There seems to be some sort of stigma in the US attached to the idea of guided climbing. It must be something related to our collective sense of individualism (how's that for a conundrum?). Americans seem to think that hiring a guide is somehow a cop-out - like the climb doesn't "count" or something.
I've never thought this way, and after spending three days in the Eastern Sierra over the weekend with a guide from the American Alpine Institute, I must say my feelings on the matter have only been confirmed.
I plan on hiring a guide for a weekend of climbing at least once a season going forward. Why? Mostly because I learn more in the span of a single day with a knowledgeable guide than I could learn in a year otherwise. It goes a long way to keeping your skill sharp. We all tend to get lazy and having a guide evaluate your techniques, anchors, rope skills and gear placements really helps you stay sharp. Plus, guides tend to be a ton of fun to climb with.
We climbed Crystal Crag via the north arete and North Peak via the north couloir. Both are moderate Sierra classics - and both very fun routes. We continued through the entire ridge on Crystal Crag and rapped off the far south end of the ridge. Then we did North Peak car to car - long day but awesome. See below for some cool shots: