is it still climbing if you use a guide?

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Guyzo

 
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by Guyzo » Tue Oct 13, 2009 8:26 pm

Howie, Welcome to SP. :)

I liked what you had to say.

Late :wink:

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The Chief

 
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by The Chief » Tue Oct 13, 2009 8:31 pm

So Howie...

Please fill us all in on the evolution of the AMGA, it's course prereq's and it's course prices since '88 when I first got involved with them.

Please do also tell us all on why the AMGA no longer Grandfather's any of it's prereq's.

Oh yeah, and why the AMGA is seriously considering disqualifying any AMGA Qualed Guide/Instructor/Member that participates/affiliates themselves with any PCGI Courses.

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howiemtnguide

 
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by howiemtnguide » Tue Oct 13, 2009 10:31 pm

The Chief wrote:So Howie...

Please fill us all in on the evolution of the AMGA, it's course prereq's and it's course prices since '88 when I first got involved with them.

Please do also tell us all on why the AMGA no longer Grandfather's any of it's prereq's.

Oh yeah, and why the AMGA is seriously considering disqualifying any AMGA Qualed Guide/Instructor/Member that participates/affiliates themselves with any PCGI Courses.


Hi The Chief,

It appears that you might know more on these subjects than I do. Way back in '88 I believe the organization was called the APMGA, where "P" stood for Professional. For some reason they took the P out, so therein may lie the problem... Although a Swiss guide friend of mine in WA owns an operation called "Pro Guiding Service." A mutual friend once told him, "Don't you know that anything called 'Pro' really isn't?" Maybe that is why the AMGA removed it. Ironically, the PCGI now carries that torch.

I am no absolute authority on the AMGA, only involved as an instructor and Technical Committee member for several years now. But since you asked of behalf of all of the SP'ers that I hope to befriend...

The American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA) that we are talking about is a professional trade organization of Rock, Alpine, and Ski Guides. The AMGA has spent the last couple of decades developing minimum guide competency standards and certifying guides to that standard. Under direct supervision of the ACMG (Canada), the AMGA's programs were recognized by the international guiding community (UIAGM/IFMGA/IVBV) in 1997. This was a milestone for the organization as it signified the development of American guide training and certification standards to an international level. More importantly, American guides were given the opportunity to become international guides, with license to operate in over 20 member countries worldwide. This was the AMGA's first link between certification and guiding access. When I was internationally certified through the AMGA there were less than 20 of us. There are currently over 60 American IFMGA Mountain Guides.

Regarding course prices and prerequisites, once the AMGA was accepted into the IFMGA it was shouldered with a responsibility to keep guide certification standards high. As with any newly formed professional credential, the AMGA grandfathered (certification by resume) a number of veteran American guides. Many of these guides were figureheads and icons such as Yvon Chouinard, John Fischer, George Dunn, Doug Robinson, etc. Some were active guides, some not. It is unknown how many of them were in any condition to pass a modern guides exam, but the reason for grandfathering was to allow these important professionals to be involved with the new program. Full disclosure is that the AMGA went through 3 rounds of this grandfathering process before they finally put a final end to it around 1999.

Anyway, to answer your question, course prices and prerequisites have since increased substantially since the beginning. This is because it was evident that the courses were insufficient for teaching guides to achieve international performance standards. By comparison the French guide college is a 4 year program costing around 20,000 Euros. On the Technical Committee, we realized that unless we compromised the certification exam standards, which would be unfavorable to the industry and the international community, we were going to see continued high failure rates. This caused the Tech Comm to re-evaluate the course structure which was completely revamped in 2007 to better meet student needs, IFMGA regulations, and also added an Aspirant qualification program that allows for paid mentorship and on-the-job training for aspiring international guides. There has been a lot of collaborative work done by some of the best and brightest guides in the country to make this all happen. The evolution continues as we blog.

So, it would appear that gone are the old days of cheap, and low-value guide training and certification... enter the PCGI and PCIA. Admittedly, as an AMGA supporter, I find the AMGA a far from perfect professional organization. Sometimes it's actions/inactions have even upset me to the point that I have seriously contemplated starting and joining an alternate organization. A small group of us actually started to do just that back in 2000 when I was dissatisfied with AMGA policies regarding access in the US. The founders of both the PCGI and PCIA have followed through where we did not - they have created alternative organizations and credentials out of dissatisfaction with the AMGA.

These organizations publicly attack the AMGA in their marketing materials to promote their interests. They undercut the AMGA on cost, add confusion to the marketplace, and increase conflict at a time where American guides should be showing solidarity in order to promote certification to the public, the industry, and the land managers who control commercial guiding permits. The efforts of these two organizations threaten the success of the AMGA for American guides, so although I do not support the AMGA alienating its members, I can see why they would be considering severe measures to neutralize these threats.

