Adventure Guides Reveal All

Our anonymous survey results are in. These are the genuine horrors and joys of leading strangers into the wild.

Apr 28, 2015
Outside Magazine
Adventure Guides Reveal All

The worst clients? The inept, the rude, and the murderous.    Photo: Georgijevic/iStock

To get the inside story of life as an adventurer for hire, we sent an anonymous survey to 500 current and former guides, so they could speak candidly about their experiences. Below are some of their responses—and their go-to jokes for keeping spirits high on the trail.

Worst Client Ever?

  • Had a guy that had to pass a kidney stone mid climb...long story.
  • Altitude and stress exacerbated unknown psychological issues. He tried to kill me and another guide on Denali. "I'm going to bury you in a fucking crevasse!"
  • A doctor who was secretly using steroids to speed up his climbing at altitude and becoming irrational.
  • I had someone who refused to be guided by me because I am a woman.
  • 12-14 boys on an archer youth club session. “What if I shot you,” said one as he pointed a bow at me.
  • He asked us to help him secure a prostitute in Costa Rica. We were guiding a family adventure.
  • The kid who said, "My other babysitter..."
  • Mormon boy scouts.
  • The girl that showed up to a snowshoeing trip at Mount Rainier in flip-flops. There are assholes sure, but that was the worst.
  • This one guy who cussed me out because I told him to filter water before drinking it.
  • The one that punched me.
  • They GoPro-ed every minute of the day, using words like "sick" and "extreme" as often as possible. 
  • Nervous personal injury attorney and his two wild boys.
  • Male teenager who pissed on a snow cave wall and whacked off at night in his sleeping bag in said snow cave.
  • Dehydrated 7th grader who puked on his tent mate’s sleeping bag and pad during night one of a weeklong trip.
  • Shit their pants.
  • Canadian who was reading a guide book all the way through the trip and kept correcting me during the tour. I had to confiscate the book off him at one stage and ask him to stop interrupting me or he could guide the trip himself. The rest of the bus cheered.
  • Rude Russian man who expected everyone to do his bidding.
  • This guy was way too obese—couldn’t even climb inside the raft.
  • I had a group of Armenians who fought the entire trip, usually in Armenian. They lied to us constantly, and at one point I caught them trying to sneak their gear into another guide’s pack so we would carry the weight. 
  • The guy who told his wife mid-tour that he was having an affair. Five or six other families were on the tour, as well as their young kid. It was super awkward for all, including the other families. Turns out he was boning a 21-year old employee—how cliché.
  • Drunk Navy helicopter pilots who pissed on an old woman's front door because she decided not to offer them her company's guiding services last minute. They were really fun to guide and wait on hand and foot all night—one of my tents needed to be thrown away after that…
  • A photographer who jumped out of the game viewer in front of a male lion.
  • Female wanted to bring a bag full of makeup on a 3 day Rainier climb. She was also taking prescription medication to prevent her from having to shit. She barely made it to high camp with me carrying her pack on top of mine. I took her back down the next morning and bid her farewell.
  • They refused to use a waste disposal bag and instead crapped in the middle of the desert. I had to clean it up.
  • I can handle terrible clients, they aren't expected to know as much. I find working with terrible co-workers way worse, especially when they constantly make fun of clients!
  • All 15-year-old girls. Just kidding. Not really.
  • French!
  • Brought his own stuffed dragon that he spoke to in front of the other guests. And he wrote in our group journal from the dragon’s perspective (wanting to eat the rest of us!).
  • The meet-and-greet started with “I have a condition that makes my bones extremely fragile, and I'm not allowed to bend my back.”
  • A family that played the “penis game” when they should have been paddling their asses off. We dead drifted into a rock garden and splatted on the Northwest Passage stove sieve that a rafter died on years before. 
  • An Indian family on a class III/IV alpine raft trip. They didn’t want to get wet or to even hold a paddle, but still insisted on coming along! They wanted to get off after the first rapid. The father said, "Sir, please stop as we are all sure to perish!"
  • A guy who played dead.

Best Client Ever?

  • The man who became my husband.
  • My wife who I met on a trip. Second best would be the Swedish model.
  • David Suzuki—that guy is one cool dude.
  • My wife! She tells the clients what is expected and that it’s good karma to tip you guide!
  • A strong, confident, good-looking girl who chose to wear a thin white t-shirt. I guess she didn’t anticipate the afternoon rainstorm we got stuck in!
  • I took a beautiful girl (the daughter of a visiting preacher) out climbing. While climbing, a recreational climber close to us was involved in a ground fall. I had to cut the session with her short. I was bummed! But then she took me out for beers that night and I received the best non-monetary tip I've ever gotten.
  • They were two 20-year-old girls from Holland. After taking them on the whitewater trip of a lifetime, we partied and then I ended up sharing a bed with both of them for two weeks.
  • She whispered sweet nothings in my ear.
  • She wanted to kayak topless.
  • An entire trip worth of female clients. Two women were on the trip as a bachelorette gift. The whole thing turned into a bachelorette party, including calls for the guides to come into the dining tent to strip.
  • The little Aussie chick that I hooked up with for a few months after. She was way above my normal standard and was besotted by me.
  • A beautiful girl who brought very nice lingerie to wear in the tent. Her only comment when asked to do anything sexual was “Okay!”
  • Client that truly enjoyed the experience and brought fine scotch.
  • A 25-year-old Canadian 5.12 climber. He brought beers for after the climb.
  • Brewer from Portland.
  • My most memorable tip was from a family of three. The dad gave me a $20 bill, a pound of coffee, and a small jar of marijuana.
  • The guy who sang and danced "Billie Jean" by Michael Jackson on the top of his first mountain. He was so stoked to have made it!
  • The massage therapist who freely offered her services every night at camp.
  • We got stuck in a snowstorm in western Mongolia, and the clients (from Minnesota) all jumped out to help push the Land Rover out of the snow bank.
  • The bass player for Lynyrd Skynyrd. We stayed in touch—crazy rad dude.
  • The Frenchman who once said, “I'm only happy when I party.” Then he leaned over, winked and said, “and I always party."
  • Yoga Pants. Enough said.

Best Tip You've Ever Been Given?

  • I can't say, the IRS reads Outside too.
  • A pair of brand new Spantik boots—about $700. 
  • A pair of Leica Geovid binoculars and $2,500 cash on top of that.
  • $Texas (for the Jeopardy/SNL fans).
  • A free pickup truck!
  • $400, Silver Patron, Cointreau, limes and a squeezer, all in a gift basket, for not summiting.
  • Two bottles of wine.
  • $250 and dinner.
  • £200 and an international flight ticket.
  • A cool G. 
  • A vacation that was probably in the range of $10,000.
  • Is sex a tip?
  • A hand job.
  • Don't ask.
  • Not appropriate.
  • “Don't eat yellow snow.”

Guide Humor

What is the difference between a guide and a large pizza? 
The pizza smells better and can feed a family of four.

What's the difference between a Canadian and a canoe? 
Canoes tip.

The good news is, we're making good time. The bad news is, we're lost. 

The three rules of mountaineering:

  1. Always look good.
  2. Stay calm. 
  3. When shit hits the fan, remember rules 1 and 2.


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