Friday, June 20, 2008

Get to Know Your Guide: An interview with Ian McEleney

Every week, we take the reader into the interesting and ever-changing life of an American Alpine Institute guide. Every AAI guide is very experienced in alpine and rock climbing, and all have received professional training in advanced guiding techniques and rescue. Collectively they have one of the highest levels of wilderness first aid, avalanche, and Leave No Trace training among the world's international guide services.

This week, we interview Ian McEleney, one of our most recent hires. Ian is an extremely careful, diligent, and experienced climber and we are very excited about the upcoming trips that he is guiding.

Age: 28
Hometown: Anywhere
Upcoming courses with AAI: Alpinism 2, where we’ll get to climb some alpine rock and a glaciated peak. We get a piece from every part of the Cascades buffet.

A New Perspective on Guiding
What made you decide to become a guide
? I’ve loved climbing from the day I started. I also really enjoy teaching, and my degree is in education. So guiding seemed like a logical job choice. The first time I visit an amazing place is always the best, because I’m seeing it with new eyes. Subsequent visits can be awesome, but they lack that first time magic. When I get the chance to bring someone to a place and they think it is amazing too, I get a little piece of the magic back.

What qualities do you think are most important in a guide?
Everyone has a unique learning style, so being able to teach the same concept in multiple ways can really help people get it. Also, of course, patience.

What are your must-haves (e.g. favorite foods, equipment)?
Chocolate, a jacket with a hood, and a positive attitude.

A Climbing Life
How old were you when you first started climbing?

I led my first climb when I was 22. I already had a lot of backcountry experience backpacking. I had this crazy idea that it might be fun to pick two points on a map, draw a straight line connecting them, and travel that line. Of course, that would require some skills. With walking covered, vertical terrain seemed next on the list. I picked up some books on climbing and began the long and exciting task of teaching myself to climb. Knowing what I know now, some of the things I did then seem pretty crazy.

How do you stay in shape, and what are your favorite training activities?
Dave Mayville, a Joshua Tree guide and all around badass, says that the only exercise one needs to do for climbing are one legged squats, because climbing is all about footwork. I don’t really train per se, I just get out there and play as much as possible. There’s no training as effective as a good adventure.

Who is the most inspiring person in your climbing life?
I don’t really have any climbing heroes, except for my climbing partners. Josh H
arding, Brian Post, Eric Braswell, and Bernadette Regan are the people I’ve most enjoyed being tied to.

What are your other interests besides climbing?
I really like going to movies, eating ice cream, and sewing.

Where is your favorite place to travel?
Zion National Park in Utah and the Tetons are probably my favorite spots.

On the Technical Side
Describe your climbing style.
Crack climbing is my favorite style of climbing. To many people, I think, crack climbing feels unnatural, but to me there is nothing so secure as getting a body part firmly wedged in the rock. I also like covering a lot of terrain.

What has been your most technically difficult climb?
Probably Touchstone, in Zion. It’s not the hardest free climbing I’ve done, but it has both free and aid climbing, it’s long, and the descent is not simple (especially in the dark). It’s also a lot of fun.

What is your biggest strength as a climber? Biggest weakness?
I’d rather try something new than throw myself at the same difficult route or boulder problem over and over. This probably slows my progression to more difficult routes.


eeeeRegan said...

This guy Ian seems like a pretty good guy. I wonder if I have met him before...

Mit and Josh Harding said...

Where would we be without Ian guiding us around Joshua Tree all winter!!

Greg DeSantis said...

The first climbing Ian ever did was in high school. He climbed and hung from the rafters in Mr. Weller's classroom. I know because I captured it on tape.

Looks like it's been all uphill from there!