Careers

Meet a guide who earns $100,000 a year bringing climbers up the world's most dangerous peaks

Garrett Madison makes a living guiding amateur adventure seekers up some of the world's most treacherous peaks.

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Madison Mountaineering
CNBC

As the owner of Madison Mountaineering he leads about 10 expeditions a year and can be on the road for more than two months at time taking care of every detail of the trek for clients, from planning routes to rationing food and supplies.

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CNBC

But Madison's biggest responsibility is keeping his team safe from Mother Nature’s wrath.

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CNBC

“There are avalanches, ice fall, rock fall, crevasses — even altitude illness potential," he tells CNBC. "So all of these things make it very dangerous."

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CNBC

Madison has experienced some of these dangers first-hand. During a 2015 expedition to Mount Everest, 18 people died in a catastrophic earthquake and avalanche on Mt. Everest. Among the deceased was Madison's team doctor and girlfriend, Marisa Eve Girawong.

“Losing Eve was very hard for everybody, obviously, her family, her friends, myself,” he says. “But I didn't want to walk away from the mountain or quit on such a low note.”

So what motivates Madison to stay in such a dangerous profession?

“When I'm helping other climbers get to the top, I can feel their excitement, their joy,” he says. “Being part of their journey and their success allows me to feel like I've had this amazing, positive contribution onto their lives.”

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CNBC

Madison says he makes roughly $100,000 a year doing what he loves to do. But he risks losing money too. “If I have a bad year and lose equipment – like I have several times in various natural disasters – I can lose a lot.”

But what it really comes down to, he says, is helping people achieve their lifelong dreams.

“I enjoy helping other climbers realize their goal. It's a bucket list-type thing, something they've dreamed about for years and decades, maybe their whole life.”

—CNBC's Melissa Lustrin and Christopher DiLella contributed to this report.

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