Griff - the journey of a humble mountain guide
Weary eyed, sun beaten, wind battered, but yet still loving life and walking tall with a smile.
If the worlds wilderness draws you in, fills you with an essence of belonging and sends you home with the want for more, then quite possibly the life of a outdoor adventure guide could be for you. Here's a tale from one of WildTribe's members who has an intrinsic relationship with nature and the outdoors.
I’m Griff, the big Welsh man who lives in the mountains. Now I’m a little different to your normal extreme sports athlete. I no longer just spend my day exploring the world of extreme sports trying to find the ultimate rush! I spend my days exploring the world of extreme sports trying to find the ultimate rush for my clients! I travel the world working as a guide trying to get my clients to the most beautiful, extreme, exciting and inspirational places whether it be by land, snow, water or Ice.
Where did it all begin? As I said I’m a welsh man, born and brought up in north Wales and with two parents who at some point both guided and instructed in the outdoors I had no choice from a young age I was involved. Whether it be climbing a cliff, scrambling up a mountain or bivvying high on a peak in the Alps. There was never any rest for the little kid with ADHD who couldn’t leave his dads side, if I was tired at least I wouldn’t miss behave well that was the theory anyway. This emersion into this outdoors world quickly grew the need for adrenaline and when I was 17 I found myself leaving home and heading for south wales to work on the river Teiffi at Llandysul paddlers outdoor center. Here I was shown the wonder of water, the adventures you could have in the rivers and the seas all over Europe anything from surfing to kayaking. It was here I truly found my love for guiding and instructing. It also allowed time to climb all over the UK with two fantastic climbing partners and friends for life in Guy Neal and Robert Webster. A healthy and exciting balance between water and land.
'I’m a welsh man, born and brought up in north Wales, with two parents who at some point both guided and instructed in the outdoors I had no choice from a young age I was involved'
At 18 I found myself taking my first trip to the Himalayas, into the world of big mountains. With my dad. I thought I was going to get an easy ride wondering around in the foot hills of Everest for a few weeks living it up like a true tourist. A month later after carrying the bags with the porters and the Sherpas, cooking in the field kitchens with the kitchen staff, planning routes with the guides, assisting with medical care to other mountaineers, locals and fixing ropes after landslides had taken out trails. I had a new respect and understanding of what this job truly took and I could see that my dad felt he had set me on the right path. Ten years later I still spend my time in Nepal working with the kitchen staff, planning routes, fixing ropes carrying bags and providing medical care all alongside guiding my team.
At 22 and at a cross roads exploring the mountains, I needed a new twist and that came in the form of snow. Packing up and moving with only a sleeping bag to a basement in Austria, progressing to France and spending my winters taking people out into the snow, skiing, Snow shoeing, digging snow holes and just exploring this amazing world. Skiing is the element of the year my extreme side was craving.
All this time I was inspired to be outside, money and a solid job seemed to slip through my fingers, working location to location living out of a converted van. The outdoor bum’s life seemed the one for me. That was until I met my mentor, teacher, and friend Alan Bernholtz.
'a good guide isn’t having the ability to get every group to the top, it's having the ability to turn groups around when they must be turned around, make the decisions which others can not and create safe spaces when others only see danger'
One snowy day I was in the French Alps and to earn some money to buy a few bottles of wine after a week of teaching skiing to a group in Austria found myself clearing snow in Sainte Foy Ternetaise (French Alps) this snow clearing led to a full-time job working as one of the international guiding team at Eleven Experience. Now based across the planet with this company I guide many activities in different environments and with all sorts of incredible people. I have just left my place in France and I’m currently in Iceland where this summer I have several sea kayaking and open water SUP expeditions planned. As well as mountain expeditions, glacial treks. This is all before I get away to the Himalayas to guide a few groups on some treks and hopefully some climbing expeditions. This all ends summer adventures before the next winter season with that ever famous Teiffi Tour festival in west Wales for some white water excitement after the thrill of Icelandic water falls.
I was once told by a very good Nepalese friend “we have no problems only solutions” and I truly think if this is how you approach every situation you are always set up for success it is something I work with every day. Being a guide is hard, I miss the days of being a bum and living in my van only worrying about myself but my dad when I was young sat me down and told me “a good guide isn’t having the ability to get every group to the top, it's having the ability to turn groups around when they must be turned around, make the decisions which others can not and create safe spaces when others only see danger, but being a great guide is doing all of this with a smile on your face and your group never realizing the extent of the situation they may be in.” This is now what inspires my adventures everyday and what drives me to be forever outside.
If Griffs journey is anything to go by, it could be that one opportunity, a cold beer with a stranger, a chair lift conversation or hitch-hike ride that could be your chance. Keep exploring team, we'll be back with more member stories soon.
Huge thanks to Griff, 'the big welshman' for sharing his journey with us.