July 22, 2008

EXUM Guide Dies While Soloing

The SierraJournal (formerly has a short write-up on the death of Exum Mountain Guides employee George Gardner, 58, who died Saturday, July 19, while free soloing the Grand Teton's Lower Exum Ridge.

One quote in particular about the story caught my attention (from the Star Valley Independent):

According to investigators, it is not unusual for professional guides—either in pairs or solo—to go out for additional climbing on their own, once their clients have settled in for the night.

Are the investigators referring specifically to EMG policy, or is this considered common practice throughout the guiding community?

The article gives the impression that it was typical for guides to leave their clients alone in order to go climb technical routes (sometimes solo) at night. This may just be a case of sloppy reporting (perhaps guides in groups occasionally split up, some staying behind with clients, some going off on their own), but if there is any grain of truth to the claim, it sure seems like a terribly ill-advised practice.

I think I'll try a little follow-up of my own on this one.

What do you think? Is it ever acceptable for guides to leave clients behind to go off on their own and climb?

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About SierraDescents

When there is snow, SierraDescents is Andy Lewicky's California backcountry skiing and mountaineering website. Without snow, sierradescents becomes an ill-tempered hiking and climbing blog.

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