EP 12 Lani Chapko
Paving the Way


Lani is an AMGA Certified Rock and Alpine Guide from Index, Washington. She has spent the last 6 years climbing and guiding all over the West Coast of the US and is excited to be branching out to international destinations.

Two years ago Lani started her own guide service called The Climbing School with her partner Sam. It has been an exciting and challenging project navigating the world of insurance, permits, google and marketing.

Her start to guiding wasn’t the easiest, not fitting into the typical guide mold. But, now she has found her stride and feels quite lucky to have made a career in guiding and instruction. She especially enjoys teaching and helping students’ along their progression and thrive in climbing.

Show Notes:

Lani’s Links:

Episode Intro:

Hello there, happy Wednesday again and welcome to another episode of the Female Guides Requested Podcast. I’m your host Ting Ting. I’m still in Pacific Northwest but will be heading back to Las Vegas soon.

Today’s guest is Lani Chapko. She is an AMGA Certified Rock Guide and Alpine Guide. She is based in Index Washington and owns a guide service, The Climbing School, with her partner Sam.

Lani and I first met several years ago while guiding in Red Rock. Since then I’ve been following her adventures on Instagram. She has done amazing feats on El Cap and extended her skills and climbing prowess beyond Yosemite — including a first ascent of a grade VI route on Mt Index and a 5.12d big wall free climb in Mexico.

I was glad that I finally had the chance to interview Lani at her small shed in Index. She was unassuming and perhaps because we both went to engineering school we shared many viewpoints and trouble shooting insights on technical systems and in general how to be a better trad climber. I felt as if I found a long lost friend. 

We talked about her little bumpy ride entering the guiding realm, the excitement and challenges she had experienced becoming a business owner, her outlook on how to make guiding more professional and sustainable, and more.

I had a great time talking with Lani and found new nuggets relistening and editing the podcast. I bet you’ll enjoy our conversation too.

Things We Talked about:

  • Why Index? the last affordable mountain town and the best climbing in the world?
  • Studied mechanical engineering. and during college got “thrown into guiding”
  • Being a woman in a traditionally male dominated play field – always feeling the need to be overprepared in order to prove themselves
  • Taking AMGA courses in a short time frame
  • Worked in mechanical engineering again but went back to guiding. Comparing two different jobs. and why guiding is more attractive
  • Personal climbing goals versus full time guiding. Can we accomplish both at the same time?
  • Becoming a business owner. Is it the best way or the only way to make a better living in the guiding industry?
  • The benefits of starting a guide service in Washington state
  • How to operate internationally
  • Compare working for other guide services and her own guide service
  • Want to grow but also want to stay small to reduce overhead and provide better courses
  • Favorite part of guiding
  • Navigate through the non-guiding part of the business
  • Climbing outfit and should a guide dress in a certain way? What is professionalism in guiding?
  • Being small in figure. Is it a disadvantage? How should we adapt?
  • Injuries?
  • Role models and mentors
  • Big Wall classes
  • … and more