AMGA Training

This pas weekend, MMG Guide Ben Mirkin was in charge of an AMGA Single Pitch Instructor Exam. A big thanks to all the candidates on the exam.
Alex Teixeira
We had a fantastic group of participants in our AMGA SPI Assessment this weekend!  Our aspiring and re certifying guides included individuals from Atlantic Climbing School, the new Director of Carrabassett Valley Academy’s ALPS program.Like any AMGA course or assessment, the emphasis was on learning and bettering ourselves as climbers and guides – which I deinetly believe was accomplished this weekend.

I am reminded about how essential this type of training is for any climber leading groups, guiding, or just taking friends climbing.

Keep playing and keep learning!

Ben Mirkin

IMG_2787

IMG_2791

IMG_2779

 IMG_2806

IMG_2802

For some people its shoes. Others, perhaps, baseball caps. Myself, I have a a problem with soft shell pants. I’ve discovered that they are the perfect pant for nearly any occasion. I have my standard pair for shoulder season rock, ice and mild mountaineering days. I have a pair with waterproof knees and butt for for backcountry skiing. I have an old pair I use for gardening and an even older pair (bought in high school) that I pulled out for landscaping in the rain. The benefits of soft shells are simply to great to list them all, but some of my favorites are that they’re durable, extremely comfortable, don’t get smelly musty or damp, and dry super quick. They’re such a huge part of my everyday wardrobe, that a girl I was seeing for a bit commented on the first time she saw me wearing pants other than soft shells, a few months in to the relationship.  Despite my affinity for them, I couldn’t find a pant to fit one particular niche. The summer climbing soft shell seemed to be an elusive pant.

 runbold-pt-m_black_gho1_rgb_Zoom2

The Runbold Pant

This was a noticeable absence in my soft shell line up, as Im not a fan of wearing shorts when climbing. The perfect pant needed to be light enough to not overheat in on hot summer days, easy to roll up for long approaches, and preferably offer some sun protection.( read this if your curious why UPF rated clothes are better for sunny activities). Naturally Id want the pants to be stretchy and fast drying, after all, thats the whole reason for my love affair with soft shell.

IMG_5715 IMG_5695

Stretchiness trial on The Groton High Grade, Marshfield VT

When I saw the Runbold pants on Mammut’s website they sounded like they’d fit the bill, even though Mammut markets them as being ideal for hiking and backpacking, and does not mention climbing. I’ve been using them for a few months now and can happily report that they’ve filled the void in my soft shell line up perfectly! My personal elasticity gives out far before that of the pants, and even if I did yoga 5 times a week I don’t think I could flex in such a way to find the limits of their stretchiness. The pants get wet at the mention of water, but this is to be expected for such a breathable fabric, and the upside is that they dry incredibly fast and don’t keep in your own moisture. The thinness of the material also makes this an incredible packable pant for a multi day climbing trip or throwing them in your pack just in case you want pants. The pants roll up easily and even have a tab and loop system to help keep the rolls in place. I’ve found this feature slightly superfluous and intent to cut it off soon, thought its never felt like it gets in the way. One of my favorite features that seems to be ubiquitous in soft shell pants is the right thigh pocket. This is the perfect place to keep a phone, camera, map or route topo, and my go to location for stashing things I want handy while climbing a multi pitch or guiding.

 1525445_10152979250095017_8955870859119808642_n

The Dynamic Duo, Runbold Pants, Ultimate Light Hoody

The thing that cemented my love affair with these pants was their blue sign certification. This means the production of the fabric used in the pants meets strict human and environmental health standards as set forth and verified by an independent auditor. Third party certifications like this give the consumer faith that a product is being produced in a humane and sustainable way. By buying products with these certifications the consumer can tell businesses that they support environmentally healthy business practices. For more information on the process of getting BlueSign certified, read this.

11391161_10152979251070017_9173856832033775303_n

Shirt and Pants. Now the perfect summer combo

The other soft shells in my quiver give me a forlorn look now whenever I pass the gear room where they’e dutifully waiting their turn. They’ll just have to wait till winter.

