Rock Guide Certifications
Any guide in the United States should possess certifications with either PCGI (Professional Climbing Guides Institute) or AMGA (American Mountain Guides Association). Both of these organizations provide a variety of certifications for different levels of professional guiding. The classes practice important rescue drills in the case of any kind of unusual emergency as well as technical knowledge of the gear and methods of efficiency. A climber who has taken the classes would be better informed to guide. In the case of PCGI’s certifications, the instructors often recommend practicing the class skills for 6 months to a year before even attempting the first assessment.
Once a rock climbing guide has earned a certification, s/he will need to renew their certifications every 2-3 years. The gear, knowledge and rigging practices of rock climbing have come down a long line of trial and error evolution and continue to be improved as time goes on. Be sure your guide is certified and those certifications are up to date!
Wilderness First Responder or Wilderness First Aid
To complete any rock guide certification, one must also possess a WFR (Wilderness First Responder) or WFA (Wilderness First Aid) certification. The WFR is a longer, more comprehensive course. At NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School) the WFR includes a 10 day, 80 hour intensive course of medical knowledge and lifesaving skills that can be used in backcountry emergency situations. The WFA is a lighter course of only 2-2.5 days also covering important outdoor medicine and other safety skills such as CPR. These certifications can also be obtained from Wilderness Medical Associates. These certifications do expire and must also be renewed every 2-3 years.
Insurance and Permits
Owners and operators of most Rock Climbing Guide services are required to have insurance and permits to run a legal business. In a climbing area that requires permits (this includes national parks, national forest areas and most public lands such as BLM) the guides are required by law to hold permits, and in order to attain one they must have insurance. The exception to this rule would be in a climbing area that does not require a permit. In this case, the guide service technically could risk operating a business without insurance, but to our knowledge, this is incredibly rare! Insurance and permits are very much like the overhead cost of any professional guide service and are taken quite seriously by career guides. A guide that operates without this may be guiding outside of the ethics of his/her industry. If you find a guide that offers a price that is drastically lower than all the competition, this could be your first red flag that they are operating illegally (unpermitted/uninsured).
Though not a skill that is studied, tested and certified, good communication is a golden point for being a rock climbing guide. Rock climbing is such a personal activity and once you are on the rock (or even at the foot of your climb), you may really feel the need to connect with your guide. Be sure to sign on with people you feel comfortable communicating with. Most guide services are small, owner-operated companies. Chances are, the person you speak to on the phone or email with during your inquiries could be your guide or someone very close to your guide. If you feel uncomfortable with the guide you speak with on the phone or via email during your inquiry stage, you may want to consider choosing a different guide. Again, this is not a tested skill included in the guides certifications and the dynamics of this will vary from person to person. Regardless, it is something important to keep in mind when you are looking for a pro to spend your special outing with!
Last, but not least, good listeners make good guides. Though the guide has a vast set of skills and knowledge that they bring to the table to facilitate the climbing day, the goals and objectives of the day should really be catered around you. To achieve this, you will need someone who has thoroughly listened to your experience with climbing, where your interests lie, what you are confident with or nervous about and what you hope to get out of the session. Every client has a different combination of experiences, skill sets and goals. A good guide will tune into these goals and bring his/her best to the table to help you have the best day possible.
How To Choose A Rock Climbing Guide - What To Look For In A Rock Climbing Guide
Stone Adventures rock climbing guide Aron Stockhausen doing some on-the-wall coaching, belaying, and swing-management.
ROCK CLIMBING GUIDES
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