What is very sad about the PCGI and PCIA is that they are both comprised of some very talented and bright people. They are guides, friends, and colleagues. They share our passion for the profession and for taking people to the mountains. Most of the people involved are even AMGA trained or certified in at least one guiding discipline. I am not sure why they do not come to the table and share their feedback and innovations with the rest of us to make a better collective organization. I can only assume that there is too much ego or personal opportunity at stake.

Ultimately, the AMGA will prevail as long as it maintains the support of the IFMGA. The opportunity that international access, and possibly future access domestically, presents is exciting for American guides. This is shown in the increasing numbers of aspiring guides now in the program. In a recent Rock Guides Course, the first in the training progression, a poll I took showed 100% interest in pursuing international level certification in all 3 guiding disciplines. That does not surprise me.

Hope this helps answer questions for anybody interested enough to actually read this!

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The Chief

 
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by The Chief » Tue Oct 13, 2009 10:41 pm

So Howie,

What if I only want to Guide in the Sierra, Tetons or the Whites in the North East and not Internationally?

Why do I need to go through the entire prolonged Alpine Guide program schedule (up to 3 years) and spend over $15K to get my AMGA "Alpine Cert"?

Why do I need to get cert'd in an environment that I never intend to practice/climb/guide in i.e. The Glacier filled Cascades?

What young dirtbag climber on a strict budget eating PBJs and driving a 20 year old rig w/250k miles, can afford that??

"The efforts of these two organizations threaten the success of the AMGA for American guides, so although I do not support the AMGA alienating its members, I can see why they would be considering severe measures to neutralize these threats.

"So, it would appear that gone are the old days of cheap, and low-value guide training and certification... enter the PCGI and PCIA....I am not sure why they do not come to the table and share their feedback and innovations with the rest of us to make a better collective organization. I can only assume that there is too much ego or personal opportunity at stake. "


So you equate the modern expensive AMGA course with quality????

A bit biased aren't we?

Sounds like an attempt to monopolize the Cert Industry in the U.S. to me.

I believe that we need some new Org's here in the U.S. to compete with the astronomical and inflated prices of the AMGA.

I also believe that some competition in the Industry would promote simpler and area specific Certs. Something that the AMGA originally did BITD.

Remember, as long as "Standardization" across the board is the goal, the AMGA should not be worrying about these up & coming Programs that afford QUALITY Instruction/Certing to those of us that are on a very limited budget and wish to guide in certain locales.

I personally never intended to nor ever will want to get a IFMGA cert.

I remember the words of then AMGA President, Doug Robinson in a Newsletter...

"Let's keep this a simple and affordable program with quality standardized instruction and certification."
*paraphrased*

Kind of interesting how he, DR, is on the BOD of one of the Guiding Services that is promoting one of these (PCGI) Instructional/Certing Services...Southern Yosemite Mountain Guides.
Last edited by The Chief on Tue Oct 13, 2009 11:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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cp0915

 
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by cp0915 » Tue Oct 13, 2009 11:14 pm

Am I the only one who smells 'over-reaction' in the air?

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The Chief

 
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by The Chief » Tue Oct 13, 2009 11:24 pm

cp0915 wrote:Am I the only one who smells 'over-reaction' in the air?


If you only knew the entire story.

Howie has in fact touched on this.

"The efforts of these two organizations threaten the success of the AMGA for American guides, so although I do not support the AMGA alienating its members, I can see why they would be considering severe measures to neutralize these threats."



Some local guide dudes that participate in one of the NON AMGA programs and have an AMGA Cert, have already been notified by the AMGA, threatening to be decertified/disqualified if they do not cease their non AMGA approved program affiliations.

Now that's what I call "Over Reaction" on the AMGA's part.

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Re: Summit Post = Aid

by albanberg » Tue Oct 13, 2009 11:44 pm

howiemtnguide wrote:They recognize the benefits of hiring a professional to help them make the most of their experience. These people have often quickly become friends and excellent mountain companions over time. I have seen most of my guests learn the necessary skills to be mountain savvy in far less time than I obtained them myself. Many of them take these skills and use them to go out on their own on a regular basis. I think it is hard to argue that as an unethical, or un-stylish way to go to the mountains.


Indeed, thanks Howie!

Because I know my limits and I do my research, I can push myself and learn at a much faster rate. Also, the altitude was really a very mild issue for me. I have been super athletic for most of my life (former cat 2 bicycle racer) and I'm also doing yoga, which has expanded my lung capacity a great deal.

