An Afternoon Cup with a Friend

As usual, my inspiration for this post comes from coffee – well not coffee directly, but from my experience at Starbucks this morning. As I pulled into the drive thru, I was greeted by Tom, the manager of the Bishop Starbucks. He is always cheerful and seems to enjoy his job; this morning was no different. He greeted me and asked if I was off to work. I replied, “Nope, headed to play today!”  Tom retorted, “But your job is like playing!” I didn’t know what to say and with reluctance just said “Yeah, I guess so.”

After I pulled out, I thought to myself, I bet Tom loves coffee as much as I do, but I bet getting up at 5 am to serve it is much less enticing than heading down for an “afternoon cup with a friend.”  Guiding is the same  for me as serving coffee is for Tom. I love my job, but it is still just that: A JOB! Granted, if I became independently wealthy, I would still take folks into the mountains and give them the best experience I could, but there IS a difference, which I talked about the difference in Guiding vs. Climbing late last year.

Let me paint the picture for you. It is 2:45 a.m. You need to get out of the tent to check the temps. It is -5 degrees outside. You decide to wait for another half hour so that the walk to the base will be a bit “warmer” for the clients. ALARM goes off… holy-moley, it is 3:30 a.m. You fell asleep for 10 min, and now it is time to get up. You get out in the freezing temps to start the stoves that don’t want to wake anymore than you do. You dig through the food bag to find the oatmeal to serve. Your fingers are numb, your toes are cold, and you just want your cup of coffee. Client comes over and says his tent mate is sick. You scramble to their tent and, based on your medical knowledge, decide that they have AMS. Now you must make a go/ no-go decision for them that could or could not affect them physically as well as the rest of the groups’ ability to get to the top. Oh no, the water is boiling over. Ok, back to serving breakfast, making sure folks are eating. Do they have there harnesses on, avalanche transceivers on, and crampons on correctly? It is getting close to go time. Grab a quick swig of that cold coffee, forget eating your breakfast as there is no time for that; you can eat a bar on the way up.

Ok, that was the first hour and a half of a summit day that could be 12 to 18 hour day for you. What do you think – work or play?

I think everyone would agree. Work is work, even if we have made a profession of something that we love to do. I hope this provides some insight for those out there who were unsure of the difference between guiding and climbing.  But, as I have said before, even though it’s work, I wouldn’t trade it for anything!

And as always, see you in the mountains!



  • Bryan Shaffer


    Nice post Karsten; every time I see your FB posts, pics, etc all I can think of the '94 Philmont Trek. This post especially reminds me of that trek because your Dad was such a funny coffee-hound in the mornings as well -- at the time I didn't care for it, but now I'm all about it. I completely understand your post -- I love books, love helping people; but sometimes going to work as a publisher is a pain in the rear. Yet, it is my job and I love it. Stay safe and keep writing and posting -- this aging Eagle enjoys reminiscing via your posts. Best -- bryan

  • Sarah Riche


    Loved reading this post! It does give me a different perspective on all you do!

  • russ jackson


    I get it.

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