Wednesday, June 16, 2010

AMGA Alpine Guides Course

I recently returned from an extended four week road trip through Utah and Colorado. I had some guiding work in Utah for two weeks, then I was off to Rocky Mountain National Park for my American Mountain Guides Association Alpine Guides Course. This course is the first of three courses and two exams in the Alpine discipline. Once all course are completed and the exams have been passed, then one is Alpine Certified. There are essentially three disciplines for mountain guides: Rock, Ski Mountaineering, and Alpine. I am certified in Rock and Ski Mountaineering, and the Alpine is my last discipline on the road to IFMGA (International Federation of Mountain Guides Associations) status. Some call IFMGA Certification the PhD of the guiding world due to the time, money, skills and physical challenge that "full certification" requires. A fully certified guide is internationally recognized and can guide in any other IFMGA country; for example most of Europe, Asia and North & South America.

The Alpine Guides Course was taught by Marc Chauvin, Dale Remsberg and John Kear, all of which are top notch instructors and IFMGA guides themselves. Technically the Alpine discipline deals with everything: rock, ice and snow on glaciated terrain. This course, being the first in the discipline, is held in terrain that is non glaciated. So, depending on conditions, the course generally involves snow and rock climbs. The conditions we encountered in Rocky Mountain National Park were exceptionally warm, with overnight lows in the mid 40s. As a result, most of the routes we climbed on the course were rock routes with some snow on the approach.

In all it was a great course taught by some of the best instructors. All twelve of us students got along really well and had some good laughs between serious stints up front at the lead. We all purchased cheap leopard print fleeces at one of the tourist shops in Estes Park before heading into Mt Ypsilon and our Blitzen Ridge climb. We surprised the instructors by showing up for the climb all decked out in the same "uniform", ready to rock and roll! Definitely a good laugh! Here are some images of the course:
Short roping, short pitching the First Flatiron outside of Boulder. We climbed this thing three times that day!

A day of fifth class rock, Carsten leading out on Anthill Direct, 5.9 Eldorado Canyon.

Looking gripped at the belay, Eldo.

Rainbow and Carsten looking like rock stars at the belay, Notchtop Peak, RMNP.

The lower pitches of Notchtop Peak.

Team Leopard in the mist on Blitzen Ridge, Mt Ypsilon, RMNP.

What the? Two teams navigate the complex terrain of Blitzen Ridge.

Andrew keeping his peeps safe on Blitzen Ridge.

Decompressing mid course...
"What it is!"

Our final objective was the Petit Grepon in RMNP. Since my freshman year at CU I've always wanted to climb this route. Here is the Petit (middle left) and the Saber (middle right) as seen from Sky Pond on the approach.

Dale and Dominic catching some ZZZs at the belay.

Dominic racing up P5 on the South West Corner Route, 5.9, Petit Grepon.
The AMGA Alpine Guides Course, 2010!
Thanks to the instructors, the students, and the AMGA for a fantastic course! I'd also like to thank The North Face for making it happen by awarding me a scholarship for this course!