I'll continue to hire guides until I feel that I can do it myself. Why would I want to restrict myself to Shasta etc? Not that Shasta can't get wild...I'll probably avoid it when it's wild for a while...lol.

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The Chief

 
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by The Chief » Tue Oct 13, 2009 11:52 pm

To blatantly state that AMGA Cert'd guides are the sole and only source of Professional Guides in the U.S., is truly prejudice and totally uncalled for.

Totally WRONG and so very UNAMERICAN, IMO!!!

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howiemtnguide

 
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by howiemtnguide » Wed Oct 14, 2009 12:04 am

The Chief,

Do we know each other? I'll pretend we don't. These are really good, FAQ's so I'll respond:

What if I only want to Guide in the Sierra, Tetons or the Whites in the North East and not Internationally?

Awesome. Why do you need certification then?

Why do I need to go through the entire prolonged Alpine Guide program schedule (up to 3 years) and spend over $15K to get my AMGA "Alpine Cert"?

Sounds like you don't. None of those mountain areas require certification to guide, although increasingly, some guide services are requiring it of their employees.

Why do I need to get cert'd in an environment that I never intend to practice/climb/guide in i.e. The Glacier filled Cascades?

Sounds like you don't. The US has 3 disciplines: rock, alpine, and ski. If you don't want to guide on glaciated mountain terrain, and you don't need the alpine cert to conduct your business, then clearly the price tag is going to seem very high. Courses and exams rotate venues and skills should be transferrable to similar environments. They are not all in the N Cascades.

What young dirtbag climber on a strict budget eating PBJs and driving a 20 year old rig w/250k miles, can afford that??

Honestly, I don't know, but they keep coming. Maybe they are the same dirtbag high school graduates that eat Ramen and can somehow afford a college education?

So you equate the modern expensive AMGA course with quality????
A bit biased aren't we?

I think I fully admitted to my own bias. Sometimes you get what you pay for. It seems that more often than not I have seen that students feel they got full value. Occasionally, they are dissatisfied. We have learned a lot from those times. I see dissatisfaction more often on exams than on courses, generally from failing candidates.

Sounds like an attempt to monopolize the Cert Industry in the U.S. to me.
I believe that we need some new Org's here in the U.S. to compete with the astronomical and inflated prices of the AMGA.
I also believe that some competition in the Industry would promote more simpler and area specific Certs. Something that the AMGA originally did BITD.

In most professions there is one certifying body. This gives increased credibility. The AMGA does have lower level (and cheaper) certs as well and the Rock program is currently under a major restructure that will create courses and certs that you might find more interesting for your situation. I personally think regional courses and certs would split hairs unnecessarily, and it would be very difficult for an organization to develop and oversee. The risk there is that standards become inconsistent and diluted. This does not help promote a meaningful credential. That's just my opinion.

Remember, as long as "Standardization" across the board is the goal, the AMGA should not be worrying about these up & coming Programs that afford QUALITY Instruction/Certing to those of us that are on a very limited budget and wish to guide in certain locales.

I don't know if the AMGA is worried so much about the alternative products as much as the marketing challenge. Marketing the AMGA brand is important for making progress toward certification-based access. Achieving such access should be the ultimate goal of the AMGA in my opinion, and not everyone within the AMGA may agree with me on that. I say Kudos to other quality programs, especially if they can do it cheaper. I have not seen the others, but I have doubts that these other organizations have the same level of history, support, and infrastructure to pull of courses of the same caliber as the AMGA. I can definitively say that the educational development arms of both alternative organizations (especially the PCGI) are microscopic in comparison to that of the AMGA with respect to guiding experience, guiding credentials, and guide training experience. Hands down, no comparison.

I still say, if the others are innovating, why not join with the AMGA to create a unified effort? I say the Certification Industry / free market discussion is just a smoke screen to protect egos and personal opportunities. When the AMGA slowly starts addressing all of the criticisms against it, what then will be your excuse for not joining?

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myles

 
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by myles » Wed Oct 14, 2009 12:07 am

I've tried to keep up with this thread, and it's had some interesting reading.

I haven't climbed with a guide in many years, but I feel very fortunate to have met the one with whom I did. After decades of camping and hiking, I decided to try climbing, which was something I'd literally dreamed about since I was a child--it never seemed to be dreaming about summits, always being on big, airy ridges, go figure.

Anyway, I was almost 37 the first time I roped up, and, yes, it was with a guide. I'd gotten in almost over my head a couple of times dinking around on my own, and after asking around at a local gear store, got referred to Frank, who's a little over 10 years younger than me. I knew no one who climbed, no one with any interest in trying it with me, and my intentions freaked out my wife--she was adamant that I not just go out and find someone else who wanted to climb (that's what I get for starting after I got married!), so I decided to try Frank.

