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Becoming a Mountain Guide

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Becoming a Mountain Guide

Postby bryncanfly » Thu Jan 03, 2013 2:27 pm

Hello All,

I'm curious if anyone is familiar with the mountain guide school (http://www.blah.com/mountain-guide-scho ... se-details ). I'm interested in becoming a mountain guide, and have been looking at this school for a while. I've done a fair bit of climbing and skiing, but haven't done much work in the outdoors. I'm looking to get my foot in the door, and this seems like a good way to go. Anyone know anything about this program?

Bryn
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Re: Becoming a Mountain Guide

Postby mattyj » Thu Jan 03, 2013 6:57 pm

I'll admit that I don't have a lot of expertise in this area, but I don't get the whole "guide school" thing. There are a lot of people selling the vision that if you give them enough of your time and money, they can help you become a guide, but I don't buy it. This is especially true for people who go the guided route up big mountains and then develop sugarplum dreams of becoming guides themselves, but I don't think there's a direct path from student to guide.

If you aren't a solid enough climber, mountaineer, or skier, spend more time developing your skills. This is generally more a matter of time and the ability to find partners than money or instruction. What does your mountaineering resume look like, and how can you improve it?

If you're going to pay for classes, try to get hard, marketable skills out of them. WFR, Wilderness EMT, Avy I/II, etc. If your location is stable, joining a volunteer SAR team will help develop your self and group rescue skills, show that you can work as part of a structured group, and possibly help make connections.

Realize that guiding has as much to do with soft personal skills as it does with mountaineering. How are yours? Consider a gig that will give you the opportunity to chat up new tourists on a daily basis while guiding on easier terrain. There are companies that will hire you fresh off the bus to guide mellow whitewater or hiking trips.

I know people who've basically walked on to a guiding job on Rainier (RMI held, and probably still holds, early season tryouts for picking entry-level guides). Spending the summer lapping the DC route may get tedious, but if you can pull it off, it's a definite foot in the door.

If you have $30k and 2 years at your disposal this may be a fun way to spend them, but you might be better served getting a few certs and then hopping on the bottom rung anywhere that will take you.
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Re: Becoming a Mountain Guide

Postby bryncanfly » Thu Jan 03, 2013 7:21 pm

HI MattyJ,

Thanks for the quick response. The program does provide WFR, level I and II avalanche, LNT, and a WEA Level II Mountaineering Instructor certification, so that's really good, I guess.

I've done lots of personal rock and mountain climbing and can ski well enough. But breaking through to getting a job has been difficult. It's not just as easy as walking in and saying "Here I am!"

One of the things I'm interested in with this program is that they provide a structured internship where you get like 200 days interning with them in Patagonia or Alaska, so that would be a good opportunity to polish the resume. I've found it hard to get an internship on my own. I keep getting told that I have to have experience before I can get an internship, but need an internship to get experience...

I've set up a chat with the school later today to talk with them more about the program and ask about some other options, so we'll see what they have to say.

Bryn
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Re: Becoming a Mountain Guide

Postby Damien Gildea » Thu Jan 03, 2013 8:47 pm

This guy was on here a while back, and on UKClimbing too, and got his ass handed to him for trying to fudge his way around the qualifications issue, how valid it all was, why he was charging so much money for a holiday etc. This is why he goes in to so much detail at: http://mountaineeringtrainingschool.com ... ain-guide/ He's persistent and good at marketing, I'll give him that, and he now makes more of an effort to explain the terminology. ie. he's no longer spruiking his product as an 'internationally recognised qualification'. The original thread is still on here somewhere, I saw it a few months ago.

It's still a bit disingenuous in that New Zealand is actually a full IMGA country, and NZMGA is really just the (mostly summer) level below full IMGA status. NZ 'glacier guides' are not mountain guides - they take tourists on paths up flat glaciers. You certainly don't need any guiding qualification or 'internship' to get one of those jobs, they're a stepping stone, not an end in themselves requiring any internship or course.

bryncanfly wrote:One of the things I'm interested in with this program is that they provide a structured internship where you get like 200 days interning with them in Patagonia or Alaska, so that would be a good opportunity to polish the resume. I've found it hard to get an internship on my own. I keep getting told that I have to have experience before I can get an internship, but need an internship to get experience...
Bryn


No. You don't 'need' an internship to get experience. You just need to get out, climb more and do more trips away - with friends, on your own, with a club, whatever. You don't need a 'structure' for any of this and the very lack of structure is what appeals to many about climbing in general. Worry about 'structure' when it comes to passing the IMGA exams.

It sounds more like you're looking to pay for a shortcut to a cool-sounding nametag, rather than seeking to formalise the teaching and guiding skills which were built on years of suitable experience actually doing the thing.
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Re: Becoming a Mountain Guide

Postby Jukka Ahonen » Thu Jan 03, 2013 9:48 pm

I can't help but to think that the poster is just promoting the website and the company. Getting links from Summitpost is probably not a bad thing in terms of Google ranks etc.

I might be completely wrong, but I googled around a bit, and saw almost identical threads opened on other forums about the same site. All of them opened by fresh accounts on the forums.

Go figure.

Maybe I have just grown too old and sceptical :D

(And if that is the case, then sorry, op!)
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Re: Becoming a Mountain Guide

Postby benjamingorelick » Thu Jan 03, 2013 10:08 pm

HI, I'm Benjamin Gorelick, the director for the Mountain Guide School. I just spoke to Bryn on the phone and thought I'd give my two cents on things.

Largely, I'd like to agree with what MattyJ and The Chief have said. Mountain guiding is much more than just being a good climber. Solid technical skills will get you only so far; the most important skill is often communication, dealing with others, and other less "tangible" skills. These can only be developed by working in a leadership position with clients, in the real world.

At the same time, it's not impossible to develop these skills in a "school" environment. A program like ours (or any well developed internship/apprenticeship program) should be able to put students into a real life situation where they can gain this experience, but also have support and feedback from an instructor who has a vested interest in the student's development. The whole second half of our program is focused on this type of learning, working as a real guide with real clients with support, feedback, and guidance from a mentor who is there specifically to work with the guide-in-training.

It's a model that's worked very well for us so far.

And Damian, to call our program a "holiday" is ridiculous. You may disagree with the need for structure to become a guide, but many of our students do want exactly that. It makes their learning faster and more effective. Rather than have our students stumble across the skills they need to succeed, we've done our best to train specifically for them.

Our program includes training in many areas that you just don't get by climbing on your own or with buddies. We have:
-A strong education training program, helping our students learn to teach effectively
-A rescue curriculum for each of the terrain types we go into, at a much deeper level than most every recreational program I've seen
-Training on formal risk management
-Communications training, and other areas that just aren't covered in elsewhere.

If you look at most internships, university programs, or climbing/guide training programs that are out there, there isn't much of this kind of training. Again, someone may, over time, develop those "other" skills necessary to be a good guide, but it's usually because they are lucky or had a good mentor along the way. We've tried to formalize that side of training.

I don't make any bones about the need to get out, climb, and get more experience that we can provide on this course. Everyone needs to learn on their own as well as in the classroom. But we provide an avenue to get a lot of field experience (about 470 days) in some pretty remote and challenging terrain, a lot of work experience (about 220 days), and the skills, certifications, industry contacts, and support to help someone get a job in the industry.

Currently, about 92% of our program graduates get a job within 3 months of graduation and are working as guides or instructors all over the world, from Thailand to New Zealand, from Canada to the UK, from the USA to Argentina. We've been successful in helping our students to achieve their goals, and, at the end of the day, that's what it's about.

Best regards,
Benjamin
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Re: Becoming a Mountain Guide

Postby benjamingorelick » Thu Jan 03, 2013 10:11 pm

Jukka Ahonen wrote:I can't help but to think that the poster is just promoting the website and the company. Getting links from Summitpost is probably not a bad thing in terms of Google ranks etc.


Yes, I really enjoy reading about how my program is an overpriced holiday. It's a passtime of mine... :D

The only other thing like this I've seen is the UKC one that Damian referred to earlier. Can you tell me where you found the others?

Best Regards,
Benjamin
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Re: Becoming a Mountain Guide

Postby Damien Gildea » Fri Jan 04, 2013 1:38 am

benjamingorelick wrote: You may disagree with the need for structure to become a guide,


No, I don't disagree with the need for structure. The IFMGA provides a very good and proven structure for becoming a Mountain Guide. It is quite demanding, rigorous in both accepting and qualifying candidates. It's not something you just buy into because you're getting bored in an office job, or don't know what to do after college.

Once again, you may want revise your claims and marketing, because:

...Mountain Guide Training School is the first of its kind to provide you with real life opportunities to teach, lead, and work with clients directly, throughout your training: The final year of the course is spent working as an apprentice instructor and guide. No other course (that we know of) allows you to gain actual work experience as part of your training.


is blatantly untrue. Those training to be IGMA guides go through an Aspirant phase where they work with clients - and get paid, as they should, not pay themselves! lol - and have done so for decades. Teaching and guiding clients - 'work experience' - is an integral part of IGMA training and qualification. That you would be under any impression otherwise is of serious concern for a so-called 'training' provider.

