Tuesday, November 19, 2013

AMGA Rock Guide Course Reflection

AAI Guide Andrew Yasso just finished his Advanced Rock Guide course with the American Mountain Guides Association. The Rock Guide Course is not just another course, the course also tests guide skill with an assessment that is referred to as an "Aspirant Exam." This is a prestigious and difficult program. Andrew wrote about his experience withe program in the following blog:


The AMGA Rock Guide Course/Aspirant Exam (RGC/AE) was more than I could have asked for. It clarified and solidified many of the techniques I use as good habit and best practice, in addition it showed me new perspectives to evaluate situations and skills to better manage them. There is truly no better resource than having multiple IFMGA level guides as your instructors. The long days during the course were a testament to their dedication to ensuring ample time to practice and digest the material. The knowledge I received from these instructors was well worth the time and investment.

Each day focused on either introducing new concepts or applying our novel skills in real terrain. For example, one day we focused on short-roping techniques to ascend and descend a feature, practicing with one and then two mock guests. The following day we applied these skills and climbed an objective that involved real world short-roping. This style of learning, practicing, and then performing is seriously effective in hammering home the skills and judgement required for keeping a rope team safe in non-fifth class terrain. I am thankful for the practice and could use plenty more, especially under the watchful eye of a more highly trained and experienced guide.

Overall I think my favorite part of the course was interacting with my peers, and seeing how they responded to challenges in a guide role. Most of the students in the course had significant guiding experience under their belts, and I felt lucky to be among a class that could share that experience in a positive and constructive way. I hope that throughout the AMGA process and my career as a whole, I will continue to be among individuals who are dedicated to becoming the best guides they can possibly be, and they truly motivated and encouraged me while on this course.

Of course there were challenges as well, however, they seemed minor in comparison to the positive aspects of the course. The government shutdown began on the first day of our course limiting our terrain selection, and weather on the final day cut our aspirant exam objectives short. These challenges however, became opportunities and assets to the instructors as they found new and varied venues to deal with area closures. The inclement weather on the final day served to teach me a very important lesson while on AMGA exams: When in guide mode - stay in guide mode. Not only did I learn how to “bail safely” off a climb, I learned to bail in style.

I am fortunate to work as the lead guide in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area for the American Alpine Institute during the Winter/Spring season. I see the AMGA as the premier source for education and career advancement in the United States, and as such I looked to this course to build my knowledge-base and skill set. I am grateful to have taken, and passed, my RGC/AE. To add to my excitement, I applied for and received a very generous full-tuition scholarship from Petzl. It is an amazing feeling to know that friends, family, and even equipment manufacturers, believe in and support my passion and career. For that, and to Petzl directly, I am extremely grateful.

 --Andrew Yasso, Instructor and Guide

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