Caroline George is a world-traveler, ice climber, alpinist, rock climber, skier, IFMGA mountain guide, French/Swiss/American who speaks four languages, has three homes – Chamonix, Salt Lake City, but mainly the road and a husband she gets to do all those adventures with. Born in the heart of the Swiss Alps, Caroline grew up in a house surrounded by cows and their bells, amongst some of the most beautiful mountains in the world and with parents who climbed and forced her love their passion. That didn’t happen until Caroline was 18. Caroline has done first ascents all over the world (Ethiopia, Iceland, Norway, Canada, etc.) and is always looking for new adventures. She recently guided in Antarctica guiding Vinson Massif and completing first ski descents of unclimbed peaks, climbed in Jordan, and is now back in Chamonix for the ski season. You can follow Caroline on her blog: www.intothemountains.com/blog
Alpine Athena: When did you start climbing?
Caroline George: I started rock climbing when I was 3 years old. My family rock climbed, and so I started climbing
with my family from a very early age. Growing up, when we took family trips, they were climbing trips. When I was 11, we traveled to Jordan. I remember sitting with the local villagers baking bread as my parents went off and climbed.
AA: Did you always know you wanted to be a guide and professional climber?
CG: I actually went to college for law and spent some time working as a lawyer. I started spending more and more time climbing, and realized that I wanted to pursue being a guide. While I was still working as a lawyer, I trained for my guides exam.
AA: What do you love about climbing?
CG: I really like being in the mountains. It’s like a puzzle. I have to problem solve all the time. Every thing comes into play, i.e. rock climbing, ice climbing, snow science, route finding.
AA: Have you ever had any close calls in the mountains?
CG: My first year of college I fell off a 1200 foot cliff skiing Dolent Peak. I was skiing in Switzerland and fell down a cliff face. I bounced a few times and landed in soft snow. Landing in the soft snow saved me. The mountain bordered Switzerland and Italy. I fell down the Italian side, but the normal route went down to Swiss side. This is the route my ski partner had to take. He went for help, but because I fell on the Italian side, the Swiss had to call the Italians to get permissions to go and rescue me. At the time, the Swiss and Italians had no agreement involving rescues. The Italians were not working that day, so after waiting a while the Swiss finally decided just to go in. The weather was bad, the spot where I fell was bad and they thought I was dead. My friend was persistent and they sent a rescue helicopter. During my time in the hospital letting all the broken bones mend, all wanted to do was read about climbing. I really wanted to get back out there.
AA: What does climbing mean for you?
CG: I decided to become a guide and give back because I felt conscious climbing for climbing’s sake. For me, climbing
needs to have meaning. I need purpose in life. I love the impact I can make on others by guiding and teaching. It justifies being able to spend my life climbing, being out there doing it for myself. It’s important to me to give back and share my passion for climbing and skiing through teaching and guiding.
AA: How has climbing impacted your life?
CG: Climbing has been my deepest relationship. It has evolved in so many ways. From comps to being my salvation during difficult times to meeting my husband through it to bringing me full circle in my life, to the joy of giving back and teaching.
AA: What has been your favorite climb so far?
CG: Moonlight Buttress Couloir, it’s a great rock climb. Or the Edges of the North Face of Drus, it involved everything – ice, aid, rock. I had to try that climb 3 times with 3 different partners.
AA: So, then what’s been your nemesis?
CG: At the moment, Moonlight Buttress is my nemesis. I still have more work to do on it.
AA: What is the most unique or interesting place you’ve climbed?
CG: Chaimonix. It’s my favorite place to climb alpine.
AA: What’s your favorite piece of gear?
CG: The Grigri. It’s awesome. It lets you be creative while belaying.
AA: So what’s next on your climbing and adventure list?
CG: I’m heading to Antarctica in January to guide a trip up Vinson Massif and ski some first ascents. I’ll also be heading to Jordan soon to climb and reconnect with my roots.