-Erik

The crew at MMG has been making a solid transition into Rock Climbing over the past month so that our guiding game is tip top, and our arm strength is where we want it for personal climbing. We’ve had many morning and evening sessions at Rumney where pitches are done quickly to build miles, and harder routes are worked on to build strength. Many of us have been seeing some personal climbing gains there already this spring and are looking forward to carrying that into pushing ourselves later on in the year.

IMG_1638

Alex Scoping out The Book of Solemnity

 Just as we train our bodies for the transition to rock climbing in the spring, we train our minds for the transition to the unique challenges of guiding on rock that we haven’t faced since last fall. Here’s a snap shot of what we’ve been up to lately.

IMG_1790

Evening view from Cathedral

Erik and Alex have had multiple outings to Cathedral this spring to lap the classic hard routes we might get on with talented guests, as well as scope out some new out of the way ones for that busy weekend day.

IMG_1689

Alex on Raising the Roof

IMG_1684

Alex leading up Raising the Roof

IMG_1681

Sinker jams on the Liger

The Two of them also took a trip out to Albany Slabs, a premiere backcountry climbing site. This cliff, situated off the Kancamangus Highway has a real remote feel, and solid granite. It has a collection of moderate 1 and 2 pitch slab routes that make for a relaxing but new day, hiking in, climbing in a wild place and hiking out. They’re looking forward to taking some adventurous guests to this out of the way gem of a crag sometime this summer.

IMG_1745

Alex heading up Rainbow Slabs

IMG_1743

view from Rainbow Slabs

A good collection of  the MMG  crew met last weekend to sharpen up our technical skills. Luckily the day was rainy making us much more eager to work out the rope work kinks than grab a couple of pitches while at Rumney. We found a perfect site for the work under the overhanging cliff at Orange Crush. Its always great to have a gathering of the minds, to exchange different ways of doing things and bounce ideas of eahcother, let alone catch up with co workers and friends!

11204974_918958421500691_6088280805696173885_n 10441918_918958371500696_7200551002339028053_n 11377301_918958451500688_7474430637400910078_n

This summer will be filled with a lot of professional development or MMG guides. It’s starting with Erik taking a Rock Guide course in North Conway that is co taught by company founder and mentor-extrodianaire, Art Mooney. We’re a quarter of the way through this course and looking forward to a handful more courses and exams for the MMG guides who are hoping to up their professional game this summer!

IMG_1789

Art instructing on the 10 day AMGA Rock Guide Course

IMG_1819

Alain Comeau instructing on Erik’s Rock Instructor Course

IMG_1822

Alain and some Atlantic Climbing School Guides on the Rock Guide Course along with Erik 

The crew at MMG is stoked to keep refining skills and put them to practice this summer when you come to visit! thanks for checking in.

Following our week of ice we transitioned right into a weekend of ice. On Saturday Alex ventured north to Lake Willoughby with guests Mark and Matt.

1472899_869545609775306_464325989269143139_n

This is the premiere venue in the east for big, bad, bold ice climbs! starting the day in -20 temps tempered the expectations some, but they still managed a couple of multi-pitch 4+ lines. Certainly a day for all to be proud of.

10994976_869545949775272_2714791710988056221_n 11022538_869545933108607_6744882909734080361_n 10153769_869545643108636_3278777468188382430_n

___________________________________________________________

On Saturday and Sunday, Erik had two couples for an introduction to ice climbing. Day one was spent at Kinsman Notch, honing in the basics. Day two was spent basking in the sun (first day temps were above freezing in almost a month!) at Newfound Lake.

Thanks to all our guests from this weekend! we hope to see you again soon.

The Mooney Mountain Crew

Kiitella_AMGA2014_650

The award

This October MMG founder, senior guide, and guide mentor Art Mooney was the recipient of the 2014 American Mountain Guides Association  ”Outstanding Guide Award”. As a mentee of Art I have been lucky enough to experience, first hand, the power of his presence and witness the excellence with which he practices his profession. This award is an acknowledgement by the AMGA community of this dedication and  his contributions to the profession of mountain guiding.

