Friday, July 4, 2008

Get to Know Your Guide: An interview with Paul Ivaska

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 Paul Ivaska.

Age: 38
Hometown: Monroe, Connecticut
Recent trips and expeditions with AAI: Denali (West Buttress), Temple Crag (Venusian Blind), North Palisade (U-Notch Couloir)
Upcoming courses with AAI: Mt. Whitney (East Buttress)

A Guide’s Life
How old were you when you first started climbing?
22 years old. I was attending an Army Medic training course in Ft. Sam Houston, TX. My roommate had experience climbing in the Dolomites of Northern Italy. He invited me out to do some climbing in the hill country north of San Antonio. I was immediately hooked!

How do you stay in shape, and what are your favorite training activities?
Guiding and Ski Patrolling keep me in shape.

Who is the most inspiring person in your climbing life?
My friend Mike Storeim from Colorado. He grew up climbing in Eldorado Canyon and the South Platte region in the 70's (a time when climbers had so little as far as equipment goes, but did so much as far as pushing the traditional clim
bing standard). I learned a lot from him and enjoyed many a great climb with him.

What are your other interests besides climbing?
Skiing and guiding.

Where is your favorite place to travel?
As each year goes by, I find myself enjoying more mountain ranges in North America. My favorite ranges are those with the beautiful combination of huge granite walls and glaciers. I would like to one day go climb alpine walls in Pakistan and Patagonia. I also enjoy climbing in the Utah desert.

On the Technical Side
Describe your climbing style.
I enjoy long alpine rock routes the most.

What has been your most technically difficult climb?
The route Oz in Tuolumne Meadows. It was sustained in its difficulties and very aesthetic. I have done two climbing routes that where put up by Dale Bard in the Sierra and found them both awesome in setting and difficulty.

What is your biggest strength as a climber? Biggest weakness?
Strength: I don't let long arduous approaches deter me from climbing interesting routes. Weakness: I sometimes have a hard time leaving the coffee shop to go climb :)

A Guide on Guiding
Is there anything you know now that you'd wish you'd known when you were just beginning to climb?
Trying to make a living climbing is difficult, but the rewards make it worthwhile.

When you guide, what piece of advice do you find you give most often to climbers?
I think Mark Twight gives the best advice in his book "Extreme Alpinism". He says that it is common to look at photographs of climbers doing really cool climbs and think to yourself " I want to be that climber right now!" But he cautions us that behind those pictures there are many years of apprenticeship and dedication.

What qualities do you think are most important in a guide?
Patience and good mountain sense.

Name a few guide “turn-ons” (for example, what makes a good climber on one of your courses, ascents, or expeditions?).
Climbing with people who have a good attitude is the best. Those who enjoy the journey vs. the destination get the most out of a challenging climb.

Any memorable events while guiding for AAI?
Last summer, I remember topping out on Mt. Whitney via the East Buttress route with a climber named Steve. Standing there on the summit was a man dressed up as Elvis and drinking a Fosters. He was hamming it up for all the other hikers. It was pretty entertaining.

What are your must-haves? Favorite foods or gear?
I must have dried fruit and wet wipes for back country trips :)

Describe your achievement of which you are the most proud.
I am proud of getting three of four team members to the summit of Denali this past Spring. We had challenging conditions, but through perseverance, enjoyed standing on top of North America's highest peak together.

Any closing comments?
Get out there and enjoy Mother Nature's design. Some of Her most beautiful displays will only be viewed through hard work and determination.

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