As to your results in turning out confident, competent, dynamic, people-person mountain guides, this is not, like, kinda, you know, doing you any help: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qBbCd7KZZ_Y

The UKC thread mentioned above is at: http://www.ukclimbing.com/forums/t.php? ... 1#x6067145
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Re: Becoming a Mountain Guide

Postby benjamingorelick » Fri Jan 04, 2013 4:14 am

You're right, the AMGA does provide a great, well structured pathway to training/certification in the mountains. I've never argued differently. You're also correct that they are quite strict in their admission guidelines, while our standards are lower. But that's a reflection of who our target audience is: people with moderate outdoor experience who are looking to work as guides or instructors in the industry.

You seem to feel that until a person is ready/qualified to join an AMGA program, that they should only get experience by either climbing on their own and/or doing lower level work (like the glacier guides in New Zealand you bashed earlier). And you're entitled to your opinion. But for people who want a more deliberate training program as they get started in the outdoors, our program provides well developed, structured training. It's not cheating. It's not a "shortcut to a flashy sounding title." It's a "formalized path to gaining the teaching and guiding skills necessary, built on suitable experience of actually doing the thing." Which is exactly what you said it should be.

Again, we are meeting our students goals of helping to get skills, certs, and training necessary to get a job in the outdoors. Some will continue on to train in the AMGA, while others will have the job they want by the time they finish our program. Either way, for our students, we're succeeding.

Damien Gildea wrote: Those training to be IGMA guides go through an Aspirant phase where they work with clients...


The difference is, the AMGA doesn't provide those work opportunities directly, as part of the training, while ours does. With the AMGA, you take a training course, go away for a few months/years while working for a company, then come back and take the final exam.

Ours is similar in structure (teach-work-exam), but we provide the work opportunities as well, which includes a lot of mentoring and support for the instructor in training. Again, given where our students are at, this structure works very well for them.

Damien Gildea wrote:As to your results in turning out confident, competent, dynamic, people-person mountain guides, this is not, like, kinda, you know, doing you any help...


What, the student interviews aren't flashy enough for you? Shall I add some rock and roll music to the background? Throw in some shots of shredding the gnar-gnar? That Lisa came on a short, recreational mountaineering course (not the program we're talking about here) is beside the point, because I've got equally boring, largely unedited interviews with students who were on the guide school. All of whom are working as guides, successfully, in the industry. Which is what matters in the end.
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Re: Becoming a Mountain Guide

Postby bryncanfly » Fri Jan 04, 2013 6:13 am

Well, that veered off track quickly.

Any feedback from someone who has actually attended the school? Worked for the school? Knows someone who completed the program?

I'm looking for first hand insight about the quality of the program/training/job prospects after, not the opinions of the guy who runs the school (biased) or people making judgements based on their speculation and a few paragraphs on a website (equally biased).
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Re: Becoming a Mountain Guide

Postby Kiefer » Fri Jan 04, 2013 3:56 pm

I couldn't agree more with ya on this, Chief. I've been looking more seriously (the last year) into getting into professional guiding since I'm having a mid-life crisis sans money. I've taken folks out into the hills for free (as friends) and guided (for a fee) for the last few years. All the creds any school can bestow upon one doesn't mean shit if you can't relate or try to relate with your clients. Something else I've noticed...guiding without the attitude (ego) that comes naturally with the profession takes practice to leave at home. Like you said, "People skills are paramount."
It really irks me when someone on a forum says, "Oh, I've taken an avy-1 course" or "I'm CPR certified." And.....your point is? I usually counter with a question. "So. Since you have 'experience', what do you do with someone suffering from AMS on a 5.7 pitch? How do you set up your repel? Knots? Or, "How do you proceed when you have deep, multi-layered faceting in a dry snowpack even though the CAIC (Colorado) states moderate potential for slides?"
To me, certs don't mean shit. I look ONLY for experience (in potential partners). All the instruction, books, advice in the world pale in comparison to actually getting out in the field and seeing first-hand.

