AMGA Partner Athlete Profile: Emilie Drinkwater with Outdoor Research

The AMGA is excited to announce a new blog series, to run for the rest of 2015, featuring Q & As with AMGA guides, instructors, and members who are integral members of our corporate sponsors’ athlete teams—men and women who are delivering both in the guiding world and as ambassadors for their brands and chosen outdoor sport(s). There is and always has been much overlap between mountain guides and top mountain athletes: guiding and teaching are a natural fit for those who excel in skiing, rock climbing, ice climbing, and mountaineering, as the activities pull from the same passion, wisdom, and skill set.

This week’s mini-profile is of AMGA/IFMGA Guide Emilie Drinkwater, an athlete for Outdoor Research who lives in Keene Valley, New York.


EmilieDrinkwater, Huntington Ravine NH, Photo by Jim Surette

AMGA/IFMGA Guide and Outdoor Research athlete Emilie Drinkwater in Huntington Ravine, N.H. Photo: Jim Surette

How did you get into the sport, and then guiding?

I grew up ski racing—first alpine and later nordic—and learned to climb in college. With a degree in anthropology and unsure of what to do with myself after graduating, I begged my way into a job as a rock-climbing guide.

Why do you love guiding?

It’s dynamic, challenging (mentally and physically), and takes me to some of the best crags and mountains in the world, with every personality type imaginable.

Why is standardized guide education important, especially now?

Well, it’s a complex topic, but the simplest way to articulate it would be this: The guiding industry is at this very pivotal point in which a baseline minimum of competency, efficiency, and evaluation by way of education and certification is the only professional way forward. Doing this as a unified front benefits everyone: guides, guide-service owners, land managers, insurance companies, and perhaps most importantly, our guests. I believe that, in any industry, success is determined by the standards to which we hold ourselves.

What is in your pack on a typical day of guiding?

It depends on the discipline, and of course it’s usually pretty typical stuff, but a few things I really like to have are a warm layer (I’m the coldest person I know) and my ‘adventure’ camera—a basic point-and-shoot that still takes way better photos than my iPhone.

What has been your best day out guiding, and why?

In 200-plus days of guiding I don’t think I could single out just one day. Rather, what makes a day notable is the people I’m with. Whether it’s a day of toproping or a three-week expedition, my guests are also my partners; these are the people who hold my rope, tell me their life stories, and have full confidence in my ability to help them achieve whatever it is that they’re there to achieve. And that pretty much makes for a lot of ‘best’ days out!

What has been your worst/funniest/most comedy-of-errors day out guiding, and why?

One time, I made the mistake of confessing to a rock-climbing guest that I was a little nervous about the difficulty of an upcoming pitch. He quickly reassured me that all would be fine and proceeded to pull out his Reiki crystal, a surprisingly large and heavy stone which, unbeknownst to me, had been in his pack all along. He placed the crystal behind a deep flake at the start of the pitch and promised it would bring me luck and positive energy. I was only a few moves up when a bat suddenly flew out of the crack at eye level— startling, but uneventful. I continued on, and several moves later the foothold I was standing on (a foothold I’d used many times previously) crumbled, causing a short, hard fall onto a cam (which never did come out and remains there today). I got back on and cautiously finished the pitch, but to this day I remain skeptical of the power of Reiki crystals.

What is the one, most essential trick you’ve learned to make you a more efficient guide or climber?

Anticipation—always thinking a few steps ahead.

What is the one item you can’t live without?

I’m pretty sure that besides the obvious, I can live without most material things. But since that doesn’t really answer the question, one virtue I can’t live without is humility.

How do you let loose/relax when you’re not working?

Water! I love hot springs, swimming holes, and beaches. I’m a Pisces.

What are the top three songs on your playlist?

Slip, Elliot Moss

Homens, Manu Chao

Black is the Night, DJ Vadim