Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Ringer

Well, it's not quite like going through the ringer, but some folks might say that going through your training and examinations to becoming a certified guide is a tough (both physically and mentally) endeavor. Right now I am in the middle of teaching the American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA) Ski Mountaineering Guides Course based near Whistler, British Columbia. This program entails candidates learning and showing proficiency in various ski guiding techniques, including, but not limited to, snowpack assessment, crevasse rescue, skinning, short roping, downhill get the point, a wide variety of backcountry skiing skills. It takes years of personal experience and prerequisite course work such as avalanche training and wilderness first aid, to even get accepted to the program.

I have gone through the ringer. I have done all of my trainings and became certified in Alpine, Rock and Ski guiding, and it took me quite a few years to do so. On average, it takes most candidates tens of thousands of dollars to put them selves through the program and about 3 to 5 years to complete the entire certification process. In the end, it kind of adds up to a PhD in mountain travel. So if you ever wonder why you should hire a certified guide, it is because someone has put them through the ringer and checked to see if they have what it takes to travel with people safely in the mountains.

We have just finished the first few days of the program, and it was greeted by about 80cm of fresh snow in the Whistler region. Wet and wild to say the least. The first two days were in heavy snow and concentrated on technical skills, and not so much skiing and touring.

Day 1's first objective was avalanche beacon tests to see if candidates could find and extract 3 avalanche beacons buried about a meter deep in under 7 minutes. The second test was the construction of rescue sleds and subsequent lowering of a victim down a few sections of steep slopes.

Day 2 focused on crevasse rescue techniques.

Day 3 (today) was about getting out and touring and some rope work on steep technical ascents as well as guiding a few technical descents.

Here are some shots...I have to go to sleep to wake up and do it all again tomorrow! Everyday we meet at 7 am and our end of the day meetings have been finishing at 7pm...and then the students have to go do their homework assignments!

Find that beacon! Probing for a buried target.

Pete Keane bringing us up through rock steps on Blackcomb Peak

Rob Hess tells us how to guide between bites of PB & J on the summit of Blackcomb

Candidates lead us up through some glaciated alpine terrain on Decker Mt.

Ski descent of the 9th Hole on Decker. Can you say 40 degree blower pow?

No comments: