In high season up to 800 high mountain guides work in the valley,
some as independents, others as part of the many ski schools and
guiding companies. Whatever their age, or nationality, all are professionally
qualified. This may seem obvious, but it was not always the case.
The first guide mountain guide was Jacques Balmat, who climbed
Mont Blanc in 1786 together with Dr. Paccard. However up until 1820,
no qualification was necessary. It was not until a terrible accident
that a system of qualifications was put in place. A doctor Hamel
was attempting to climb Mont Blanc, along with 2 other tourists,
and 12 guides, when they fell victim to an avalanche, in which the
tourists and 3 of the guides were killed. The Sardinian authorities,
who governed Chamonix at the time, decided to react. 34 guides,
and 12 support staff, all natives of the Chamonix valley, were chosen
to create a professional organisation of guides. In 1930 Roger Frison
Roche became the first non Chamionard to be a member of the prestigious
Nowadays, the Compagnie des Guides has over 150 members, of which
half are from outside the valley and beyond.
The first 'Independent Company' , the Association Internationale
des Guides du Mont Blanc (AIGMB) was formed in the 70's.