Even at 40, I think it is important to never lose the ability to both recognize and have heroes.
So many personality traits I place value on are held and demonstrated beautifully by our great friends Mark Houston and Kathy Cosley.
Like Janine and I, they are a couple managing a mountain sports business together, 24/7/365. In their case, it is a professional International Mountain Guiding Service (Cosley Houston Mountain Guides). They work in mountains around the world; from the Alps to the Himalaya, and from Patagonia to Alaska. Based in Chamonix, France, they are also American transplants to Europe.
It is rare to see anyone with such enthusiasm for getting out and being active in the mountains. They are passionate about what they do and they do it perfectly. Even while guiding full time, year round, they still call on their days off and ask if we want to go play in the mountains. This visit to our home in the Dolomites was no different, in the early stages of 7 straight weeks of nonstop ski tour guiding, they still swung by our house and off we went, ski touring.
I have been on trips alongside their own and able to see just how smoothly they operate. It is a pleasure to watch the dynamics of how well they work with people. Kathy’s endless charm, wit and storytelling all while displaying flawless mountain skills. And Mark, setting the pace and being the ever present “rock” of leadership.
In addition to working outside, day in and day out, the two run the definitive website for guiding and mountain information. And, they are the authors of the new Bible of Alpine Climbing, called, oddly enough, Alpine Climbing. Mark has been President of the American Mountain Guides Association and is a brilliant photographer. Kathy has a line of duct tape wallets and accoutrements for the mountain sports athlete. Together, they have been “Guides of the Year.”
I have long been suspicious that they do not sleep. There image should grace a cereal box.
While visiting, we asked them a few questions:
How were the Dolomites?
“The food was incredible, we had some bad weather but we also had some phenomenal snow.”
“The BEST ever. Private rooms, full showers, friendly people. And of course the food…”
What about the food?
“We ate too well for a ski tour, we gained weight.”
If you were to be on a cereal box, which would it be?
“It would have to be Wheaties, for the company we’d keep”, says Kathy. “Maybe Shredded Wheat”, Mark adds. “But most certainly Quaker Oats”, they agree.
How is it being a couple and working together full time, in what can be a stressful environment?
Laughs. “It is the best.” Then, silence…
“It is nice to know each other so well, problems are dealt with quickly and efficiently, to be with someone you know so well makes it easier to handle variables in the mountains. Sensing when the other person is stressed and then picking up the slack without saying anything.”
How has guiding changed in the last 10 years as the sports have become more mainstream?
“There are more clients. But they have more money and less time. But maybe we changed, what we do changes as we get older.”
How is guiding different in the US compared to Europe?
Laughs… “It is more varied, one guide can do all different kinds of guiding in Europe. There are no permits, you are free to work in the mountains. Once you have the badge you do as you please.
Yes, Europe is crowded, but the American line, “We don’t want American mountains to be like Europe” typically comes from people who don’t understand Europe, or who’ve never been.
If you want pristine mountains, don’t come here, but you can certainly find wild areas and get away from people.
The exceptional thing about Europe is the fact that the mountains are huge, and also there are all these valleys with their own cultures, languages, and architecture. For us, this is as special as going to the mountains themselves, there is discovery everywhere.”
Are Euro guides welcoming to you?
“Yes. Very. They make a policy of being welcoming to other professionals. In the States it is not always like this, they are protective of their turf, territorial. This is funny because there are so many more guides in Europe compared to the US.”
Now tell the truth, do you two sleep?
Kathy, “I am pretty attached to my 8-9 hours.” Mark says nothing, he’s become distracted by some work on the computer.