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The High Altitude Mountaineering & Trekking Guide To Going Guided Or Unguided

Updated: Jun 7, 2020

Before I dig into this blog, I want to make something very, very clear:

If you are a beginner trekker or mountaineer or if you are still trying to find your confidence at high altitude then I would strongly suggest you stop reading this blog and look for a guided option for the mountain or trek you are looking to do.

Adventuring at high altitude can be life threatening and if you do not feel confident enough to hold your own and fully look after yourself then it is not with all the pros in the world of going unguided. Find a tour provider who offers the mountain or route you want to do within your budget and with a guide.

Just last season (end of November 2018) on Aconcagua in Argentina a small group of three or four climbers got lost in a terrible storm and had to be rescued by the park ranges. I should also mention they hadn’t even gotten onto Aconcagua. They were lost between the start of the Vacas Valley Route and Base Camp, which is basically a 3-day flat trek in. Situations like that are life threatening to those needing to be rescued and those doing the rescuing. And quite frankly, it is irresponsible to put yourself in that situation and those around you.

Saving money and going unguided without the experience or qualified skillset is not worth it. If you are still reading this and mentally agree with yourself that you are capable of going unguided for the route you have planned then stop reading this and keep planning your amazing adventure!

If you’re on the fence about whether to go guided or unguided and count yourself as experienced and capable then keep reading!

The Pros & Cons Of Going Guided/Unguided

  • Unguided is the cheaper option. If you are cash strapped this makes it your most likely choice.

  • Guided is convenient. Everything is organised for you and planned for you, which can be an absolute bonus in a foreign country, were you may not speak the language. As convenient as this is, it does make the plans a little more rigid and gives you less freedom.

  • Guided normally means you’ll be in a group. You could have amazing people or not so amazing people. Generally speaking, I have never come across “non-amazing” people who are mountaineering and trekking. Most of the times, people doing this type of activity in their free time are like-minded and like spirited making guided group tours in my experience, fun! Some of the best people you meet in life will be on those high altitude adventures.

  • Saying that, unguided is obviously quieter. If you are more looking for a bit of peace and quiet then a guided group option is probably not the right one for you.

  • Guided does mean there are certain things taken into consideration if you need extra help. The guide will normally carry a satellite phone, extra medical supplies and be able to source a porter for you if you are struggling with your gear.

  • The list of pros and cons for going guided or unguided are endless but the above are the most important ones. At the end of the day, the choice comes down to you and more importantly the kind of experience you want to have.

My biggest piece of advice when deciding is this:

Ask yourself “why” you are doing this specific trek or mountain route and then mentally workout whether going guided or unguided fits with your “why”.

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