“Okay, ready to rappel – I mean abseil,” I say as I prepare to descend a small cliff near the summit of Mt Kosciuszko – Australia’s highest mountain.
“That’s okay, say rappel. It’s nice to talk to somebody who actually knows what rappelling is and doesn’t call me a Yank for it,” says Chris, our climbing and rappelling (I mean, abseiling) partner for the day.
This post was originally published in 2009. It has since been updated for accuracy of links and content.
Hiking to the summit of Mount Kosciuszko was not enough for us. Being on the rooftop of Australia rekindled in us our passion for the mountains, and our desire to get our hands on some vertical rock again.
This is where Chris at Snowy Mountains Climbing School comes in. Seeing his pictures of vertical adventure posted near the chairlift to the base of Mt Kosciuszko was just enough of a tease to entice us to call and see if he could fit us in for some climbing at the last minute.
Chris was delighted to hear from us, being somewhat advanced climbers and all. Seeing that most of his climbing clients in the area aren’t actually particularly interested in climbing to begin with (they prefer abseiling to climbing; I say you can’t have one without the other), much less knowledgeable about the sport, having a few eager Canadians on the phone was a treat.
And Chris’s thick southern U.S. drawl was a refreshing accent to hear, amidst a sea of Aussie accents which we have ceased to even perceive any more. (Despite his living here in Australia for over 15 years, he still has the accent, and I hope it never goes away).
It was a treat to learn about Snowy Mountains Climbing School. Not only do they offer climbing and abseiling courses to individuals and groups (including school and corporate groups) in the Snowy Mountains area as well as various locations in Victoria, but they also offer International Adventures.
Each winter, Chris takes off for a distant and exciting destination to lead a small group of lucky (and inspired) people climbing and/or trekking. His recent focus has been on Kazakhstan, for its untouched beauty and safe environment, but Snowy Mountains Climbing School also does Kokoda Trekking Packages, along with customized adventures through much of the Southern hemisphere.
With such a variety of offerings, Chris gets to “live the dream” of climbing.
“Sure, you have to cook meals and set up camp on the expeditions. But more often than not it’s a great way to spend some time with people passionate about being in the mountains, who just want the security and ease of going with a tour.” And since almost every detail is taken care of (including visa support, lodging, helicopter transportation, sightseeing tours, and even ecological duties and registration with local authorities), all you really have to do is show up ready to have the experience of a lifetime.
But even just perching on our little chunk of granite on Mount Kosciuszko, we could tell that Chris loves what he does. And how can you not; people who come to Snowy Mountains Climbing School for anything from half-day courses to multi-day programs are generally looking for an outdoor adventure that will encourage them to explore their boundaries, pushing them over the edge (literally and figuratively) of what they dreamed was possible. To be the facilitator of such an adventure would be an honour.
Chris smiles when I ask him what he does in his spare time. “You’re pretty much looking at it. I try to make it up here with my family at least once every weekend to do some climbing – keep in shape and such.”
We part company in the hopes that we can get together again before too long to do some climbing in the Victoria area with his family. It is an inspiration to know somebody who passionately loves what they do and has successfully built a thriving business around it. To still love what you do when you turn your hobby into a job is a special talent, and it shows clearly in Snowy Mountains Climbing School.