Showing posts with label AMGA. Show all posts
Showing posts with label AMGA. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Giving Back- Amazing Climbs, Exceptional Climbers

Climbers descending from the Parrot with the Dufourspitze in the background
Some guiding seasons are punctuated by epic conditions others by extraordinary routes. 2015's guiding season was marked by exceptional clientele for me.

Monday, January 25, 2016

An Impossible Dream Realized: Becoming an AMGA Rock Guide

Climbing trip to Les Calanques in 2004. From left to right, Chad, Mathieu, and Erin.
Photo by Matthew Smith.
Sitting on the couch with my old Dell laptop, I remember scrolling through the lengthy American Mountain Guide Association's prerequisites on their website back in my college apartment in Bellingham, WA. I knew I could get through the ski guiding discipline with some work, but glancing at the rock guiding discipline made me unsure whether this was a possibility for me. To complete the program, one needs to have completed over 130 prerequisite climbs, 26 days of course and examination, guide routes up to grade V, and be confident leading 5.10+/A2 (sport and traditional). This list was intimidating to me as I had done very little climbing up to this point, and most was following my friends up routes.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Falling Off the Send Train, Blowing the Red Point and Other Metaphors for Life...

Backyard Project finally sent 5.12d GnR, Upper West Bolton, Vermont
This past year for me has been a rollercoaster of emotions, physical accomplishments, and mental stress.  I have experienced some of my life’s highest highs and close to my lowest lows.  Like a red point in climbing I know what I am supposed to do, I’ve rehearsed the movements, I’ve dreamt and visualized my success and honestly I can taste it, but like what often happens when pushing yourself at the limit, I have taken my fair share of whippers this year. I’ve experienced some of my proudest accomplishments and practiced rolling with failure.  With these failures I adjust, learn and try to grow so next send I’ll be that much more ready.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Ski Boots or Rock Shoes? A journey toward the IFMGA.

As many of you throughout the country are transitioning from winter to spring, trading ski boots and ice axes for rock shoes and crash pads.  I had the pleasure of extending my season and continuing my guide education in Pemberton British Columbia on the American Mountain Guides Association Ski Exam.  The Ski Exam is the eight day culmination of the ski track and candidates are assessed and certified at the IFMGA standard in addition to furthering our general education.  Candidates come to the exam with a large amount experience, not to mention all the course work including a 12-day Ski Guide Course, 10-day Advanced Ski Guide Course and Aspirant Exam, a 4-day AIARE Level II, and a 5-day AIARE Level III.  That’s 31 days of professional development not to mention in house guide trainings, personal training days and days with actual clients. 

Coming up one of our many technical challenges during our heli day! Photo Amos Whiting
Gear I couldn't live with out; P.A.S Pro Airbag pack, Barryvox pulse, Fast lock probes, Ultimate Hoody softshell jacket, Alyeska GTX Pro jacket and most importantly the Alyeska GTX Pro Realization pant. Having the built in harness worked amazing for everything from quick rappels to crevasse rescue. 

Thursday, March 12, 2015

A Smart Pack: Skiing off the Aiguille du Midi

The Aiguille du Midi in Chamonix, France is one of the most famous lifts in the world. It holds the record as the highest vertical ascent cable car in the world, as it brings you up to 3842m (12,605ft). After passing through the famous ice tunnel, and making it down the arĂȘte, you can ski a variety of big mountain descents through heavily crevassed and unmarked terrain. Unless you are 100 percent confident in your glacier and ski mountaineering skills, it is wise to hire a local guide. When you ski down to Chamonix, it is a 2807m (9,200ft) descent. The access gives you the ability to explore high mountain terrain with incredible ease that is hard to replicate anywhere else in the world. However, the access needs to be respected because in Chamonix you can go from drinking an espresso to almost killing yourself in less than 5 minutes. Be sure you are prepared. Here is a look at what I carry with me down a ski run off the Aiguille du Midi.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

"Oh la!" Chamonix

Erin Smart on the ArĂȘte des Cosmiques with the glaciers of Mont Blanc in the background.
Photo: David Moscowitz

“Erin, it’s supposed to be hard, it's a hard climb. As you get better, it remains hard, the only difference is you are able to get up it.” My friend Mike told me this at the beginning of my climbing season this summer. Surprisingly simple to some, yet I had always believed that natural born climbers had an easy time on harder grades. Probably because they just make it look so easy.

