Friday, November 2, 2012

2012 AMGA Annual Meeting

Last week I had the opportunity to attend the American Mountain Guides Association Annual Meeting in Red Rock Canyon, just outside of Las Vegas, Nevada. This was the second Annual Meeting that I've attended in Las Vegas and many guides see Vegas as the original home of the meeting.  Many cite Red Rock as the location of the first annual meeting in 1987.

The AMGA Annual Meeting is a place where guides from all over the country come together to meet about accreditation, certification, land management and other issues pertaining to guiding, while simultaneously celebrating the lifestyle of the professional climbing guide.

SPI Provider David Sweet demonstrates how he sets up his static line, while 
Ed Crothers, Patrick Weaver and Ron Funderburk look on.

The number one reason that I went to the event was to update my skills as a Single Pitch Instructor course provider. As always the refresher course was entertaining. It's always interesting to see what providers from the other side of the country are doing.

An AMGA Certified Guide teaches short-rope technique during 
one of the many continuing education clinics.

Following my day of refreshment, I attended an array of meetings and events. There were three highlights to the meeting.  The first was seeing a lot of old friends at a lot of different dinners and functions.  The second was seeing AAI Guide Danny Uhlmann get pinned. This is when a guide has become certified in all three disciplines, rock, alpine and ski, and becomes internationally certified.  And lastly I enjoyed participating in the Guide Olympics.

At the main event at the Red Rock Visitor Center, Danny was pinned 
by Dale Remsberg, the Technical Director of the AMGA.

Perhaps one of the most fun events at any of the meetings is the Guide 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.

The Guide Olympics doesn't have "normal" Olympic events like curling, or speed walking, or synchronized swimming. Instead, in the Guide 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 devised the first ever annual Mountain Guide's Pumpkin Carving Contest.

The Backcountry Cook-Off and 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 Guide Olympics became the premiere fun event of the meeting.

This year there were four events. Two of them required people to bury their hands in ice water for a long period of time before completing a task, like tying knots, climbing a rope, or finding an avalanche tranceiver. Another event forced people to run all over the desert clothed in Gore Tex. And another required a team to climb a hard route, wearing crazy clothes and then to proclaim that they've made a first ascent.

 AAI Guide Erin Smart soaking her hands in ice water.

The ice water.

 One of the many pimp costumes for the event.

Guides decked out for the event. 

East coast guide Karsten Delap, setting up his rope climbing system. 

 There must be an avalanche victim here somewhere!

 AAI guide Danny Uhlmann sans his new pin.

AAI Guide Erin Smart and former AAI Guide Forest McBrian 
decked out in GoreTex for the race portion of the event.

The Annual Meeting is a great event and every guide should try to make it whenever they can.  There's a lot to be said for learning from your peers throughout the country.  And the Guide Olympics is really fun...!

--Jason D. Martin

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