Friday, March 18, 2011

What Trip is Right For Me?

This may sound extremely cheesy, but the most enjoyable part of my day is when I get a phone call from a potential student who asks me, "what trip is right for me?"  As a former AAI student myself, I remember how exciting it was flipping through the catalog and looking on the website at all the potential courses I could take.  The trouble was, I was so new to the climbing scene I had no idea where I should start!  Ultimately, I ended up calling AAI and speaking with a program coordinator, because I needed advice.  Sitting in the role that I am now in, I thoroughly enjoy speaking with new climbers, and finding which program will best suit their goals and desires.

When you call or email us, we will probably respond to your questions with a number of our own.  Here are some common questions I ask:
  • What is your backcountry camping experience?  
  • Have you been on a glacier before? 
  • Do you lead climb, and if so at what level - 5.6, 5.8, 5.10?
  • Do you lead sport or traditional climbs?
  • Have you done any winter climbing?
  • What is your skiing ability?
  • What are your climbing goals for the future?
The final question there, regarding goals, is honestly the most useful in advising people towards the right program.  All of your past experience is helpful in establishing a baseline in where you are at, but knowing where you want to go will shape the response your program coordinator will provide you.

If you have moderate experience on glaciers, but really want to get into climbing and leading alpine ice, then the Alpine Ice course would be right for you.  If you really want to take multi-day ski tours in the backcountry, without access to an avalanche forecast, then AIARE Level 1 and Level 2 avalanche courses would be right up your alley.  If becoming a mountain guide is your next career choice, then I would encourage you to look at our extensive Mountaineering Instructor Professional Training program.  And if you want to just try some rock climbing for the first time ever, then going out with a guide in Red Rock might be the ticket.

When you call, the clearer your goals are in your head, the more you can accurately describe them to us, and the better we can steer you towards the right course.  Our goal is to give you the training to safely and successfully meet your goals, in the most logical and exciting way as possible.  If for some reason your nervous to call, just image your program coordinator looks like the picture below, and hopefully it will take the edge off!

An AAI Program Coordinator (who shall remain nameless), enthusiastically enjoying a conversation with a potential student.
--Andrew Yasso
Program Coordinator


John T Young said...

So how prepared would some be for the AMGA Alpine Exam after taking your Mountaineering Instructor Training Program? Are the two courses about the same?


American Alpine Institute said...


Thanks for the question. The requirements to take the AMGA Alpine Exam can all be found here:

During AAI's MIPT program, you would gain Avalanche Level 1 and Level 2 training, as well as expedition experience and a multitude of rescue systems. You would also learn to lead on rock and ice, and in glaciated alpine terrain. AAI's MIPT program is designed to help build your resume to the point where you can start guiding for a reputable company on relatively simple, glaciated terrain and basic rock. Each company will have their own requirements, but the fundamental skills (combined with your own personal experience) taught in our program should meet most guide services requirements.

However, to take the AMGA Alpine Exam you have to already be guiding at a professional level. You also will have had to have previous AMGA training, and have passed certain tests. As per their requirements:

successfully complete the 10-day Rock Instructor Course

successfully complete the 10-day Alpine Guide Course

successfully complete and pass the 10-day Advanced Alpine Guide Course and Aspirant Exam

Our program will help get your foot in the door with a company to start gaining this experience. Essentially, we are the gateway to the AMGA!

RobRidesandRuns said...

I noticed that the Alpine Ice Equipment list is a "tad" dated. Does everything on it still hold true? I was planning on the June 12th class and I was going to use the Sportiva Evo Light GTX vs plastics. Will that work?

American Alpine Institute said...


Our equipment lists are currently being updated, although the old lists mostly hold true.

For equipment questions, our equipment specialists are available from 10am - 6pm PST, Monday through Friday. You can reach them at 360.671.1570 or

My gut reaction however, is that you'll want to bump up to the Nepal Evo GTX's because they do a little better job at staying dry and June in the Cascades can still be fairly wet. I would clarify this with the gear guys though.