Born in the flatlands of the Midwest, Jeremiah did not begin climbing seriously until he joined the climbing club at Iowa State University in 2005. From there he moved east where he promptly decided to drop out of law school and pursue guiding as a career because he couldn’t concentrate on anything else. After managing the rock and ice guiding for an outdoor education center and working as support staff for a wilderness therapy program he started working as a guide in Colorado in 2007. After working in the Colorado area as a guide for other companies for several years he decided to start his own in 2010. When Jeremiah is not climbing he is usually enjoying the outdoors in some other way whether he is hiking the beautiful forest of Colorado or just trying not to face plant while skiing.
As the only AMGA certified Rock Guide to call Colorado Springs home Jeremiah believes in the importance of providing an exceptional experiences for his guests by requiring the highest levels of training for himself and his other guides. This way he can provide the safest and most rewarding experiences. He aims to impart the knowledge and skills he has learned thru years of experience and training so guests can reach the goals and summits they thought were beyond their reach.
How do the experiences you offer at The Colorado Climbing Company give guests a unique perspective on the history, people or culture of your region?
We consider ourselves experts in our field but even as climbing guides it’s important that we can provide a richer experience than simple technical skills and monkeying around on ropes. A lot of the areas we guide have rich histories that tie to the parks and places we operate and give people a historical perspective on things unique to Colorado. Climbing has its own rich history so we like to work that into our guests experiences as much as possible. It gives people that historical perspective and can deepen their understanding of climbing and how we’ve gotten to where we are today in the climbing world. This helps give them a deeper appreciation for the sport and the places we climb.
How have the experiences that you offer evolved since their inception?
When we first started our operation we only offered climbing in a few places in the Front Range of Colorado. That was sort of our bread and butter. As the years have gone on we’ve been granted access to other areas and expanded to cover the gamut of climbing experiences in Colorado. Before we would do several trips a week to say The Garden of the Gods. Now we have some trips there, alpine climbing in the San Juans of Colorado and Cascades of Washington, ski mountaineering trips. We pretty much offer anything that a climber could want.
What is one detail of an experience you provide that may go unnoticed by guests, but which you feel is important?
I think service is a huge part of our industry that gets overlooked by both guests and guide services. We’re a service industry and so going beyond expectations in every aspect is important. For example on all of our multi-day trips we cook real meals for our guests (not boil in a bag type meals). We have also started sourcing those meals from our own back yards. So now our guests are getting home cooked, locally grown, organic meals. Like I said before it’s about more than just monkeying around on ropes. We put a lot of effort into guide training and making sure every guide can provide the best experience possible for that guest.
What do you wish every guest knew as they consider participating in the experiences you offer?
Be honest, with us and yourselves. We have extremely well trained guides with a lot of experience. But we can only go off the information you provide. Safety is our first priority but beyond that we want you to have the best time and it’s more difficult if we find out you haven’t trained for your trip or overstated your abilities or experiences.
Do you find that guests have a greater challenge dealing with the physical component of the activities you offer or the environmental exposure inherent to operating in the backcountry through all types of weather?
In Colorado a lot of the time it’s the altitude that gets to people which I guess is sort of a physical/environmental factor. Even fit people can get bogged down at 13k or 14k. It just takes time and perseverance. That altitude combined with the dry air gets a lot of people chugging water as well. People without a lot of experience in the backcountry don’t really know the best ways to take care of themselves and that’s part of our job is to help people stay on top of those things so they can be as physically well for their climb as possible. That means feeding them well, brewing water, helping them stay dry and warm.
What is one travel trend that really excites you?
I would say the move away from generic experiences. There are a lot of tour operators that offer sort of a one off experience where people come, do the carnival ride, have a fun time, and move on to the next thing. I think people are seeing the value in deeper experiences where they may spend multiple days on a customized trip still having fun of course but experiencing something a little more meaningful and powerful than a quick carnival ride type excursion.
What sets The Colorado Climbing Company apart from other, similar, organizations?
We’re very diverse with a lot of broad based expertise. There are a lot of guide services and tour operators in Colorado who’ve found a small, comfortable niche and stayed very entrenched in that. Not only do I think that’s a risky business strategy but I don’t think you can serve your customers best that way. They get these places wired, the guides get kind of bored and either move on to other things or don’t provide that top level service. Also, because they have a location wired they don’t feel the need to pursue high level guide education and maintain a high level of skill. Going back to the carnival ride analogy, we can’t be complacent in our skills as the areas we offer guided experiences are ever changing. We may climb the same route a couple times a week and then go down and guide a route in Mexico that we’ve never done before. You have to have actual expertise to be able to take that on with confidence and provide the best experience possible for your guests.
What is one insiders tip to getting the most out of an experiential travel vacation?
Immerse yourself in the experience. We get quite a few guests who dip their toe in the water and then they try to re-book another trip before they have to go home. Sometimes we can accommodate that but it’s tough to not feel rushed. Unless you’re apprehensive about the activity don’t dip, dive in. Nobody ever lays on their death bed saying, “I wish I’d had fewer adventures, experienced less.”
What is one strategy that has helped your business to grow?
Diversity is the rule of nature. The organisms with the most diversity of traits don’t get wiped out. You can hurt me but you can’t wipe me out. Even if we were denied access to half the parks we offer climbing in we could still continue operating. A lot of other guide businesses would just have to close their doors. We rock climb, we ice climb, we ski. We’re in Colorado, Washington, and occasionally Mexico. We can’t be stamped out. I’m always thinking about new things and tend to be five steps ahead of myself. I should be working on taxes but instead I’m researching the potential for a heli-ski lodge or backcountry ski hut just because it would be amazing and has the potential to be successful.
What is one personal habit that has helped you to be successful?
Take risks. I started this business with no money. I didn’t do any real market analysis or planning I just kind of went for it and put the details together as I went along. It helps that I’d been working in the field for several years and probably intuitively knew it would work out (even if consciously I was freaking out). A lot of people thought I was crazy to start a business at 26 with no money but you don’t have amazing experiences by taking the same tried and true path.
Please share one instance where a guest had a moving or emotional reaction to the experience you provided to them.
Just one? Well, last year we had a return guest who wanted to do a big route, bigger than they’d ever done. He’d already done several 1000′ day routes and I had interest in seeing if one of the ice climbs we’d guided in the past could be taken to the summit of the peak at 13,600′. We discussed it and he said, “I trust you Jeremiah, whatever you think is best.” That of course put all the pressure on me. So the date arrived and we headed out on the trail, great weather. We climbed the first day, no problem, we were both climbing well, this being a section I had previous experience with. The two days were all new terrain. Being from the lowlands he was having to work hard because of the altitude. All through he wanted to quit, to stop, to rest. It took a lot of perseverance to get him to continue. The summit of course was great and he was happy but the mentally difficult part was the hike out. The valley was full of deep snow so we were set to post hole for miles. I actually had to take his pack for him. When we got back to the car he was so happy to just be out of the snow! He gave me a hug and said, “I couldn’t of done that with anyone but you. I needed you to push me or I never could of done it.” We get that pretty often where someone thinks they’re at one level and we push them beyond that. They realize a strength and perseverance they never knew they had.
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