I struggled to keep up as my “client” raced down the icy arete. Falling to our left would have sent us careening down thousands of meters of icy granite, falling right would have deposited us into a bus-sized crevasse. We continued sprinting across the glacier to the base of the 9-pitch Rebuffat route on the still snow and ice chocked, south face of the Aiguille du Midi in Chamonix, France. I frantically racked up as my “client” calmly removed a yellow notebook from his coat pocket and began to write.
This was day one of the American Mountain Guides Association’s Advanced Alpine Guide Course/Aspirant Exam and my “client” (complete with yellow exam notebook) was an experienced and uber-fit IFMGA mountain guide and examiner. At this point I had seriously begun to question whether traveling this far from home in Crested Butte, CO to spend the summer guiding season in the French Alps, was really the right decision. As the route unfolded with pitch after pitch of golden granite I soon found my groove and all my apprehension melted away.
Chamonix needs little introduction with regards to it’s terrain and ease of access. What you may not know is that Cham is really the birthplace of mountain guiding and is host to the largest number of active mountain guides worldwide. With several courses and exams still left in my progression before becoming a fully certified AMGA/IFMGA mountain guide, Chamonix was the natural choice to help me develop my high alpine guiding skills. After countless hours of emailing and phone conversations, I had somehow convinced two of my American peers to make the pilgrimage with me to the Alps and take our course and exam in this intimidating venue.
Throughout the twelve day course we were thoroughly challenged by the varied terrain, complex glaciers and spectacular routes, all the while musing about how much more approaching we would have had to endure, had the course been held in the states.
Regardless of the intimidation factor and the intricacies of Euro-style guiding, I completed the course and passed the thorough examination. Upon completion, I was granted IFMGA Aspirant status and was therefore able to continue my learning through summer work under the supervision of a full IFMGA mountain guide.
The process of becoming a fully certified mountain guide through the American Mountain Guides Association is a rewarding though sometimes stressful process, and requires substantial financial investment.
I was able to participate in this program through the 2009 full tuition scholarship from Osprey. I am proud to have had the support of Osprey and want to sincerely express my appreciation for this scholarship. Osprey’s support of the guiding profession in the United States and most specifically their help in assisting aspiring guides achieve their goals, is what sets them apart from other manufacturers. This opportunity certainly improved my guiding skills in Alpine terrain and as I look forward to future exams, I am endlessly grateful for having been granted this opportunity.
AMGA Certified Ski Mountaineering Guide/ IFMGA Aspirant Guide