How Do Mountaineers Make Money? Who Pays Professional Rock Climbers?

While mountain climbing sounds like a hobby to most of us, some people do it for a living. But how do these people make money? Let’s find out in this post.

So, how do mountaineers make money?

Mountaineers have a variety of ways to make a living. However, the majors are:

Being a guide or instructor

This seems to be the closest hands-on work rock climbers can do. If you are familiar with the surroundings and passionate about inspiring others, you will be a good fit.

Your workplace is also quite flexible ranging from real mountains to indoor climbing gyms. You can even open online/private courses to increase your income.

However, adequate knowledge, training, and certain certifications are required for this job since it involves different terrains. Besides, working long hours and dealing with many customers can be quite challenging at some point.

From public speaking sessions

Public speaking is another way for mountaineers to earn income. Basically, you will be hired to tell people your stories.

It could be about climbing knowledge, memorable encounters, or maybe some tips for fellow climbers. If you are confident in your authenticity, enthusiasm, and experience, you should give it a try.

Although it can give you a decent amount of money, public speaking is more of a part-time than a full-time job. Therefore, having a stable connection around the community would be better in providing you with consistent work.

Working as a gear representative

A gear representative’s job is to promote products to customers. Therefore, it requires a broad knowledge of mountaineering and climbing equipment.

You will need to cultivate a lot of skills as well, for example negotiating with customers, identifying sales leads, improving brand recognition, training team members, etc.

Sounds exciting, right? But behind that will be a large amount of work – including traveling extensively.

The first days might not seem so promising either, as you will have to go through loads of training and of course, lots of mistakes.

Being a marketer

A marketer also promotes products to customers. His/her job does have something in common with a gear representative’s job since it calls for vast knowledge.

However, certain tasks are different. Besides sales, he/she will be heavily engaged in conducting research and creating/planning content.

Some of the most important qualities of a marketer are the desire to learn new things, the ability to create and use strategies, and adaptability.

Being able to invest time, manage large workloads, and keep a good relationship with related departments are essential as well.

From sponsorships

Earning money from sponsorships sounds great. It’s one of the few professions that actually allow you to do what you love – climbing.

You will be pretty much an ambassador. Companies will pay you to climb and use their products. You can grab this chance to expand your influence too.

However, to gain the deal, established fame within the community and social media presence are crucial – besides experience. Maintaining a good reputation is also necessary.

Getting bad press can make the sponsors drop you like a hot potato.

From writing works, photos, or movies

You are a professional mountaineer, not a digital marketer. Writing, taking photos, or making videos is not your full-time job.

Even so, these side hustles can be an excellent source of income. And the biggest advantage is that you will have the opportunity to talk about what you are doing.

To do these kinds of jobs, passion is a must-have, but professional training is required as well. Tight deadlines, overwork or things not proceeding well at the start can also hinder you. But hard work pays off, doesn’t it?

Then, who pays professional rock climbers?

Who pays you pretty much depends on the job you do. If you’re a guide, instructor, or public speaker, the agencies will pay you. If you are working for brands as a gear representative, marketer, or ambassador, the brands will be your employer.

For writing and media works, you can earn money from whoever buys/uses your products – publishers, websites, or directly from your customers.

Especially, when you handle your own business without the participation of any third parties, you can make more profit. It’s because you won’t have to pay them any commissions – which range from about 3% to 25%.

Among the lesser-known sources of income you might want to consider are contests and stunts. Contest organizers and film crews can afford a fair amount.

The thing is, you have to put effort into being a pro first. You will also have to think about the travel and accommodation expenses to get to the contest/filming location.

How much does a professional climber make?

Most mountaineers make around US$ 10,000 – US$ 15,000 a year from non-competitive climbing. Elite ones can earn up to US$ 30,000.

However, that amount is just nearly half of the average annual salary in the USA. So, it’s normal that they will have to hold down a few jobs to make ends meet – even with prizes from competitive climbing included.

Take Alex Honnold – the California-born professional climber – for example. He is worth over US$ 2 million, with an annual income of approximately US$ 200,000. If he just keeps climbing mountains, he will never get that much money.

That US$ 200,000 a year comes from not only competitions, but also his appearance in documents, and especially sponsorships.

In short, you can say that mountaineering as the main occupation will give you money, but often not that much.

Establishing multiple sources of income would be the best way to gain more, leading to your financial stability.


Here are some faqs related to mountaineering.

Is mountaineering an expensive hobby?

Mountaineering is a complex sport where training, preparation, and equipment will cost you a lot. Even so, you can start by joining a small mountaineering club to learn the basics first.

Is mountain climbing a profession?

Yes, it is. Being a climber, you not only climb for fun but with intention and proper safety. Your duties will include explorations and expeditions, and sometimes even training beginners as well.

Which country is best for mountaineering?

The best country depends largely on each person’s opinion. However, besides Mount Everest in Nepal, Pakistan with Mount K2, Switzerland with the Alps, and Chile with the Andes are worth a try.

Is climbing a skill or a sport?

Climbing is a skill that increases your muscle tone and strength. Mountain climbing, on the other hand, is both a recreational activity and a sport – based on your purpose when doing it.

What is the personality of a mountain climber?

A mountain climber is a nature lover – adventurous, independent, and well-organized. They also need to have excellent survival skills in addition to great physical and mental health.

What body type is best for climbing?

Climbers want to carry as little body weight as possible, so their physique is often lean and toned. The ideal body would have about 10% body fat for men, and 20% for women.


Mountain climbing is a profession, but it doesn’t mean that mountaineers can only climb for a living. Aside from it, you can try out several ways to increase your income for a better, more comfortable life.

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