What it Takes to Start a New Guide Service on Everest


If you follow the climbing season on Everest, you probably know most of the companies that guide there by name. Himalayan Experience, International Mountain Guides, Altitude Junkies, and others are practically household names within the mountaineering community. It can be extremely challenging for a new company to break into that world where the risks on the mountain equal those of starting a new business. But this year, a operator will launch in the Himalaya and Alan Arnette recently had the chance to find out just what it takes to start a new guide service on Everest.

The new company is called Climbing the Seven Summits, and as its name indicates, it will help clients climb the tallest peaks in the world. In its inaugural year, CTSS will offer expeditions to Denali, Elbrus, Aconcagua, Kilimanjaro, Vinson, Cho Oyu, and of course Everest. This new operator was founded by professional mountain guide Mike Hamill, who has been a lead guide for IMG for years, heading up their private 1-on-1 expeditions. Now, he’s decided to try his hand at running his own company.

In the interview he discusses why he made that decision, the logistics of launching a new guide service, and the challenges that lie ahead for CTSS. He also shares information about his background, how he got started in the business, and how he found time to write a book dedicated to climbing the Seven Summit. Mike also shares stories of the company’s first expedition, talks about the competition that all operators face on the Seven Summits, and what it is like to be a guide, launch a new business, and be newly married at the same time. He even tells us which of the Seven are his favorite.

The interview is a good one not just to hear Mike’s personal story but for insights into the challenging business of leading clients up big mountains all over the world. At a time when the big operators are seeing increased pressure from smaller, low-budget companies in the Himalaya, it can be a risky proposition to launch a new venture such as this one. But Hamill’s reputation is stellar and he is positioning his company to be the authority on climbing the highest peaks on all the continents.

We wish him the best of luck. Hopefully we’ll be hearing about CTSS for many years to come.

Kraig Becker