An Interview with Mike Cherim, NEM Guide

Mike Cherim – Mountain Guide, NEM

Mike, a.k.a. NH Tramper, began his hiking career at four-years-old on Mt Washington (Tuckerman Ravine Trail to the summit). He has since hiked the 48 several time (a yearly thing for him) as well as several mountains/ranges outside of New Hampshire (see Climbing Resume below). He is also into other outdoor pursuits such as indoor and outdoor climbing, skiing, backpacking, snowshoeing, fishing, and more. 

What is your favorite climbing trip of all time?
My first trip up Mts Hood and Rainier were pretty amazing. And Mt Shuksan, too. So was End-to-Ending the Long Trail in Vermont. As was leading the upper pitches of Pinnacle Gully. Ski touring the ravines that surround Mt Washington gave me “perma-grin” more than once. Glimpses into my past uncover relics such as feeling cold and crappy atop Mt Fuji, yet being there for sunrise, amazed, peering into an endless crater. Then being wow’d a year later in Japan’s beautiful Minami Alps. And a year after that foolishly hopping the pack ice that crowded the northern-most shores along Hokkaido Island in Japan. Those retrospective glimpses also show me fragments of multiple trips out west during my childhood to places like the floor of the Grand Canyon and Yosemite. In my twenties I explored caves, slot canyons, and craggy spires of rock in the Dolomites in Italy. It’s all been so much fun. I’m not sure I can offer a favorite. One place or experience doesn’t trump the others for me. Yet, in a way, it does. All of these experiences I’ve been blessed with, which started here (Mt Washington on my own legs at four), have one thing in common: I’ve always come back to the mountains of New Hampshire. My favorite trips here number in the hundreds. Right now I am “redlining” the AMC’s White Mountain Guide (meaning I’m hiking ALL of the trails). At almost 85% complete, these 1440.4 miles of trails have been my new passion. My latest favorite.

The White Mountains were my first love. They have always sparked my imagination. They still offer me what I crave. And they are literally in my backyard.

Dream climbing destination? What is on top of your bucket list?
I would like to play around in South America a bit, and I’d love to trek to Everest Base Camp. I guess the very top of my list, though, is to ski mountaineer Mt Baker in perfect conditions. That would probably permanently fix a smile to my face. Then again, backpacking the JMT might have the same effect. As would backpacking the Wonderland Trail around Mt Rainier. For now, though, I am content here in NH (plus Maine and Vermont). There is still so much to do.

What is your favorite aspect of guiding? How does it differ from climbing with friends?
First of all I am earning money doing what I love to do: paid to hike. I’m not sure if that’s my favorite aspect, but it’s right up there, I tell you. I also have great passion for teaching and I’m told I have a knack for it. Mostly, though, I like to look at other people’s faces as they discover the amazing spectacle that is above treeline in the White Mountains. Not everyone gets it. But a few do and it’s fun to watch them begin their own addiction. Their eyes light right up. Sometimes bringing people into conditions that they would otherwise die in without my knowledge and experience is also very satisfying. Those clients seems to express the most appreciation, and for good reason. It can be pretty “off the hook” up there on some days. They are the most blown away. Lastly, staying friends with many of my clients has afforded me the opportunity to enjoy watching them explore new heights while conquering greater ranges. Knowing them when they started and seeing them blossom now is pretty terrific.

How did you get started climbing?
My mom and dad got me into the whole outdoors thing. Military service (Air Force) helped as it afforded me with many opportunities to travel.

What is something people do not know about you?
I founded and directed a very successful mail order company for twenty years before selling it and semi-retiring: I woke up one day and decided life is too short to not enjoy every minute of it. I decided to become a mountain guide, so I just went out and did it. While chasing and having lots of money was freeing in some ways, I feel freer now. Happier as well.

Who is your biggest supporter?
My mom would be if she were alive. My dad fills that role now, I guess. Also, my soon-to-be wife, Barb, is certainly a big supporter, and on a day-to-day basis, too. I so love her. I also have a small handful of friends that really make me feel supported and special. Lastly, I can’t forget Corey and Brett, the owners of Northeast Mountaineering.

If you could you give one piece of advice for beginner climbers or those looking to push their grade what would it be?
Focus on having fun. Do what you’re passionate about. Put living your life ahead of getting bogged down by the day-to-day. And if pushing your grade and stepping outside your comfort zone is what you decide you really want to do, the logical answer answer is easy: just put in the hours and focus on your strength and technique. The hard part is always getting started. As Nike proclaims: Just Do It.