Friday, January 3, 2014

AMGA Rock Courses

Being a part of the American Mountain Guides Association Instructor Team means I get to spend a good portion of the fall teaching up and coming guides the ins and outs of leading clients through the vertical world. This year I was able to teach Rock Instructor Courses in North Conway, NH; Smith Rock, OR and Red Rocks, NV as well as an Advanced Rock Guide Course in Red Rocks.

Demos on White Horse Ledge in North Conway

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

A Lifetime of Alpine Learning Ahead--Success With the AMGA Alpine Guide Exam!

“You can't win if you don't play” is dubious advice often doled out by lottery agencies and the like, but it is solid counsel in the world of alpine climbing: Even in the face of slim weather odds, you've got to at least put yourself into position for success and be ready to maximize it should the slim odds work in your favor. And besides—what's the use in having high-quality alpine gear if you don't occasionally put it to the test? With those two bits of logic in place, I sat in the Newark Airport and stared grimly at the weather forecast for my destination, Washington State, where I was headed for the American Mountain Guide Association Alpine Guide Exam and steeled myself for the fates that awaited me. Fortunately, time and time again that alpine logic held true during my recent American Mountain Guide Association (AMGA) Alpine Guide Exam (AGE).

Enjoying the last of the Cascades summertime "blue bubble", prepping for the Exam on the East Ridge of Forbidden. 

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Peter Terbush Memorial Outdoor Leadership Summit

Each June I have the opportunity to teach a segment of the "Summit". This program was started at Western State Colorado University in remembrance of Pete Turbush who died in a climbing related rock fall accident in Yosemite back in 1999 ( Pete wanted to become a mountain guide, so his parents set up this foundation to give college students the fundamental technical experience as well as outdoor leadership training necessary to follow in Peter's path.
 I have taught both the mulit-pitch rock segment as well as the single pitch course for the "Summit" over the past several years, and it is always fun to remember what it was like when I was an up-and-coming guide learning these techniques.

Learning lowering techniques at Taylor Canyon

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Rock n Road Trip

Rocktober rolled around and it was finally time to get serious about climbing....and throw in a bit of surfing for good measure. This year’s AMGA Annual Meeting was held in Red Rocks National Conservation Area just outside Las Vegas. It is pretty amazing that this place hold thousands of routes and remote big walls all within sight of the Strip.
While most of my week there was taken up by meetings, clinics and parties, we managed to get some quality cragging in the Calico Hills and even a couple longer routes including Unimpeachable Groping on the Ginger Buttress. I have walked past this 6 pitch bolted route many times and now I wonder why I hadn’t climbed it before? Sweet crimps and chicken heads and a couple bolted cracks on a steep sandstone wall.
Walking in to Juniper Canyon, Red Rocks, NV

Looking good after a week of climbing and camper living!

Since I had to be in Joshua Tree a week later and it didn’t make sense to drive back to Colorado and then back to Cali, Keitha and I decided to keep moving west and do some surfing. With a condo in Laguna Beach lined up through a friend, we had a chance to stretch out outside of the camper, have a shower and a real bed for a few nights. We spent the weekend at the beach surfing and paddle boarding in the sunny 80° weather. No wonder everyone loves California. Come Monday Keitha had to get back to work in Crested Butte so I put her on a plane bound for Grand Junction. I on the other hand, had a few more days until the AMGA Rock Instructor Course I was to be teaching started in Joshua Tree. Each day I would wake up in Laguna, attend to some e-mails and CBAC tasks, then head to the beach intent on a couple more waves before hitting the road. Each night I decided the next day would be the last and I would move on. Apparently I really like surfing because I stayed in Laguna and surfed everyday for a week until I finally had to leave for J-Tree. 

Catching the big one!

