Tuesday, May 23, 2017

AAI Guide Class of 2017

The American Alpine Institute is incredibly well known for the quality of its internal guide training. Indeed, the American Mountain Guides Association based their alpine guide courses on AAI's three-week internal training.

Every year AAI hires guides, but usually the new guide staff consists of three to eight people. In 2017 the new guide staff busted the seams at 15 people.

It was certainly no small task to train so many people, but the curriculum held up and every individual had the opportunity to train under AAI's Tenured and Certified guide staff.

Class of 2017 (Click to Enlarge)
Left to Right-Back: Seth White, Jason Martin (Trainer), Mike McCartan, Elias Jordan, 
Kevin McGarity, Karl Henize, George Bieker, Mike Powers (Trainer), Sam Boyce, Calvin Morris, 
Will Nunez, Zak Krenzer, Ben Gardner (Trainer). Front Row: Eric Shaw, Alejandra Garces, 
Katie Griffith & Katlynne Schaumberg. Not Pictured: Lindsey Hamm

Historically, the entire AAI guide training has taken place in the Cascades. This year things were a bit different. The new guides first met in Las Vegas to practice their rock skills in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area.

  A pair of new guides work on their short-roping skills.

More short-rope/short pitch skills in Red Rock Canyon. 

Multi-Pitch Skills on Snake Charmer (5.7) 

Mike McCartan  belays Karl Henize on All That Jazz (5.8)

 Zak Krenzer and Calvin Morris at a belay on Big Bad Wolf (5.9)

After putting in some days in the desert, the team moved to the mountains. They continued their skills development around Mt. Baker.

Obviously a mountain guide has to be incredibly good at crevasse rescue, especially in the places where we operate. In order to use our time well, we often do some training just outside the Mt. Baker Ski Area. This isn't a glacier. Indeed, it is just a parking lot, but it allows the guides to practice their crevasse rescue skills prior to using them on a real glacier.

In the following video, the guides participate in a crevasse rescue race near the Mt. Baker Ski Area Parking Lot:



The weather for the training wasn't always perfect. It snowed hard on more than one occasion throughout the training. In the following video, the team is leaving the van on the north side of Mt. Baker to ski and walk into the mountain for additional training.


Once we were on the mountain, we began to train steep climbing and guiding skills.

Seth White practices a snow seat.

Alejandra Garces practices a "butt-axe" belay.

And there was some skiing and ski guide practice on the mountain as well.
In this photo, Ben Gardner is tearing it up!

Ice skills are a major component of guide training. In this 
photo the team works on basic ice skills on the Coleman Glacier.

In this photo, guides practice steep ice skills.

Toward the end of the guides first stint to Mt. Baker they climbed 
the Moustache and made an attempt on the North Ridge. 
This photo is from the Moustache.

Each guide must also work through multi-pitch rescue skills.
In this photo Elias Jordan practices these skills with Katlynne Schaumberg.

Kevin McGarity on Zig Zag/Springboard (5.8) at Mt. Erie.

George Bieker follows the Springboard Pitch at Mt. Erie.

Lindsey Hamm at Mt. Erie

The final test for the new guides is to complete a week of student teaching. The team works with real students on an Alpinism I or an AMTL I.

Conditions on Mt. Baker were tough for the student teaching week.
We got over two feet of snow when we arrived on the mountain.

White-outs and white-out navigation was the norm for the week.

Lead guide trainer, Mike Powers at the crater on Mt. Baker.
Mike has been running AAI guide trainings since the mid-nineties.

The summit of Mt. Baker at dawn on the final day of
student teaching.

Every member of AAI's new guide staff brings something special to the table. And I believe that all of those who have the chance to work with these guides will learn a great deal while having an excellent time...!

--Jason D. Martin

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