Sunday, December 2, 2012

AMGA Certification

I would like to proudly announce that I am now an American Mountain Guides Association certified Single Pitch Instructor!  What this means is that I am trained to teach beginners to climb and rappel.  I can handle one on one clients or groups of people.  This can be sport, trad, or top-roping in a single pitch environment.  I can manage top-access areas or bottom-access areas.

There is a big difference between what I am trained to do and how recreational climbers take out their friends and teach them to climb.  For me I not only need to keep everyone comfortable and safe, I have to make sure they are challenged at the right level, and they are having fun.  Additionally, when someone hires a guide, the day is dedicated to maximizing the experiences of the client. 

I was amazed at how much I learned.  Certainly I already knew how to climb and rappel, set up top-ropes, and lead climbs.  I have always considered myself a relatively well versed climber.  However, I soon discovered there was a lot I didn’t know I didn’t know.  Contrary to popular belief there is no prescribed AMGA method.  The AMGA way is whatever is quick, efficient, and makes no sacrifices in safety.  I won’t go into the technical specifics here, but suffice to say it has changed the way I do many things – even in my own personal climbing.

I took the course in September.  It was 3 days long, and each day was packed with learning.  There was a good mix of doing stuff hands on and talking.  It was handy to keep a notebook to write much of it down.  My head was swimming with information by the end of each day.

I decided that I wanted to go ahead with the certification and scheduled the assessment for the weekend after Thanksgiving at Seneca Rocks.  I spent most of October studying, training, and utilizing the new techniques with clients.  The weekend after Thanksgiving arrived soon and it ended up being cold and snowy.  The two other candidates were Corey and Cody who are both Outward Bound instructors/climbing specialists from North Carolina.

The assessment was not as bad as I thought it would be.  The instructor Massey Teel kept everything fairly casual.  The other 2 candidates both seemed solid in their skills and knowledge.  On day one we had to demonstrate our technical knowledge, efficiency, and proper use of techniques and equipment.  It was a bit crazy because we had to do 100 different things, and just messing up 1 or 2 of them could be cause for a fail.  The second day we were working with some inexperienced climbers.  We planned and executed a day of guided climbing with them.

All 3 of us ended up passing which is pretty rad.  Previous to having the certification I had guided through Exkursion, but I believe this certification definitely gives me more confidence to take out clients (especially 1 on 1) and give them a good climbing experience.

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