Having never climbed at Joshua Tree National Park before, I figured it would be good to show up a day early to get a lay of the land and try out the friction-y crack climbing. Not having a partner I decided to spend the day jogging around to different areas doing some scrambling up the walk off descents and then a bit of rope soloing to test the cracks. The style of climbing reminded me a lot of my home crag, Taylor Canyon. Both are very textured granite, funky butt cracks, run out slabs and total sandbags! I really enjoyed the climbing and the “mini-golf” style of short 1-2 pitch routes that you can rack up quickly, then walk over to the next bump and climb that one too. The camping is super convenient and I didn’t have to move the camper the whole 11 days I was there. Each day was a casual stroll to the chosen crag, and I would bum a ride into town a couple times for a shower and to check in with the infranet to see what was happening in the world. We spent election night around a campfire listening to AM radio waiting for the good news on Obama’s re-election.
Classic slab climb "Walk on the Wild Side"

AMGA swarm on Lost Horse Wall

I have enjoyed teaching AMGA courses this year. Even the first module courses are at a high enough level to make it interesting for me as an instructor, and it is great to watch the students progress and gain knowledge throughout a ten day course. After a couple days of ground school and lecturing, we managed to tick a bunch of J-Tree classics along the way. The 3 pitch slab route “Walk on The Wild Side”, the insecure “Bird on a Wire” and tips crack “Dandelion” were all sent in fine form by the students, while I got on the wildly overhanging 5.7 offwidth “Geronimo” crack as a demo. My co-instructor Amos and I got a couple sprint laps on the Gunsmoke traverse in the evenings before it got dark (at 5:30!) to get the pump on before the cold days set in. The final 4 days were windy with high temperatures in the low 50’s which kept us chasing the sun and scrambling for cover as soon as the sun set. For my first trip to J-Tree I managed to bad many of the classic moderate routes around the Hidden Valley Campground and got to scope a couple cool looking lines for the next trip as well!

A long drive home left with with tons of admin work to catch up on. For the first time in a couple years I didn't have family in town for Thanksgiving, so Keitha and I decided to head back west to Creeksgiving in Indian Creek for some warm crack climbing. It had been a few years since I was in the Creek, and man did I get spanked! Super pumpy liebacking and mega gobies reminded me that I have been planning to build that crack machine to train on in the house. I guess some extra trips to the desert might work too!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

AMGA Rock Instructor Course

Gaining ground in Eldo Canyon
This May I began my tenure as an instructor for the American Mountain Guides Association. It is an honor that my guiding peers deem me fit for this job, and I went into my first course with open eyes. I was teaching a Rock Instructor Course (RIC) which is the preferred entry course for aspiring mountain guides. This course is designed to make sure the students are prepared for future alpine, ski or rock guide courses with the basics of safe guiding. The course has changed a bit since I went through the program some 10 years ago. Many new "tweaks" have been added over the years to create a better, more rounded course. 

Tyrolean Traverse in Boulder Canyon

The course was held in the Boulder area, utilizing Eldorado Canyon, Boulder Canyon and the Flatirons. The weather was perfect, even giving us one rainy day to work on rescue skills. Not too hot or too cold on any given day.

Setting off up the Wind Ri

After a couple days of "ground school" walking through different methods of placing protection, building anchors, rapping, lowering, etc that guides use, it was finally time to hit the rocks. We got in many quality pitches in Eldo Canyon on the Wind Ridge, the Bastille and the West Ridge as well as on Cobb Rock in Boulder Canyon and the classic 1st Flatiron.
Each day the students lead more and more, practicing the guiding techniques they had learned. It was great to watch the progression as they practiced something, got better, then owned it by the end of the course.

Is that a Mammut rope I see?

Being new to the AMGA Instructor Team, I wasn't too sure how the course was going to play out for me. Having been an AIARE avalanche course instructor for many years I am no stranger to the teaching scene, and I have taught many similar rock courses for Western State College over the years, but this was different. Now I had the opportunity to train young guides who are on their way to becoming the most qualified in the profession.  It was a great experience for me, and I am now looking forward to teaching other AMGA guide training courses in the alpine and ski disciplines as well.