For Steve Johnson, it goes without saying, work is life and life is work. Steve has been guiding guests up ice, rock, on skis and in the alpine tundra since 1996. An AMGA certified guide in the rock and alpine disciplines, he is in pursuit of finishing his IFMGA soon. Steve is charismatic and fun. He also has great technical guiding skills and is always happy to pass on his knowledge with his guests. We’re stoked to have Steve on our team. He is our lead guide in the Front Range of Colorado in Rocky Mountain National Park, Eldorado Canyon, the Flatirons, and Lumpy Ridge. This week, we chatted with Steve about being a guide.
What does climbing mean to you?
Climbing is my life. It’s a lot like surfing or golf in the way that people become obsessed with it and turn it into a lifestyle. Instead of being a hobby, it’s a lifestyle that that they live for. I became hooked on climbing when I started back in 1992. Still to this day, climbing for the last thirty years, I’ve gone through the “obsession” process and then you get better and eventually find yourself looking back at all of those years you’ve spent on the rock. Today, I realize how special and precious this activity is to me and the guests I guide.
Do you have a favorite discipline to guide?
Usually, skiing, but really, it varies. After a full season of rock climbing, I’m getting excited to get back to ice climbing and then I find myself dreaming of skiing powder again. After that, it goes full circle and I’m looking forward to getting back to guiding on rock again. Mountain life is pretty lucky.
Most memorable trip you’ve guided?
Opus Hut, on Ophir Pass in the San Juans is unbelievable. We did a four day trip last spring up there and the skiing was phenomenal. The people we get to guide for at San Juan Mountain Guides always make the trip the best though, honestly! This trip was one to remember. I mean, the mountains where that hut is settled in are absolutely breathtaking.
How different are your personal days from your guiding days in the mountains?
I live outside of El Dorado Canyon in Boulder where there’s world class climbing, so I get out there with buddies quite a bit. Guiding with guests is just as fun as climbing with friends. The difference between the two is when I guide I am more personally responsible for my guest’s safety and there’s naturally a pressure in that. When I’m out with friends, there’s no need to play a lead role.
Best way to maintain fitness?
Yoga and rest. I like to keep my muscles loose and joints opened up. For the most part, what we do as guides is enough to keep the fitness high enough for our guests. But of course, If you train, you’re going to be better! Depending on how much work you put in, sometimes rest is your best medicine.
Tips for climbers to live by?
Climbing can be a slow sport when you’re belaying; there’s a lot of downtime. It’s a lot of problem solving and you’re not continuously moving. It’s the problem solving that I love the most. I like to think of days of adventure like a puzzle; the whole day of climbing is a puzzle. Meanwhile, little routes and problems can be thought of like reading a poem and from there, smaller things are verses or quotes.
Do you have a favorite climber or mountaineer that you look up to?
Is it going to get me in trouble if I say Leonard Coyne? He’s known for saying some pretty offensive things but he’s also good at speaking his mind which I like. Ultimately, he’s a total badass.
Favorite Piece of Gear?
SJMG’s gave me a pair of Outdoor Research pants that I have climbed in every single day this summer. I also love the La Sportiva T.C Pros (Tommy Caldwell’s rock climbing shoe). It performs great, you don’t have to wear them super tightly and the high top protects your ankles. I wear this shoe all day and they’re actually not bad to walk in! I have over eight pairs of climbing shoes but if it were up to me, I’d just climb in the T.C. Pros.