Rock climbing and adventure guides Scott and Christy Thrift discuss their path to guiding trips, being in business with your spouse, and how to guarantee she says yes when you propose.
How did you meet?
In 2008 I had just returned from a 2 month trip to Africa and was ready to get back to climbing. I met my usual climbing partner at the gym and he brought this guy Scott with him. My first thought was “crap, this guy stole my climbing partner”. A couple weeks later Scott ask me to dinner. I was hesitant but he offered to take me for some Indian food. I fell in love with Indian food in Africa and couldn’t resist. After that date we were inseparable.
How did you get into rock climbing?
In 2000 I took a trip to Mt. Rainer with my dad. I loved it and returned two years later.. I applied for a job with RMI expeditions. I didn’t have the experience that many of the other 80 candidates did, but they liked me enough to offer me a job helping with some carpentry work. I had access to the mountain and learned a lot from the guides. At the end of that season I spent 22 days knocking out as many 14’ers as possible before coming back to North Carolina.
I began climbing with friends around 2004. I was an occasional climber and spent much of my time hiking and backpacking. I got serious about climbing after meeting Scott.
What lead you to becoming guides?
I always knew I wanted to work outdoors. I worked construction for a long time but in 2011 I had an opportunity to assist a local rock climbing guide in North Carolina. At the end of the year he moved and offered us the opportunity to take over his business. I was ready for a change and this was the perfect opportunity. We took the Professional Climbing Guides Institute course. The four days of training followed by two days of testing were one of the most intense experiences I’ve ever had. I was the first PCGI accredited guide in North Carolina.
This was originally Scott’s thing. I was laid off from my job and got bored quickly so started learning the marketing and social media aspect of running a business.
What’s the toughest thing about running a business with your spouse?
(while Scott smiles) Scott doesn’t do well instructing me on the wall. He has to have a different climbing guide work with me.
Are there any benefits?
Yes. Our communication. We have the time together and the comfort to go over each trip. We can tell each other what we did well and what we didn’t. We don’t have to wait for a meeting later on. We can talk on the car ride home or share ideas before we go to bed at night.
We take up either other’s shortcomings. Christy is great with advertising and marketing. I have more experience climbing but I’m not fit for the office.
What advice do you have for couples looking to go into business together?
There were times when we thought the other partner wasn’t doing enough. It really just came down to not knowing what the other person was doing. Making a to-do list has helped a lot. Then, every day reviewing what we each did, what worked and what didn’t. We realized that we were both working equally.
Talk about your roles from the beginning. Know what your strengths are and set your roles to them.
What’s your favorite climb in the area? Where do you go to eat after?
I proposed to Christy while she was 80- feet in the air at Stone Mountain. I had a busted shoulder and couldn’t belay her but I held the rope to make it look like I was. She felt the rope getting tight and looked down at me. I figured she’d be more inclined to say yes if she thought I was holding her rope. So Stone is a special place for us. There’s also the Great Arch climb there. It’s a great place to take new climbers. It looks intimidating but we can get anyone up it. It’s a great mental challenge.
As you’re leaving Stone Mountain there’s a small store that serves sandwiches and ice cream. It’s all about convenience since you’re usually starving on the way out.
What does Thrifty Adventures offer?
Besides a range of climbing experiences we offer several winter mountaineering courses, backpacking trips, rappelling, and multisport trips. We cater to both singles and small groups as well as corporate, school, and scouting functions. We’re actually close to getting our merit badge counselors certifications for the Scouts.
We offer beginner and advanced climbing courses. When needed we partner with guides who have decades of teaching experience.
Describe your training philosophy?
The two words that best describe our philosophy are self-reliance.
That’s right. When we’re guiding a rock climbing trip we don’t just tie up your knots for you and throw you on the wall. We teach you the gear, the knots, and most of all safety. We stress that safety is a personal responsibility and you should be comfortable checking over anything you or anyone else does. When you are mountaineering, you are usually far away from any support. You have to be your own trail guide, doctor, weatherman, etc. We teach you to be self-reliant in these situations.
But we have fun with it too. At the end of each class we like to take a “funny face” photograph.
A “funny face” picture?
Yes. We’re teaching a lot about the seriousness of safety and doing things right but it’s important not to take yourself too seriously. You have to be willing to laugh at yourself or you won’t have fun. One of the criteria we use when choosing guides to work with is personality.
What’s new for Thrift Adventures?
More multisport trips in Tennesse and North Carolina. Caving, rafting, canoeing, camping, climbing and rappelling combos. Scott is working toward becoming the first North Carolina PCGI accredited mentor so he can train and certify guides. We’re growing and in the process of adding guides who share our commitment to safety and love of enjoying the outdoors.