Yann Delevaux – Mountain guide & Director of the Compagnie des Guides de Chamonix
“our job is to share an experience, no only to reach a summit.”
Yann Delevaux is a UIAGM Mountain guide based in Chamonix, France. Since 2002 Delevaux has led clients on expeditions that include Cho Oyu (Nepal) and Denali (Alaska) as well as peaks in Mongolia Kirghistan and Pakistan. All with no oxygen and no Sherpas. He spent many hears as a technical adviser for Millet and currently acts as product developer for BIGPACK.
In addition to acting as the director of the Compagnie des Guides de Chamonix, Delevaux is also (since 2010) been the director of La Société Chamoniarde de Prévention et de Secours en Montagne (a non-profit body for mountain rescue and accident prevention) in Chamonix. He divides his time between between guiding, organizing prevention operations (in particular those targeting younger children), and his family.
One of Yann’s recent adventures took him via sailboat to Antarctica, the team of sailors and mountaineers successfully navigated the icy waters and completed multiple first ascents. The most notable of which was the first complete crossing of the 7 summits of the 7 sisters. Learn more about the expedition here: www.expeantarctique2014.com
How do the experiences you offer at Chamonix Guides’ Company give guests a unique perspective on the history, people or culture of your region?
Well we are professional mountain guides. We live everyday in the mountains around Chamonix and around the world so we know exactly what will be the best experience for our clients according the weather and conditions. Our 1st duty is the safety of our clients. But of course our job is to share an experience, no only to reach a summit. Since we are passionate people, we try to transmit that passion while being in the mountains.
How have the experiences that you offer evolved since their inception?
People do not practice mountain activities the same way they use to 20 years ago. As in the mountains, we always adapt ourselves to our client and what they want since the birth of the Compagnie des Guides in 1821.
What does it mean? Well, our clients “consume” more than they practice. They have less time and we need to be very flexible. We also decided to extend our activities to the “outdoors” like whitewater (canyoning, rating, tree climbing, mountain bike…). We try to propose as many activities as possible to “catch” our clients and make them discover the “mountain world.” With our company, one guest can do some rafting 1 day and a few years later climb the Mont-Blanc or the Aiguille Verte with a mountain guide.
What is one detail of an experience you provide that may go unnoticed by guests, but which you feel is important?
As i said our 1st preoccupation is safety. It can seam obvious, but being in charge of lives is a very big duty. We always anticipate from the preparation to the summit and back down home. But our guest come to have a wonderful experience so even if safety comes 1st we should not bother to much our guest.
For me the best example is in winter when people come for an off piste experience. They want powder, good skiing. And we have within 5 min to estimate their ski level, their physical capacity and their expectations. Then we pick the right spot for them. It seams easy, but if you go to the wrong place (too steep, too difficult) it may lead to a disaster…
What do you wish every guest knew as they consider participating in the experiences you offer?
I wish they will have an even a little mountain culture. That they know mountain = wilderness and that we are guests up there.
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?
Both and it depends on the guest of course. I would say that the physical challenge is the 1st thing guess realize, sometimes even know before they come to us. Then up to the weather they can realize how tough the mountain can be.
What sets Chamonix Guides’ Company apart from other alpine guide companies?
We are the oldest (created in 1821) and the biggest guide company in the world. But we are not a “commercial” company, we are an association of guides whose goal is to provide to guest with mountain guides and to provide mountain guides with work.
What is one insiders tip to getting the most out of an experiential travel vacation?
A travel experience is a meeting between you and the culture, the people living where you travel. When i go on expedition, the most important thing is not the summit (success), it is the way to reach it!
What is one strategy that has helped your business to grow?
Diversity! We are mountain guides but we developed also outdoors experiences such as rafting, canyoning, tree climbing, incentive… Why? because there is no good or bad way to do mountaineering. We all have our own way to go, to like the mountains. Offering multi-activities is a way to grab guests coming for some rafting and guide them to rock climbing and maybe alpine climbing one day. Same for incentives….
What is one personal habit that has helped you to be successful?
listen to people. Make them happy.
Please share one instance where a guest had a moving or emotional reaction to the experience you provided to them.
One of my guests cried when he reached for the 1st time the summit t of aiguille Verte. He never imagined he could do it. I said yes, i’ll take you there. It was one of my best souvenir…