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!


  1. Great work! I love the "uniforms". What type of van is that? It looks like a Chevy mini-van that's campmobiled out!

  2. Ralph- good to hear from you! I think you're right, Dominic's van is a Chevy or GMC all pimped out camp style. He was our French-Canadian and provided us with endless amounts of entertainment with his accent and unique expressions. Everyone had huge respect for him though for taking the courses and exams in a foreign language! When we were trying on the "uniforms" in the store Dominic said, as he was stroking his chest, "I'm not sure the reason, but I want to touch myself!"... I about fell over as did the store keeper!

  3. Super cool trip Marc!!
    The way I understood it, you still have two more Alpine courses to complete the trifecta, or are you finished with all three disciplines now? at any rate, looks like a lot of work and fun. Congrats on how far you've taken it! you're a good deal richer than the average PHD.

  4. Wes- Yep, still 2 more courses plus exams. The next course is the Advanced Alpine Course and Aspirant Exam. It's 12 days long and has 4 days of testing. Then the AMGA is instituting a new Ice Guiding Course that will be specific to muilti pitch ice guiding and it sounds like that is a 6 day course. Then, last but not least is the Alpine Guides Exam. Thanks for the encouragement Wes, I hope to be certified in 2011!

    Dean- Yea John is super cool. It'd be great to get him up here in Idaho! We were swapping stories of limestone crags...