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 American Mountain Guide/IFMGA Erik Leidecker, an athlete for Eddie Bauerbased in Sun Valley, ID.

Erik Leidecker & Mason Earle, The Beckey-Chouinard 5.10, South Howser Tower, The Bugaboos, Purcell Mountains, Lardeau Provincial Forest, British Colombia, Canada. Photo by: Andrew Burr

How did you get into skiing, and then guiding?My introduction to the outdoors was though my parents and countless hikes, river trips, and backpacking trips when I was growing up. I don’t remember how this bled into climbing, but when I was 8 I bought 25’ of rope, a few biners, and a handful of hexes to use at a crag behind my house in Sun Valley, ID. Somehow I survived daily missions to this choss pile, but it wasn’t until college that I made my first lead, which was Nervous in Suburbia, a run-out sport climb on Wall St. near Moab.   I also grew up ski racing, raced in college and dabbled during all that time in the backcountry. When college racing ended a focus on backcountry skiing was the obvious next step!

Why do you love guiding?

My guiding career grew from a love for the outdoors and outdoor sports, but almost immediately I began to also love guiding itself. I enjoy the people, the “office,” and the technical side of the work. Also I’m not a particularly artistic or creative person in the traditional sense, but I find an outlet for for these in many aspects of guiding especially with short roping and tracksetting.

Why is standardized guide education important, especially now? 

Mountain guiding is a high-risk profession. Workers in high-risk professions need baseline training and certification.

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

The usual stuff…I always have a compass and paper map despite rarely using them and being a total smartphone geek. The “analog” skills are still important!

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

I had a particularly memorable day on the Dent du Geant in the Mt. Blanc Massif. I was guiding a long-time client and the route was a bit of a stretch for her. Also the weather was touch and go throughout the day—you were never really sure. But we both kept chipping away at it and finally arrived at the summit. During the descent a German guide and an aspirant guide he was working with were having trouble. It made sense for the three of us guides to work together to get all our clients off efficiently. We did this by combining virtually all descending techniques known to guiding and in the end there was a great sense of camaraderie experienced by all of us–guides and clients alike. Getting to the summit in adverse conditions was rewarding in and of itself, the experience on the descent was icing on the cake.

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

One time I organized a ski tour to the wrong mountain! It wasn’t an objective that my client picked. It was one I suggested and that I hadn’t done before. Despite knowing the exact location of the peak (I’ve driven by it probably 1000 times!) I picked it out incorrectly on the map, which was just a careless mistake, as it’s not marked. Then I planned the entire tour on the wrong peak! I remember something seemed off when I parked my car at the TH, but the location was correct given all my planning. The tour went fine, and the skiing was great, but I remember thinking that the main run seemed a little short. It wasn’t until a week later when I saw the correct peak driving home that I realized I’d been on the wrong mountain! I told my client the next year and although he seemed like he thought it was funny I haven’t been out with him since!

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

Look ahead.

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

Over the years I’ve forgotten just about everything you can forget. But I feel the most naked when I don’t have my guide notebook.

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

Roughhousing with my kids and IPA!

What are the top three songs on your playlist?

Not sure how iTunes figures it, but:

  • The Ghost Inside, Broken Bells
  • Wildcat, Ratatat
  • Dare, Gorillaz

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