The man was a real teacher and mentor, was willing to swing leads after he'd gotten comfortable enough with me, and I met my first true partner through him. I read all the books, but I think I picked up a lot of the technical aspects a lot quicker than I would have otherwise, and I could afford a lesson/climb every few months.

He was respectful enough not to coddle my ass, and a couple of times gave me a well placed metaphorical kick there when my head wasn't on right. He ended up being a damn good friend, and I've missed his company since he and his wife moved to the Northeast in 1997, where he's still guiding and climbing, and raising a family.

To answer the OP question, for myself, when I was learning with Frank I considered myself a client under a guide's leadership not a climber, but I was lucky enough to be with a guide who wanted me to be a climber. Turned out pretty well for me.

People like Frank, and it looks like the Chief as well, are into helping people open some doors. My hat's off to those who do it well.

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howiemtnguide

 
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by howiemtnguide » Wed Oct 14, 2009 12:36 am

Hi Myles,
Are you referring to Frank Carus by any chance? Awesome guy. I saw him in the Eastern Sierra for a Ski Guide Course last year. He is an AMGA Certified guide actively on track to becoming Internationally certified.

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myles

 
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by myles » Wed Oct 14, 2009 12:44 am

howiemtnguide wrote:Hi Myles,
Are you referring to Frank Carus by any chance? Awesome guy. I saw him in the Eastern Sierra for a Ski Guide Course last year. He is an AMGA Certified guide actively on track to becoming Internationally certified.

The very one. I met him back in his pre-cert days. A fine fella indeed!

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The Chief

 
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by The Chief » Wed Oct 14, 2009 1:25 am

"Marketing the AMGA brand is important for making progress toward certification-based access.."

I thought the entire premise of the "AMGA" was to standardize protocols within the U.S.?

Now it's a "brand" which is "Marketed"?

Howie, that is my point.

The premise has lost it's course and the sails shifted to a "Marketed Brand".

In other words, it appears that it, The AMGA, has gone from a worthy standardization cause to making a buck.

Word is flying around the guiding community how the AMGA has and is continuously lobbying/approaching the NPS and USFS and insisting that they ONLY allow and issue Permits to AMGA Accredited Guide Services to Operate within their boundaries.

That literally sucks my friend and is WRONG!


"I can definitively say that the educational development arms of both alternative organizations (especially the PCGI) are microscopic in comparison to that of the AMGA with respect to guiding experience, guiding credentials, and guide training experience. Hands down, no comparison."

Let's not forget that the AMGA was once in the same exact position. I can also tell ya that when they were young, they were way more personable, utilized a philosophy of unity and depended solely on the experience of the few masters out there that just loved the art of Guiding and wanted to share their experience with the few of us that were aspiring to follow in their footsteps.

As far as your original thought on the term "Professional", well, aren't Guides suppose to be "Professional".... they are paid for the service they are giving. Thus, a perfect example of Webster's definition of a "Professional":

Function: adjective
Date: 1606

1 a : of, relating to, or characteristic of a profession b : engaged in one of the learned professions c (1) : characterized by or conforming to the technical or ethical standards of a profession (2) : exhibiting a courteous, conscientious, and generally businesslike manner in the workplace
2 a : participating for gain or livelihood in an activity or field of endeavor often engaged in by amateurs ...a professional golfer> b : having a particular profession as a permanent career .. a professional soldier c : engaged in by persons receiving financial return professional
Last edited by The Chief on Wed Oct 14, 2009 2:46 am, edited 1 time in total.

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ksolem

 
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by ksolem » Wed Oct 14, 2009 2:46 am

What the hell is "certification based access?"

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howiemtnguide

 
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by howiemtnguide » Wed Oct 14, 2009 8:13 am

ksolem,
Certification-based access just means that guides who are certified can obtain permits to guide on public land. At this time, only a few venues offer access to certified guides.

The Chief,
Sounds like you live in the Eastern Sierra? Come by our office on main street in Bishop sometime and I would be happy to join you for a cup of coffee to talk about this. It seems that it has been a while since you have had direct contact with the AMGA and a lot has happened since the '80's. I wouldn't believe all of the rumors you hear through the grapevine. I would take the AMGA of today over the one from 10 years ago for sure. From 20 years ago, I have only heard the now legendary stories of the egos and tempers that flared through conflict after conflict. I have trouble believing that it was more personable then than it is now. It was no doubt less professional (which was my original point). Hope to see you around sometime. Might you attend the AMGA annual meeting in Moab in a couple weeks?

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