Vitaly Stegno - RMH CEO and Lead Guide | Russian Mountain Holidays - Elbrus Local Guides (RMH)

Vitaly Stegno

Owner | CEO | Lead Guide & Mastermind behind RMH

Vitaly was born in the small city of Pyatigorsk (which in translation to English means Five Peaks City) just 2 hours drive from Mt. Elbrus and was raised on Elbrus slopes. First time he climbed Elbrus when he was 14 years old and since then Elbrus guiding literally became his life. Being one of the few in Russia who studied mountain guiding outside of Russia in Canada in Thompson Rivers University and brought the international IFMGA guiding standards to Elbrus climbing industry, now an RMH CEO and Lead Guide, Vitaly is passionate about guiding his guests to the highest peak in Europe safely and flawlessly, and showing them around his favorite home backyard, which he considers the coolest mountain playground on the planet and calls it Planet Elbrus. Having more than 60 successful guided ascents to Elbrus with a 100% safety rate behind his back, Vitaly continues to develop the RMH company maintaining the highest guiding standards on Elbrus.

The Story of Vitaly Story or How It All Began

The dreams of a young boy. Patience. And hard work.

My mountain story began at the age of seven, when my father first brought me to Mount Elbrus to teach me skiing. Of course, I couldn’t imagine then what my whole life would grow into, but I fell in love with the mountains at first sight. I saw how different my life could be, how people lived and where the real life was. Mountains were magic for me. Our family never earned much and my father could not afford frequent trips to the mountains since each trip was associated with certain expenses for accommodation, meals, ski lifts and so on. It was too expensive for us to go to the mountains every weekend, even though we lived only in two hours’ drive from Elbrus.

 

However, I felt the pull of the mountains, and they were all I was thinking about. I clearly understood that I wanted to devote my whole life to them. I realized that all I want is to go to the mountains, skiing, and communicate with interesting people. My heart was there. And I was just simply happy in the mountains. That’s it. When I was twelve, I started asking myself: ‘Okay, so how could I do that?’, ‘How could I live in the mountains and earn my living?’, ‘How can I make this happen?’

 

As a 13-year-old boy, I already had many friends who worked as mountain guides on Elbrus, and they seemed Jedi knights to me. I had a feeling that they were people from another planet, and I really wanted to get to that planet. Mountain guides have always been at the highest level in the climbing world. Super professionals who know everything about the mountains including weather conditions, safety in the mountains, working with people and so on. Those who can take responsibility for your life. It fascinated me. I remember how I used to come to Elbrus just for a couple days and watched them holding my breath. I admired them because they had found their place in life and lived listening to their hearts, doing what they really loved and at the same time earned their living.

 

My entire future life was predetermined, and I wasn’t going to take a single step aside from it. I was mountain biking and climbing, often skipping school, and trying to get out to the mountains as often as possible, as soon as I had an opportunity to do it. In winter, I was skiing on Elbrus. I devoted almost all my time to the mountains, and as a result, I was expelled from school three times officially. However, I didn’t care. I knew what I wanted. Besides, I achieved good results in sports:

 

  • 2008 – 3rd place at the Russian Downhill Mountain Bike Championship. Also a multiple Champion of many national downhill mountain bike competitions.
  • 2010 – 2nd place at the Russian Downhill Mountain Bike Final Cup Championship. (Mt. Cheget – Elbrus). Also a Multiple Champion of many national downhill mountain bike competitions.
  • 2011 – Two-time Russian Rock-Climbing Champion. Also a Multiple Champion of many national rock-climbing competitions.
  • 2012 – Set a New World Record in mountain biking – the first ever Highland Heli-biking in Russia from 4000 meters (Caucasus Mountains).
  • 2012 – Successfully completed the Canadian Avalanche Association (CAA) Operations Level 1 Course.
  • 2013 – 4th place – Freeride World Qualifier (Ski).
  • 2013 – Signed a contract with The North Face, Norco Bicycles, Line Skis, and POC.

 

At the age of 14, I first climbed Elbrus. In addition, while I still was a schoolkid, I started working as an assistant guide on Elbrus, sometimes as a volunteer just to gain as much experience as possible.

 

There were not any educational institutions or associations of mountain guides at that time in Russia, where you could get such a specific education and become a certified mountain guide. Those who worked in the mountains were self-taught and had learnt everything by themselves. By the age of fourteen, I started thinking about where and how I could become a certified mountain guide. My dream was to become the first certified mountain guide on Elbrus. I wanted to get the international mountain guiding experience. The only place in the world to get it at that time was at Thompson Rivers University in the small city of Kamloops, in British Columbia, Canada. Mountain & Ski Guide Training program took five years there. My parents were able to raise money only for one semester and I knew that was my only chance and I couldn’t miss it. To become a professional mountain guide, without exaggeration, was literally everything to me. It was my life goal. I finished high school externally and fully devoted myself to entering the university. The admission to university required a huge climbing, ski-touring and backcountry experience, which I was able to accumulate during the last three school years.

 

As a result, the dream came true. Immediately after graduating from high school, I entered the TRU university and flew to Canada to study. On my return from Canada, the Russian Mountain Guides Association was founded in collaboration with the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides, so I also became a member of RMGA. I didn’t waste my time and the next step was to officially register a company as Russian Mountain Holidays LLC., (read RMH Company History) and plan how we could enter the market, which was already familiar to us and attract our first customers.

 

I’m just fascinated and completely obsessed with mountain guiding, Mt. Elbrus, the Caucasus Mountains, and with how I grow and develop my company. I have dedicated my whole life to RMH. This is what I live and breathe for every single day of my life. I’m infinitely in love with my home, the Caucasus and Elbrus; and for me, even after all these adventure trips all around the world, Elbrus is still the most incredible place on the planet, and I’m so happy that this is my home. Over the years of hard work, I have managed to bring the company to the international market and have become the best in the Elbrus climbing industry. I have put all my heart and all my soul into Russian Mountain Holidays, I am extremely happy that everything has worked out and paid off. It has never been just a business for me. I have never wanted to just make money. Mountains are everything to me. They are 90 percent of my life. Elbrus is my home. I’m living in a dream, and there is so much ahead. For us at RMH, each of our guests is really a member of our family and these are not just big words. RMH helps us to find new friends and interesting people from all over the world and brings us together here on Planet Elbrus, and I’m so happy that I was able to make Elbrus the center of the whole world for myself and that I can share a part of my heart with those who climb with RMH.

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