Tipping Guides


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Ola Girl

Trad climber
Thousand Oaks, CA
Topic Author's Original Post - Sep 7, 2007 - 06:32pm PT
How much is customary to tip a guide? I typically tip 20-25% of the price of the class - is this too much, too little or just right? Should I base it off something else other than the price of the course?

What if I had someone guide me up The Nose? The cost of that is $3,200.

I'd like to hear from the guides out there since this is probably a big part of how you make a living....

East of Seattle
Sep 7, 2007 - 06:34pm PT
Welcome Ola. Get ready to duck.

Social climber
Davis, CA
Sep 7, 2007 - 06:40pm PT
duck? Whatever do you mean?

Anyway Ola, in the climbing guide biz the baseline is 50%. 100% if the guide provides outstanding service and you aren't maimed.

Social climber
Falls Church, VA
Sep 7, 2007 - 07:20pm PT
give what you can afford

Sep 7, 2007 - 07:25pm PT
$3200 just so you can tell your friends you, uh, "climbed" the Nose?
If you're using a guide, then you aren't really going to climb the Nose. So, if you're going to lie to your friends, why pay $3200 (plus tip)?

Wouldn't it be cheaper to take a helicopter to the top?
Or just drive a motorcycle and pay the fine. Is the fine more than $3000?

right here, right now
Sep 7, 2007 - 07:29pm PT
Nice of you to ask Ola.

While I don't have a definitive answer, it is worth noting the guide makes less than a tennis pro and much less than a plumber.

If either of those other professionals fails in the worst way, the outcome is disproportionately less serious than it would be for the guide/client scenario. Think of the risk management burden for the guide: they are woefully underpaid.

Sport climber
Buzzard Point, TN
Sep 7, 2007 - 07:30pm PT
Much in like other tipping venues, go with your heart. If a guide has superb "soft skills", reward them well.

3200 and no hauling? Could be a great deal depending on your "position" in life...not everyone has the time to put in to get proficient at "hanging on gear", but some have the $ to plunk to do the Cap. Why fight the "free market" (cough, cough).

The guys that I took up the Captain always did a yeomans job of belaying and/or hauling. Even if you do it Osbourne style, you still climbed it in my book....

Trad climber
San Francisco, Ca
Sep 7, 2007 - 07:32pm PT
Um, andanother, I don't think she said she was going to use a guide to climb the nose. She used it as an example. And so what if she did? Are you the nose police or something?

Sport climber
Buzzard Point, TN
Sep 7, 2007 - 07:34pm PT
Classy post, tarbouse. I always felt that since guiding a venture such as the cap or HAM is "24 hours per day" the hourly wage breakdown is kind of miserly.

Especially since there's (usually) no benes...

Sep 7, 2007 - 07:44pm PT
I thought this thread was about cow tipping.
Mighty Hiker

Social climber
Vancouver, B.C.
Sep 7, 2007 - 07:52pm PT
You should practice on prairie outhouses first - they stay still. Then move on to cows. All going well, you can then try it on a guide.

If the tip is in the form of coins, the guide's bound to tip. For example, say the fee is $3,000. A 15% tip would be $450, which works out to:
45,000 pennies @ 2.5 g = 112.5 kg
9,000 nickels @ 5.0 g = 45 kg
4,500 dimes @ 2.268 g = 10.2 kg
1,800 quarters @ 5.67 g = 10.2 kg
(masses from U.S. mint website)

It looks like pennies should get you a guaranteed tip, if nothing else.

More seriously, guiding is part of the service industry, and at least in North America tipping is customary for good service. There are some guides who frequent SuperTopo who should be able to provide guidance.

right here, right now
Sep 7, 2007 - 07:59pm PT
I guided professionally from 1979 to 1989. In the late 80s, ‘87, and ‘88 in particular, I guided an El Capitan route each season, and that brought my daily average to 95 bucks. When I moved to Colorado in 1990 I started working for a guiding school out here and at that time, they dropped the wage from $100 a day to $70.

So it's a choice, and that's what the market will bear, but it ain't pretty. I don't think that it's that much better now (even double, so what): at the end of the 80s at YMS, I was outspoken that El Capitan should be at least $3000 to the client.

The first time up The Nose, my pay was $1200 (after taxes I got about $550). The client tipped me $800 to make it an even $2000.

The degree of craftsmanship, focus, responsibility, even for teaching basic classes is quite high. Once the guide acquires the basics for conveying the technical matter and imposing reasonable safeguards, as stated above, soft skills are a considerable part of the package for which you would consider appropriate remuneration.

The most important aspect of guiding for which there is a dearth of understanding in our country, is the aspect of risk mitigation. The natural variables of the wilds, the multifaceted vicissitudes of vertical terrain and nature’s whims in general cannot be put in complete check by the guide. When you hire a guide, you are still assuming risk, you're just making a decision to stack the deck in your favor and likewise decrease the odds of mishap, and yes by quite a bit, but not completely.
Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
Sep 7, 2007 - 08:51pm PT
I couldn't put it any better than Tar (and I have some experience guiding, and got my AMGA cert in '90).

25% seems like a good rule of thumb as I often do the same for food servers who run substantially lesser risks in my behalf.

But if you come across a guide that is both highly competent and personally compatable who performs admirably in the face of daunting conditions the sky's the limit. Guides don't make nearly enough, constantly being undercut by hero wannabes, so how much is your life worth anyway?

Let 'em know.
I can name you a dozen great guides who gave it up unable to earn a living.
J. Werlin

Sep 7, 2007 - 09:04pm PT
. . .the multifaceted vicissitudes of vertical terrain. . .

And if the guide has a literary vocabulary like Tarbuster? Some extra to help payback student loans would be good form.

Trad climber
Top of the Mountain Mun
Sep 7, 2007 - 09:10pm PT
A bit of a thread drift here, but If a guide in America is properly certified, shouldn't they be able to guide any park or mountain as they do in Canada? What do you guides think. It sure seems reasonable to me.

Why is so much politics and permit BS involved?

Social climber
The West
Sep 7, 2007 - 09:13pm PT
They are doing more than keeping the soup warm, anything under $100/day (8hrs) is fairly miserly, for ground school, walls have higher risks/responsisibilities.

Tar, if you still want to pursue that line of employment, I can steer you toward erratic work @ ~twice the pay you mentioned, could be more if you're down with llamas. Same state, higher county (mostly).
Mighty Hiker

Social climber
Vancouver, B.C.
Sep 7, 2007 - 09:16pm PT
Perhaps someone more knowledgeable can comment, but I believe that a member of the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides is legally permitted to guide in Canadian national parks. A separate permit is required for provincial parks, e.g. the Bugaboos, or for provincial land outside parks - in B.C., about 80% of the province. Essentially, a commercial tenure (license) of some kind.

So a variety of permits may be required, depending on where the work occurs. A non-Canadian may also have to obtain permission from immigration.

For full disclosure, I should admit that I am (or at least was) a certified climbing instructor - in Norway.

right here, right now
Sep 7, 2007 - 09:27pm PT
Cool Mighty Hiker!
So if you can get me ‘n Jaybro up the Troll Wall, we will graciously double the usual one sixpack gratuity.

Thanks for the offer Jay,
Man I could use the work, any work: I may keep that offer of yours on my long list. Currently, I can't type or drive a car without getting pumped and I can coil rope, maybe lead a pitch, once a week tops. The wheels are coming off I tell ya’.

Hopefully my newfangled Doc can help pull my rudder out of the sand!
Mighty Hiker

Social climber
Vancouver, B.C.
Sep 7, 2007 - 09:35pm PT
Two six packs might cause me to be ... tipsy.

Sadly, a big piece of Trollveggen fell off about a decade ago, including important bits of several popular routes. It's climbable, but rather an adventure. Luckily there are equally good and long climbs in Norway, on better rock. Plus Lofoten, which I hope to visit next year.

Social climber
The West
Sep 7, 2007 - 09:40pm PT
Whut kin I say, Roy? Sqwakin' in your venacular is a rare contribution. Not big on recompense, though.

We aren't tippping over, are we?
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