Ueli Steck, modern Alpinist backed by big brands.
Image by Ludovic Peron courtesy Ludovic Peron
Apa Sherpa the Machinist.
Image by Mogens Engelund courtesy Mogens Engelund
Hillary the Navigator.
Image by Mariusz Kubik courtesy Mariusz Kubik, SOURCE
The Working Alpinist

Posted: Apr 24, 2013 06:32 pm EDT
(Nick Boudreau) As outsiders we imagine alpinists spend their time entirely in the mountains. In reality, most of them do or did not meet the tradition mold of the quintessential professional mountaineer.

Many modern guides, like Peter Athans or Ed Viesturs, were able to fund their alpine careers through speaking tours, book and film deals and endorsements. However, even Viesturs spent most of his early career paying his way as a Veterinarian and construction worker.

Here are the jobs of a few famous mountain folks you may have heard of:

George Mallory – School teacher
Andrew Irvine – Student
Edmund Hillary – Navigator, Royal New Zealand Air Force
George Lowe – School teacher
Dave Hahn – Ski patroller
Charles Barrington – Merchant
Maurice Herzog – Sports administrator
Tom Hornbein – Anesthesiologist
Yasuko Namba – Businesswoman
Apa Sherpa – Machinist
Willi Unsoeld – Professor

In the new era, many mountaineers have turned to operating professional guide companies. Eric Simonson of International Mountain Guides (IMG), Russell Brice of Himalayan Experience (Himex), the reposed Scott Fisher of Mountain Madness, Lou Whittaker of Rainier Mountaineering International (RMI), all respected climbers who have made their personal passion into a business of shepherding others on mountain adventures.

Still others continue to climb full-time with the sponsorship of big companies. The NO2 Limits Expedition duo of Ueli Steck and Simone Moro receive financial benefits and gear from their respective backers Mountain Hardwear and The North Face. Even atypical businesses have jumped into the promotion business including Rolex, Oracle, Audi, along with hundreds of small businesses looking to get their name on a website or sewn on a climber’s down suit.

While the days of expeditions funded by societies, such as the Alpine Club and Royal Geographic Society, may be the norm of the past, one thing is for certain, the modern alpinist will find a way to make it to the mountains.



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