Four years ago, Stormm Ravenda was working at an outdoor retail store in Niagara Falls. He was bored working retail and was looking for deeper, more meaningful human interaction. One day a gentleman entered the store wearing two knee braces. Curious, Stormm inquired about the braces and the man’s response, “I’ve been a hiking guide for 16 years and have hiked in 80 countries” set the wheels in motion for a life and career transformation.
Stormm already had a passion for hiking and camping as he was addicted to finding the most amazing places on long, secluded hikes and portages. He moved out west and settled in Canmore with the goal of becoming a hiking guide. As many have before him, Stormm fell in love with the mountains at first glance and immediately took up trail running, rock and ice climbing, mountaineering, and off-roading, among other pursuits.
“I am not a little idealistic about how with a firsthand experience of the natural world, anyone can love it like I do. The barrier between the average person and that sublime experience is the effort needed and the discomfort you often face,” says Stormm. With that principle in mind, Stormm decided to open a business that would offer private tours that are immersive, but never compromise on comfort. And just like that, High Camp was born.
With High Camp you get a very organic, customizable experience. You don’t leave with someone else’s memory of a tour; it’s memorable for how you interacted with the land, the guide, and the food. But let’s hear the finer details from the man himself. What follows is an interview with Stormm Ravenda, a Hiking Guide and sole proprietor of High Camp.
Calgary Guardian: “What is the best thing about your job?”
Stormm Ravenda: “The work! I meet interesting people almost every day. Seeing their excitement makes it my own. I think because of this, I have not lost my sense of wonder at the beauty of Banff. “
CG: “What is one of the most challenging aspects of your job?”
SR: “In hiking and camping, the days are long and everyone has a different level of fitness and comfort. Balancing that in a group is a learned skill. Other than that, it’s a process of always learning, such as researching questions that you can’t answer immediately.”
CG: “What drove you to start your own company?”
SR: “I have always wanted to open my own company. The real catalyst was, of all things, Covid-19. The process of building a company takes a lot of work at a desk, so I picked up a few new skills in lockdown. I still hiked a lot for fun, but 2020 was about learning how to run a business.”
CG: “What type of education/certification/training do you have that’s essential to your career?”
SR: “I have a diploma in marketing, which I earned before I ever put on a pair of hiking boots. Since then I have been accredited as an Apprentice Hiking Guide by the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides (ACMG), gained my Professional Interpreter certification through the Interpretive Guides Association (IGA), and have earned my Wilderness First Responder (WFR) designation. The most essential part of my job is good judgement and that comes from education and experience together.”
CG: “What types of activities/adventures do you offer with High Camp?”
SR: “High Camp is only private tours for the most immersive, comfortable experience. It is sightseeing, hiking, and is the only company that can take you overland camping. Off-roading gets you to a private campsite where your tent has a mattress, shower, and kitchen.”
CG: “Mountain adventures are inherently dangerous activities. What do you do to mitigate those risks for your guests?”
SR: “The mountains can be dangerous, with the worst incidents usually coming from a compounding of bad decisions. Experience is key to good judgement and experience is what you get when hiring a guide. A WFR certificate is the minimum requirement for High Camp guides. We carry bear spray on our packs and fire extinguishers in the vehicles.”
CG: “I’m not asking you to give away any of your top secret spots, but do you have a favourite location in the Canadian Rockies? What makes it so special?”
SR: “So much of this company is a reflection of what I’m passionate about, so it’s only natural my favourites were included. Not to give it all away, I’ll just say some of my favourite spots in the world are only accessible via 4×4 and visited in the Overland Explorer tour.”
CG: “Where do your guests primarily come from? Are they mainly local or from all over the world?”
SR: “So far I’ve only had Canadian guests. I think we’re all waiting for the world to open up.”
CG: “With lots of guides/outfitters out there, what sets High Camp apart from your competitors? Why should folks choose High Camp?”
SR: “High Camp goes off-road where others are not able to but that’s only half the battle since comfort is essential once you get to your campsite. We provide the gear, food, experience, and all you need is a jacket. All tours are private and nobody has to carry a big pack. I’ve always enjoyed private tours the most, when you learn about the individual you can show them exactly what they’re interested in. To push the limits I overbuilt a brand new Toyota 4Runner for Alberta’s roughest trails and furnished the campsite with any creature comfort you could need: crisp linens in a rooftop tent, a shower, dining tent, and a full menu. I offer fresh food, camping and hiking where few ever see, and I’m accessible to almost all ages, even if they have never camped before.”
CG: “Is there anything else that you’d like to add that I may have missed?”
SR: “The impact on nature with the valley’s increase in tourism over many years has intensified. High Camp is committed to Leave No Trace ethics and leaving the local environment better than how we found it. Using the land gently and educating people are important ways we can all work towards a future where nature is still a frontier. I want my grandchildren to go out, discover a forest or a mountaintop for themselves and wonder if they were the first person to ever stand there.”
About this column:
Wild Jobs is a running series that focuses on people in outdoor-related professions. It provides a brief snapshot of their career and the duties that it entails. Please see my previous post, Wild Jobs: Canoe Outfitter and Guide to learn more.