Friday, October 31, 2008

Guide's Olympics!

Perhaps one of the most fun events at the American Mountain Guides Association Annual Meeting is the Guide's Olympics. This is an event wherein a group of guides from all over the country get together to compete in a series of skill-based games...and the competition is fierce!

The Guide's Olympics doesn't have "normal" Olympic events like curling, or speed walking, or synchronized swimming, or the 3000 meter steeplechase... Instead, in the Guide's Olympics, guides must demonstrate a series of mountain climbing and guide skills under unusual circumstances while dressed like Las Vegas pimps on New Years Eve.

In 1989, former AAI assistant director Sheilagh Brown devised the first of a series of competitions for the AMGA's Annual Meeting. That was the year that she developed the Guide's Olympics. Due to the overwhelming success of the event, she continued to create. In 1990 she established the Guide's Backcountry Cook-Off. And finally, in 1991 she developed the first annual Mountain Guide's Pumpkin Carving Contest.

The Backcountry Cook-Off and the the Guide's Pumpkin Carving Contest were both extremely popular events. However, as the years passed and the annual meeting evolved, the Cook-Off and the Pumpkin Carving Contest were dropped and the the Guide's Olympics became the preimere "fun" event of the meeting.

AAI Guide Forest McBrian belaying at the Guide's Olympics.

The 2008 Guide Olympic Events were as follows:

Glaciated White-Out Navigation while Avoiding Spillage

In this extremely difficult event, three guides must put on plastic boots and crampons and tie into one another with a rope. The guide in the lead is blindfolded. And there is a glass of wine suspended on the rope between each of the guides. The goal of the game is to direct the guide in the front down a treacherous path through the desert while spilling as little of the wine suspended between one another as possible.

Most people are a bit aggro in this event and at least one team was in such a rush that the blindfolded team leader ran directly into a tree.

Once the team finishes their tour through the desert -- tied together with crampons on -- the wine is measured. Teams are scored on a combination of how much wine is left in the cup and how fast they were able to complete the course.

Three-Legged Climb

This simple timed event requires that two guides are duct-taped together during an ascent. In other words, each participant has a wrist and a foot duct-taped to one another. The team that gets to the top the fastest gets the most points.

Two guides participate in the three-legged climb.

Rock Ascent with Sandbags Clipped to Crotch

In this endurance event, a guide must climb a 5.9 rock route on top-rope. The bolts on the route each have a bag of sand clipped to them. As the guide passes each bag of sand, he must unclip it from the bolt and then clip the bag to the belay loop at his crotch. By the time the guide gets to the top of the route he has fifty pounds of sand hanging from his crotch. Talk about rope drag!

A guide ascends the route with sandbags hanging between his legs.

This event is timed as well. And if a guide were to need assistance (i.e. people pulling on the rope to help him get up) he will have points docked.

Twister with a Bunch of Ski Junk Hanging Off of You

In this event, guides must play twister with a bunch of ski junk hanging off of them.

Two guides compete in a heated game of twister.

To be more precises, a group of guides will play twister while wearing packs that are heavy with skis and poles and other mountain equipment. On each twist another piece of equipment must be added to the participant. In other words, they have to put on gloves, mountain boots, or hang roller skates from their packs.

It's not really clear how this game is scored. And as twister with a backpack with skis on it is inherently dangerous, only the most fit and flexible guides are allowed to participate.

Dry-Skiing and Short Roping in the Desert

In this event, two guides must rope up and put on skis. A third guide must wear a pack with skis on it and walk in ski boots. The first guide must short-rope the second guide as they race up a dry desert trail, around a giant boulder and back to the main staging area. Once they have reached the staging area they must use an avalanche transceiver.

A team of guides dry ski through the desert.

It is not recommended that one use new skis for this event.

AAI Guide Richard Riquelme made the following video of the event. He had to add music to it to cover his non-stop laughing into the microphone.

When all was said and done, this year's Guide Olympics was a great success. People dressed up like idiots, competed like fifth-grade bullies, hooted and hollered like frat boys and sorority girls and made complete fools of themselves. In others words, the goal of the event was met. Everybody had a lot of fun!

--Jason D. Martin

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