The” Companie des guides” original statutes were established on the 24th of July, 1821, listing two fundamental directives : a work distribution-system for the guides and the creation of an emergency fund to support victims of work accidents. 200 years later, our company still adheres to the same keystone guidelines.
The statutes brought forth a desire to create an identifying emblem. The first Compagnie des guides membership medal was awarded to 34 guides . A list was written, starting with the name of Jacques Balmat, who was first to reach the summit of Mont-Blanc.
During the 19th century, travelers rode mules to Montenvers and walked across Mer de Glace thanks to the help and service of a guide. Alpine mountaineering routes were hardly ever climbed. Mont Blanc , Aiguille du Midi up the Vallée Blanche ,and Mount Buet were among the most popular summit at the time. From the late 1900’s until the turn of the 20th century, the appeal for adventure became more vibrant. Hazardous and dangerous climbs were more frequent. Some of the new routes then became today’s classic climbs.
During the early days of mountaineering, many serious routes and great peaks were attempted and conquered by the members of the Chamonix Guides’ company : these great achievements include the first ascent to the summit of the Grandes Jorasses and the Matterhorn by Michel Croz (1865); The Drus by Jean Charlet-Straton (1879); Annapurna , the first 8000m peak, by Louis Lachenal (1950), Makalu 8463m the fifth highest peak on the globe, by Lionel Terray (1955), Mount Jannu ( 7710m) by René Desmaison (1962), Mount Everest first successful French expedition lead by Jean Affanasief (1978), summer and winter mountaineering trilogies on the North face of the Grandes Jorasses, Eiger and Matterhorn by Christophe Profit (1985 and 1987). Even today, the new generation can claim many successful climbs all over the world.
Through time, famous guides such as Roger Frison-Roche, Gaston Rébuffat, Lionel Terray, Louis Lachenal, or Armand Charlet have been ardently honored by mountain communities. Very famous and less prominent guides contributed to making what the “Compagnie des guides” is today, thanks to their courage, sense of leadership and wisdom. These forerunners in the field of mountain guiding prepared the ground in a fundamental way. Today, guiding as such is more diverse. When great decisions must be made , achievements of elders are an immense source of inspiration. Opening the way was their ambition; it shall be ours today.
Today, there are new ways to approach the alpine. Our guides have adapted to changing trends and public’s expectations. Ice-climbing, winter mountaineering, extreme skiing, via ferratas, remote expeditions, trekking, rock climbing, crags and big walls just to mention a few of their favorite activities. They are also specialized in exposed civil engineering tasks, big wall safety, canyoning, paragliding off summits. They can design and manage corporate events and theme holidays, thus adapting to modern-day business practices and personal needs. Their professional occupation also include technical advising for mountain sportswear, and teaching at the national school for guiding and skiing certification (ENSA). Yet, we are strongly driven by traditional mountaineering in what we do.
Mountain huts have always been a crucial part of a guide’s life. As a result, mountain guides are naturally involved in building, maintaining or working in huts. Actually, the Guides’ Company and the Mountain Sports Promoting Organization (ADSM) manage three huts together: the Cosmiques, the Requin ( with the contribution of the French Alpine Club), and the Charpoua huts. Our main objective is to improve comfort, renovate and upgrade building and hut facilities, always focusing on traditional mountain hut hospitality. The ADSM is a certified training institution, and thus contributes to instructing local mountaineers for their guiding exam. It also provides out company members other types of training, such as languags courses.