AMGA Single Pitch Instructor Course, Eastern Sierra, June 2011

“The American Mountain Guide’s Association (AMGA) is the premier source for training, credentials, and services for professional mountain guides and
climbing instructors in the United States.”

Becoming intimately familiar with the “training” portion of that organizational mission statement has become a large part of my life in the last number of years. And it looks like the “credential” portion of that will consume much of my life for the next few years, as I take my final exams on the way to securing IFMGA certification. Right now, in early June of 2011, I find myself in what I think is a bit of a unique position. With an observation of SMG’s AMGA Single Pitch Instructor Course this past weekend I have now participated in every outdoor course the AMGA has ever offered. Anyone else want to claim that?

What does it all mean? What ties it all together? The overwhelming theme among all these courses (9 of them: TRSMC (no longer offered), RIC, RGC, SGC, SMGC, AGC, AAGC, IIC, SPI... Gesundheit!) is professionalism. Guides work in a highly demanding, stressful environment. Whether that is at a crowded rock crag with a group of never-evers, or deep in the wilderness, alone with a strong climber on a technical ridge traverse a guide needs some structure from which to make choices and decisions. In these difficult and varied environments, we need experience, knowledge, personality, patience and a whole slew of other attributes you can’t even begin to imagine. Formalized professional development courses provide that structure, as well as peer review and crucial skills.

This round of the AMGA Single Pitch Instructor Course (June 3-5, 2011) was attended by a talented and varied group. We had a father-son team, just a few months into an open-ended climbing road trip. We had a charismatic veteran of 112 El Capitan ascents. We had a 5.12 crack climber and a relatively new leader. Also attending in various capacities were an SMG “consultant/intern“, wrestling-coaching-single-father-engineer, and myself as the token “perpetual student”. Talk about diversity of background!

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