You may already have seen this blue badge. What does it mean?

IFMGA, UIAGM and IVBV are synonyms in three different languages: English, French and German. IFMGA is the acronym of International Federation of Mountain Guides Associations.

It’s the international association that groups all the professional mountain guides, qualified according to the IFMGA guidelines, from all over the world.

The IFMGA, founded in 1965 by guides from Austria, France, Switzerland and Italy, is currently a network of mountain guide associations from more than 20 countries in Europe, Asia, the Americas, and Oceania, representing a bunch of more than 6000 guides.

In Italy, as well as in other countries, Mountain Guides are the only professionals allowed by law to take people to the mountain, together with Aspirant Mountain Guides (similar to Mountain Guides, but with limitations) and Accompagnatori di Media Montagna (only on hikes, similar to a Mountain Leaders).

That said, when you choose to  hire a mountain guide for your ascents, you are choosing somebody who…

  • Has followed a rigorous training and assessment
  • Put clients’ safety on the top of the list, despite on mountains a certain residual risk remains
  • Has a great passion for the mountain
  • Loves his/her job
  • Sometimes says “NO”
  • Has a liability insurance
  • He/She’s following a regular  professional development training (cosa intendi exactly?)
  • May have hobbies related to his/her job
  • May have a family
  • Wills to transmit his/her passion and wants to help you reaching your dreams
  • Considers the mission accomplished when you smile!

After this brief introduction you should have understood who we are, what to expect from us and, last but not least, what to not expect from us. At that point, if we’ve been soo catchy and your eyes are still wide open, stay there for a while and give us the chance to explain you the history of our fascinating and complicated profession.

Mountain Guides – Where do they come from?

It’s difficult to establish when the profession of the Mountain Guide is born.

Across the centuries, many mountain men had to work, and later on have been payed too, to “show the way” to merchant and travellers through the dangerous passes of the Alps.

What we can surely state,is that the first mountain guides were mostly hunters, farmers and woodcutters who lived on the mountains. They knew very well their territory, as well as the harsh mountain life.

During the XIX century, the conquest of the Alps led by Anglo-Saxon nobles, together with the beginning of the alpine tourism, have been an extraordinary working opportunity for these people. Despite this new well-payed job involved high risks, leaving the tough farmers’ life and start guiding, has definitely been a huge economic and social improvement,.

The first ascent of Mont Blanc is dated 8th August 1786, when, after many attempts, the chamois-hunter and crystal collector Jacques Balmat, together with Doctor Michel Paccard, reached the summit of Europe’s highest peak.

The following year, on 3 August 1787, Balmat guided the scientist Horace Bénédict De Saussure to the top of Mont Blanc, inaugurating his guiding’s career and, therefore, the birth of the modern Mountain Guide profession.

Giovanni Battista Jacchetti, a hunter based in Macugnaga, could be consider the first Italian mountain guide. In the late XVIII century,  he was mentioned as a Monte Rosa expert guide.

In 1821, after an accident where the mountain guides Pierre Balmat, Auguste Tairraz and Pierre Carrier lost their lives, the Compagnie des Guides de Chamonix, with its 34 members, was created in order to support the families and a to establish a principle of equal distribution of work. This is the first Mountain Guide company ever.

A few decades later, in 1850, the first Italian Mountain Guide Company has been created in Courmayeur.

In 1898 the Mountain Guides of Lombardy (an Italian region) set up the first training course for the future porters and guides.

In 1930 the Consorzio Nazionale Guide Alpine e Portatori (Italian National Consortium of Mountain Guides and Porters) is established.

In 1987 the  Consortium became Associazione Guide Alpine Italiane (Italian Mountain Guides Association), within the CAI, the Italian Alpine Club.

In 1989 the Italian Law n.6 acknowledges and protect the Profession of Mountain Guides.

References: Legge Nazionale del 2 gennaio 1989, n° 6