go through a very rigorous process that can take anywhere from 7-10 years to complete through the American Mountain Guides Association. 

A good analogy is that you wouldn’t get on a transatlantic flight with a pilot who didn’t have a license, would you? 

As a guest or consumer of the educational product that guides offer, it is best to ensure that you are learning from the very best who stay current on all the latest practices and techniques. 

Stay away from big-name guide services because you never know who you’ll get as a guide. 

You won't be disappointed by investing your time to find a certified and independent instructor for your guided rock climbing experience. 

Tip #3: Private Instruction or Structured Course?

For an educational product there are two options, neither one is inherently better than the other, but there are differences you should know about. 

Courses generally offer the lowest price which can be very attractive to a lot of people. They have set dates, so you’ll have to find a course that fits your schedule. Also the guide or instructor will have a set curriculum that won’t always be specifically applicable to you. 

Courses will generally will have a much higher ratio of participants to instructors which means that you’ll get less personal attention, but you will be able to learn from other participants. 

Private or semi-private instruction does generally have a higher price tag, but it is often well worth it. 

You can schedule private instruction or a guided rock climbing day at your convenience or whenever it fits your schedule. Any education or skills development is customized exactly to your skill level and climbing goals which can make it significantly more fruitful.

Tip #4: Be Prepared for The Day of Your Guided Rock Climbing Experience

Your guide should be able to meet you at whatever level you are at with grace and compassion. 

Don’t feel intimidated by the physical abilities or technical knowledge of your guide, they are there to help you and are on your team. 

The more you prepare physically for your outing the more you’ll get from it. Be it a big day in the mountains or an educational day, the more preparation you do beforehand will set you up for success.

On the actual day of your outing, be well-rested and show up on time with all your equipment packed. Often you’ll be traveling via plane and/or car to the destination of your outing; make sure to give yourself ample time at both the beginning and end of your guided rock climbing day with any subsequent travel plans. 

Often your guide will have a pretty tight timeline of how your day will go. Being just 15 minutes late can mean another party has already started climbing your intended objective. 

Of course, a good guide will be able to adjust and be flexible with whatever unforeseen obstacles arise.

Every day is different and what you’ll need to bring varies greatly depending on season, conditions, objective(s) for the day etc… make sure you ask your guide what clothing will be appropriate, how much food/water to bring and what technical equipment they expect you to bring.

Frequently Asked Questions About Guided Rock Climbing

Max Lurie Answering Common Rock Climbing Questions

How Do I Find a Local Rock Climbing Guide? 

How to find a local certified and independent guide is a great question. 

Often you’ll be able to find them with a quick Google search. But be careful to steer clear of the large guide service and their unpredictable guides. You can also find a guide on social media such as Instagram, someone who produces educational content that you trust and value.

What Should I Do To Prepare For The Guided Rock Climbing Day? 

A day out on the rock can encompass a lot of different things depending on what your guide has planned. Be sure to check with your guide about how best to prepare for your specific outing.

How Much Does a Guided Rock Climbing Day Typically Cost? 

A guided rock climbing day in the mountains can range from $250-$900/day depending on the ratio and the complexity of the objective. 

The upper end of that scale would be a 12-16 hour day in the mountains climbing a strenuous and technical route. Generally speaking, courses are cheapest because they occur at the highest participant-to-guide ratio. 

Private instruction can range from $450-500/day and semi-private instruction is $300/pp/day. Semi-private guiding (for two participants) is often the best of both worlds. It allows you to have a customized experience while keeping the cost as low as possible.

What Venues In Colorado Are Best For a Guided Day of Rock Climbing? 

Different venues or areas offer different things, so it really depends on what your goals and objectives are. 

For top roping or sport climbing, Clear Creek Canyon and Boulder Canyon are excellent options. They both have dozens of crags that offer a lifetime of adventure and discovery. 

As for traditional or trad climbing, specifically multi-pitch trad climbing, there is no place like Eldorado Canyon State Park. 

Eldo is such a special place with unique rock formations and very engaging climbing. It offers everything from beginner first-time terrain to the most advanced technical climbing at the forefront of the sport.

Final Thoughts 

Hiring a guide for a fun and educational guided rock climbing experience in Colorado shouldn’t be an intimidating process. If you have any additional questions please contact me at info@alpinetothemax.com so that I can answer them for you.

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