The Red Rock Canyon area is the premier training ground for rock climbing guides who are seeking the highest level of rock climbing certification, the AMGA Rock Guide. This highest level of certification stands above all the other rock certifications, such as the Rock Instructor, the Single Pitch, and the Climbing Wall. To reach this level the guides must first complete a ten day Rock Guide Course then meet a new set of prerequisites before advancing to the ten day AMGA Advanced Rock Guide Course and Aspirant Exam. This post is one course and the journey guides take along the way to becoming the AMGA Certified Rock Guide!!!
AMGA Advanced Rock Guide Course
The Advanced Rock Guide Course/AE (ARGC/AE) covers the tools used when guiding and instructing multiple clients on longer routes up to Grade V—management of 3rd and 4th class terrain, technical descents, simultaneous multi-client belaying, lowering and rappelling, management of transitions, and short roping and short pitching techniques. It emphasizes effective risk management while maximizing client rewards.
The Red Rock is home to some fantastic sand stone rock with long and complex routes. The peaks hold many classic lines that follow steep difficult cracks and long intricate faces. The approaches and descents are lengthy and in many places technical as well.
Guides must first pass a movement test on the first day. Intimidating, yes it is, but all guides must be able to handle stress and continue onward and upward guiding their guests. The above photo is Lindsay ascending a route called the Fox. This is beauty, an Indian creek style crack that widens at the top. Guides must carry a standard rack then add on the big pro.
Additional big gear for the Fox.
The first few days of the course set the pace for the remainder. Here Rob Hess is teaching a clinic on short rope and short pitching techniques before we disperse into groups to tackle a long and varied 3rd and 4th class climb utilizing this same technique.
With the first days completed its time to ascend the classic routes. Above Lance is working around the crux roof on a route called Black Magic.
Thomas is finding the line on another route named Lotta Balls. The name comes from the small, round iron deposits that are attached to the face in the form of little balls.
Cracks are abundant of this steep line. Alison ascends the first pitch of Ginger Cracks.
Zach is high above us on the Community Pillar a fantastic wide crack and chimney climb. All styles of movement techniques are used to climb this amazing route with face, cracks and even chimneys that challenge the leader pitch after pitch.
A few of the Red Rock climbs enter the depths of the mountains. Above Zach climbs a pitch totally enclosed by the rock with a exit hole at the top.
Rock horns or chicken heads are a useful tools for the guide. The sandstone does not offer many but here is a good example of one used for a quick belay, then an anchor on a section of 3rd class rock.
Much of our practice time is on multi pitch routes. A first goal is to find proper ledges with good stances for the team. On these ledges high above the desert, transitions are practiced and refined. Teams of three work towards efficiently ascending the climbs with solid anchors, proper belays, fine rope work and a high level of movement skills.
Its the beauty that arises on a climb. This day is perfect, sunny, blue skies, and cool temps, a fine reward for us!!!
What goes up must descend. On technical descents we learn and practice techniques such as rappels and lowers. Most of the accidents in North America happens on the descent and many at the end of the day. Guides and climbers are tired and stressed. This is a time when focus goes down. On this course we work hard to recognize hazards, mitigate the risks and maintaining guide and guest security.
The education continues with demonstration and practice. It all leads to refinement of guide skills and techniques applied during guided climbs.
This past course was full with 12 students and 4 instructors. We all had a safe, educational and fun learning experience. The climbs were challenging, the days were long, our limits were pushed as individuals and as a team. I am thankful to have had this opportunity to work with an amazing group of guides once again.