DiscoverLeading Steep"Still doing 'the camping thing'... I still love to guide." Ian Elman
"Still doing 'the camping thing'... I still love to guide." Ian Elman

"Still doing 'the camping thing'... I still love to guide." Ian Elman

Update: 2021-03-19


Leading Steep: Ian Elman


In this episode, Barry sits down with Ian Elman, Co-Founder and President of Southern Yosemite Mountain Guides. Since its founding in 1991, SYMG has been named one of the "Best Outfitters on Earth" by National Geographic Adventure Magazine.


Listen in as Ian discusses the seed of inspiration behind SYMG and how he came to formulate his vision for a business “where we took people into the beautiful wilderness of the High Sierra and gave people a lasting memory of an incredible trip; a trip where the food was fantastic, the guide became a friend, and the scenery refreshed the soul.”


He then talks about the heart of his business—people—and how the experience of forming a bond with fellow hikers in the wilderness, day after day, is what keeps his love for guiding alive and well even with 25 years of experience under this belt.


Ian touches on the suite of trips that SYMG currently offers, including pack mule-supported trips and their flagship 23-day John Muir trail.


Finally, Ian shares his unique guide ethos that led him to find guides who straddle the line between “traditional task-oriented guiding and wilder adventure travel”.


Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn: 

●      [2:45 ] Why Ian got into guiding and what led him to start SYMG


●      [10:17 ] How Ian, along with two friends, started the business with only $500


●      [13:42 ] Why Ian’s passion for guiding never left even after 25 years of running SYMG


●      [16:10 ] Putting people at the center of every trip


●      [19:36 ] Ian’s early days camping at Yosemite


●      [20:50 ] The experience of experiencing Yosemite for the very first time


●      [24:35 ] Designing SYMG’s beautiful website


●      [25:40 ] SYMG’s most sought-after trip


●      [28:53 ] Conducting pack mule-supported trips


●      [33:05 ] How Ian finds his guides


●      [38:09 ] Ian’s take on guide ethos


●      [41:16 ] How SYMG’s guides keep hikers motivated throughout the more strenuous treks


●      [44:22 ] How the pandemic affected SYMG and how 2021 is looking so far


Key Quotes by Ian:

●      “When you strip everything else away, it all comes down to the connection that you made with that person in a wilderness setting.”

●      “It’s hard to sustain the level of professionalism and experience and fun-factor that you want in a guide; so, we found this niche between traditional task-oriented guiding and wilder adventure travel.”


Resources Mentioned:

Our sponsor:
The Ready State (Use the discount code STEEP10 to get 10% off for the life of your membership after your 14-day free trial ends.)

Key Links:

Southern Yosemite Mountain Guides










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"Still doing 'the camping thing'... I still love to guide." Ian Elman

"Still doing 'the camping thing'... I still love to guide." Ian Elman

Barry Kruse