How To Choose A Mountain Guide|
Historically, training of
professional mountain guides in the US has been loosely organized and
inconsistently regulated. While some guide services conduct in-house training,
few guides have had any formal, comprehensive training.
As a result,
anyone can hang up a sign and claim to be a competent
Only a few climbing areas in the
United States, such as Joshua Tree National Park, require any training or
evaluation in order to guide. Picture this: a guide and client are 600 feet off
the ground, 500 feet from the top and a violent summer storm comes pounding in.
Getting out of this potentially dangerous situation calls upon a guide's
expertise and training. Although risk can never be eliminated, proper training
can help minimize it. Climbing skills alone are not enough. Guiding experience
and training, as well as evaluation of guiding-specific skills, are essential
to maximize competency and greatly reduce potential hazards.
American Mountain Guides
Consumers expect formal training
of a doctor or lawyer. Countries in the European Alps require completion of a
vigorous training and examination program before leading a client on a rope.
Shouldn't you ask the same from your American guide?
One of goals of the American
Mountain Guides Association (AMGA) is to raise the technical and professional
standards of mountain guiding. Membership in the prestigious International
Federation of Mountain Guides Associations (IFMGA) has already confirmed that
AMGA education and certification programs meet the worldwide standard. For the
consumer, the tested AMGA standard can be the tool to help choose the right
guide or guide service.
The AMGA is this country's only
organization to ever promote a uniform, comprehensive, nationwide training
program for mountain guides at the international level. Choosing a guide that
is CERTIFIED by the AMGA ensures that the
individual has demonstrated the minimum acceptable level of
specific skills that separate the professional guide from the recreational
climber. Each Certified guide has met an internationally recognized standard of
expertise and professionalism and actively participates in continuing education
throughout his or her career. In addition, an AMGA Certified guide meets or
exceeds high standards in areas such as client care, risk management, first
aid, avalanche awareness and high-angle rescue training. Further, someone who
is a fully certified IFMGA Mountain Guide has permission to guide in nearly any
IFMGA-member country, including Peru, New Zealand, Canada and most European
The AMGA also has a program that
ACCREDITS climbing schools. An Accredited company has
passed a brief review of climbing activities, hiring policies, permits and
insurance. Keep in mind, however, that Accreditation is a general review, not
an in-depth evaluation of the company's guides or their skills.
How do you select the right
Ask the following questions in
addition to considering Certification and Accreditation.
- Does the person or guide
service have insurance?
- Will the person or guide
service provide a list of previous clients as a reference?
- How long has the person been
guiding or how long has the guide service been in operation?
- Has the company had any
accidents, and if so, why?
- What are the company's
medical training requirements?
- What are the company's guide
- If the trip will take place
outside the guide's home base, how familiar is he or she with the destination?
With all these points to
contemplate, remember that there are qualified guides who are not Certified and
qualified schools that are not Accredited. AMGA Certification and
Accreditation, along with membership, are voluntary. For a list of AMGA
Certified Guides and Accredited Companies send $1 and a SASE to AMGA Referrals
or check out our website. For information about AMGA membership and our
training programs, please send $4 for a course and membership catalog or get
the info from our homepage. Our mailing address is 710 Tenth St., Suite 101,
Golden, CO 80401 and our website address is: www.amga.com.