Face to face with the guides

Twin portraits of two experienced and dedicated guides, just back from the Eiger’s North Face
Lorenz frutiger
Swiss, aged 35
Mountain guide in Grindelwald.
Lorenz Frutiger


Louis Laurent
French, aged 35
Mountain guide in Chamonix
Louis Laurent


LORENZ : I grew up in Grindelwald, and I’ve been a professional mountain guide since 2005. My father has also been working as a guide in the Alps for 30 years. He has travelled extensively, so I’ve been exposed to the guide’s profession since I was a child. But I caught the climbing bug when I was about 18, and I’ve been climbing intensively ever since. For the past 10 years, it’s been a particularly strong passion. I have two sons and one of them is two-and-a-half years old, which uses up a fair bit of time and energy.
LOUIS : I’ve lived in the Chamonix valley since I was 15. I come from a small mountain range in Auvergne called the Massif Central, where I began by skiing and had a fantastic time. Later, when I was about 18, I became interested in the mountains and developed a passion for them. I’ve had a bulimic appetite for mountain disciplines ever since. Once I get tired of working as a guide, I’ll go back to being a ski instructor again.
Lorenz Frutiger
LORENZ : The freedom to do what I want with my clients, the freedom to travel and see new places, to be outdoors, to feel the natural world around me. We’re always outside, and often alone, especially when it comes to taking decisions and being responsible for our clients, so it’s a very demanding job. Guiding clients properly isn’t always straightforward – you have to be able to arrange the right excursion at the right time, so that it motivates the client but isn’t too difficult either. Being close to your clients is often pleasant, but can get tricky if conditions or the weather are difficult.
LOUIS :The intense workload I currently have as a guide, being out all the time, is something I enjoy enormously, and takes up a great deal of energy. I now have the skillset to take people onto fairly technical types of terrain. Over the years, I’ve built up a network of clients that gives me professional fulfilment. What I like about my job is having freedom of expression – unlike many occupations, I don’t have a boss. My network of clients trust me, and it means I can tailor trips to mountain and weather conditions. I offer them various options and let them choose, depending how fit they’re feeling. They appreciate not having to think about it. Lorenz and I were joking about it on the train journey back down. With our clients, we practise “soft manipulation” to steer them towards the excursions we fancy. That’s a big motivator for us, while ensuring our clients are never disappointed. When the north faces get dangerous because the weather’s warming up, it’s time to switch to rock pillars or ridges in the sun. And that’s the way I love the mountains – choosing the best available playground, depending on the weather and conditions.
LORENZ : When I was young, I was inspired by two mountaineers. One is Edy Bohrin, he’s a Grindelwald guide who’s been working for 40 years with the same passion. I’ve always been in awe of him. The other is W alter Bonatti, who introduced me to the sport through his mountain books. His boundless determination to realize his projects has been an example to me.
LOUIS : Without hesitation I’d say Gaston Rebuffat, he’s been a big role model for me. His book “The Hundred Finest Routes” was my bedside book for several years. As I don’t come from the mountain-sports community, I needed reference points, and the progress curve he provides is just fantastic. The Central Pillar of Freney seemed totally beyond my reach, I thought I’d never set foot on it. And then one fine day, that’s where I found myself!


LORENZ : For me, what matters most is the challenge – achieving my objective but also learning to understand myself and getting to know other people well. The overall process keeps us developing over the long term. What’s important isn’t how high the summits are, it’s increasingly our relationship with solitude, far from the crowds and people in general, in the remoteness of the mountains, deep in the wilderness. I think that it’s deeply rooted in our genes to climb and to change perspective, to see what things look like from up top, from another angle.
LOUIS : The tremendous thing about the mountains is that they’re accepting of everyone. Children and adults, beginners and proficient athletes can really have fulfilling experiences, provided they make the right decisions in line with their skills. In my view, the mountains are accessible – It’s just a matter of willpower. And mountain sports are one of the few times when we unplug our brain from all interfering thoughts. You leave your phone and emails behind. You have to focus your concentration on being balanced in action, on living the moment . Otherwise, it’s very simple: you fall...