Last March, I unfortunately had to endure a painful and very hard lesson myself. While hiking in Southern Colorado in the southern Sangre de Cristo Range, my partner and I became seperated. He wanted to continue along this ridge we were following while I wanted to turn back. Weather was foul all day, windy and squalls of snow. In the 15 minutes we were seperated (while he decided to likewise, turn and call it), a massive cloudbank came up and created whiteout conditions. Since I don't carry GPS with me in the backcountry (prefer map, compass, acumen), I got lost & descended the wrong ridge. It was mostly my fault for leaving w/o him. But what he still to this day doesn't understand, is why I didn't continue to wander around and look. Apparently, 'staying put until better weather' isn't in his vocabulary.
I ended up spending an alpine bivy at 12,800ft in the talus during a storm with ONLY a 15° sleeping bag. For 16 hours, I was positive that was it for me. I had a serious talk with the man upstairs. 'If this was going to be it, then let's get this shit over with now' [almost verbatim what I said quietly to myself].
Next morning (around 10:30am), the clouds parted just enough that I could see the ridge I actually needed. I hiked the 9 miles out and back down to the road where a county sheriff was waiting (hopefully) for a lost hiker. I finally met up with my friends at the cop shop around 9:00pm that night, filled out reports etc. The cops thought my buddies actually killed me and left me on the ridge. They were under suspicion for two days and told explicitly to "stick around town." I went three solid days without sleep.

I bring this up because like Chief said, if you were to hire a guide (which I don't have a problem with) or become a guide, how do you instill experiences and lessons like this into someone who only knows maybe, a minority of their wisdom from classes, books & advice? Answer is, you can't.
If you hire a guide, you're not paying for their experience...you're paying for their wisdom. BIG DIFFERENCE.
If you become a guide, you do so because you have a passion for the wilderness, for the wilds...NOT for bragging rights or money (lack of).
You pay for someone's ability to keep a calm head & think rationally when the weather forces an emergency bivy & the chips are down (using my own situation).
I often think of the mountain guide as a mountainous version of the American cowboy. Either way, both pay shit but both are rich in philosophical insights, a deep and pure sense of earning one's pay honestly and seemingly romanticized by everyone else.
Your intent as a guide is not in climbing for your benefit. It's for the benefit of your clients. It's a true labour of love.

I'll more than likely take some courses this winter for my avy-1 and 2 certs. This summer, for single and multi-pitch trad and WFR.
Unless you have those damn letters after your name, no one gives a shit what you've done or what you can do. Plus, one should integrate the lessons with their own identity, personality anyway. I hate cookie-cutter types. But that's what you get with formalized institutions.

I'd be interested to hear what [Kurt Wedberg] has to say about this.

Jukka,
I'd LOVE to move to Finland! I have family there and am myself at least half Finnish.
Though learning that language is like pulling taffy from teeth. Learning the sentence structure of
Icelandic is easier (I think).

The Chief wrote:There is absolutely NO Guide School/Instructional Service out there that will prepare you for Personal Interactions with your client/s nor confronting the obvious emergency situ that you will encounter. People Skills are paramount. That is a given.

You can have all the Certs in the Industry. Not one of them will help when shit hits the fan or you encounter a totally obnoxious/irate client.

We have a saying in the Guiding Community.... Not every 5.14 Climber can be a Guide. Nor is a Guide always a 5.14 Climber.
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Re: Becoming a Mountain Guide

Postby bryncanfly » Fri Jan 04, 2013 5:59 pm

Keifer and Chief,

Thank you very much for the thoughts and insight. One of the things that I've learned along the way is, like you said, that guiding and the mountains in general aren't about how physically strong you are or how hard you can climb. It's about who you are, your attitude, and your mental strength.

I'm going to consider a few options over the next month or so, and I will look into getting some more experience on my own and perhaps hook into an internship if I can. I haven't had much luck yet, but I'll keep plugging away at it.

I do still see some advantages to the guide school, so I'll also look at that a bit more. I'd still like to hear from someone who actually did the program to get their thoughts on the path they chose.

Thank you all.

Bryn
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Re: Becoming a Mountain Guide

Postby AndyJB444 » Sun Jan 06, 2013 9:23 pm

Here's a little insight into what it takes just to make it as whats basically a mountain guide "intern" at RMI... http://www.backpacker.com/may-2011-beco ... 736?page=2

Soft skills and technical (ie. certs) skills both matter. Period. There are many different routes to gain and polish those skills.
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Re: Becoming a Mountain Guide

Postby Bob Burd » Mon Jan 07, 2013 1:13 am

What really stinks is the self-promotion in an under-handed manner. bencanfly and benjamingorelick are one in the same, based on IP address. When the director of an organization has to pose as a potential client to drum up business ... you can fill in the rest.
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Re: Becoming a Mountain Guide

Postby Damien Gildea » Mon Jan 07, 2013 1:19 am

Bob Burd wrote:... bencanfly and benjamingorelick are one in the same, based on IP address. ... you can fill in the rest.


Big surprise.
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