In my humble opinion, there are few jobs that are more fascinating than those of mountain guides. A profession that is steeped in tradition and requires a range of technical and professional skills, these adventurous souls conquer the world’s toughest terrains and open up new worlds to intrepid travellers.
Mountaineering in Aosta Valley
I am particularly interested in the mountain guides of the Aosta Valley in northwest Italy. These Alpine adventurers have a long, influential tradition – many of them have written important chapters in the rich history of mountaineering. Immersing yourself in their world is a unique experience that those with an interest in culture will value greatly.
These highly trained professionals must possess a range of important skills to help individuals and small groups navigate a mountain safely. These skills include climbing, skiing, hiking, rock climbing and ice climbing. They must also possess precise knowledge of all mountain routes, glaciers, weather conditions, avalanche safety measures and first-aid. On top of all this, they must know how to use crampons, an ice axe, avalanche beacons and other life-saving equipment. As you can clearly see, this is not simply a career, but actually a way of life for mountain guides.
A Marvellous Museum
If you – like me – find this to be an intriguing profession, I highly recommend that you visit The Society Guide Alpine Museum in Courmayeur. The Society of Alpine Guides is the oldest in Italy and the second oldest in the entire world. Inaugurated by the Duke of Abruzzi in 1929, the museum features the books of deceased guides and of the shelters where mountaineers marked their passage, as well as all kinds of other fascinating documents, photographs, equipment and souvenirs from places including Africa, Himalayas, India and Tibet.
A Fun-Filled Festival
There is also a Courmayeur Alpine Guides Festival held in August, which is worth checking out. This festival celebrates the mountain and everybody who lives there, works there or simply visits, and it takes place in various places throughout the Val d’Aosta. The highlight is when the Alpine guides make their way to Holy Mass while wearing their hats, ceremonial uniforms and coiled rope, and while carrying ice picks and crampons that have been blessed with holy water.
How to Get There
Sounds good, right? To reach this beautiful part of the world, you will want to fly into Geneva from the UK. This takes just 90 minutes from London airports, and carriers including British Airways, Swiss and easyJet all make the flight regularly throughout the week.
It takes a further 90 minutes to reach the Italian ski resorts from Geneva airport, so you will want a comfortable and peaceful journey. I suggest pre-booking a private Shuttle Direct transfer – one of our friendly drivers will pick you up, put your luggage in the back and whisk you off to your hotel. This spares you from having to queue for a cab or from having to use public transportation, and we pride ourselves on our reliable service. Additionally, we can transport any ski gear for no additional charge if you let us know at the time of booking.
Mountain guides are a fascinating breed and there is nowhere better to learn about their history, traditions and skills than in the Aosta Valley. This also happens to be a stunning part of the world and an ideal place for a unique adventure!
Lukas Johannes is a driver for Shuttle Direct, the number one provider of shared and private airport transfers all over Europe and northern Africa. If you're planning a winter break to Courmayeur to ski in the snow steps of the mountain guides Lukas and his colleagues can make sure that you get to and from the airport swiftly and safely with your ski luggage and ski equipment.