IMG_3728

Art Mooney in action

To many of us who know him, Art has represented the best of guiding in the United States. His mentorship of aspiring guides has helped many reach their full potential. His family, friends, and the MMG team couldn’t be more proud Art. We are all very lucky to shared the mountains with him.

Thank you are for all you have done and continue to do.

Congratulations!

Alex Teixeira

This past week my work has been with a group of 4 rock climbing instructors seeking to raise the bar for themselves and their guests. Each of these instructors put themselves and their skills on the line by guiding Alain and myself around Cathedral and Whitehorse. The end goal was certification as a Rock Instructor with the American Mountain Guides Association.

Rock Instructor Certification is designed to apply to most “cragging” style rock climbing areas in the United States. It is meant for guides or aspiring guides who work on routes that are Grade III or shorter. While these routes are multi-pitch, they are relatively straightforward and may involve complex approaches and/or descents. Time factors are  important on all of these routes.

 instructor_RI_B&W

  The photos below are of the instructors guiding us around last week. Great job to all of you for continuing your education and your commitment to guiding!!!

IMG_3967 IMG_3975  IMG_3986

Whitehorse – a pleasurable day out on the slabs with AMGA guides.

IMG_3982

IMG_3989

Cathedral Ledge – fantastic steep cracks and flakes.

IMG_3998

Diedre – one of the best corner systems around the NH area.

IMG_4003 IMG_4008

Rock rescue skills in action – mock drills for the instructors tool box.

IMG_4012

Solid, efficient,movement – is number one for the climber, instructor, guide.

When choosing your guide look into the guides page. The information in bios will tell you who may be the best fit for your instruction and guiding day.

SPI guides are trained for the single pitch terrain and the RI are trained for multi pitch. Many certified SPI guides are in the process with mentorship and training for the RI. The Rock Guide is trained for the longest, complex routes.

Thanks to all of you for a great week.

Art Mooney

The time is here – New Hampshire & Vermont Ice climbs and Mountains are ready for your guided winter ascent. Here at Mooney Mountain Guides we do our part by holding an annual pre -winter guides training day . The theme varies from year to year but one thing is common – frequent meet ups and training with the MMG guides put us all on a similar page when we are working alone or together in the mountains.

IMG_6672

New complete anchor

One theme this year was to Yank the Mank on Kinsman Notch Ice Climbs. The guides climbed all of the popular routes at the main area and cut out all the old webbing and replaced with bomber new redundant rope anchors – complete with double links to use when descending the routes.

IMG_0674The Mank – old webbing and tat in need of replacement.

IMG_6692

As always another theme for the guides was to ice climb. This is what we love to do climb and ascend ice routes of all types is what we did.

IMG_6691

Todd getting into action!!!

IMG_6683

Mike working up the center route – tricky crux at the top.

  IMG_0675

Jim – MMG’s Mountain Master.

IMG_6671

Erik – thank you – for prepping all the anchor material.

IMG_6660

No down time today – a technical clinic.

Refresh, Renew, Reboot the mind.

 IMG_6665

Simple Anchors – the connection to ice and the belay.

    IMG_6698

Erik and Matt

IMG_0679

Efficiency when working the Window Munter and One Handed Clove

IMG_0681

Mooney Mountain Guides Team.

Thanks to all for joining in.

Big Thanks to Mammut for our new Trion Pro guide pack!!!

Art Mooney

The Red Rock AMGA Rock Guide Exam has passed by. Upon reflection I will share my views of subtle but extremely important strategies that I apply as the examiner. Any examination process will amp up the heartbeat, unnatural stress is automatically created, the apprentice rock guides and myself are both put on the hot seat. Exam candidates must put on the guide hat for an entire week and display their finer guide performance and I am in the role to view the performance with an open mind removing myself from any vaccuum or routine I may currently reside in. At times candidates can be on sighting climbs up to 5.10+ that I may or may not have climbed and or guided myself.

There is a place in each of these exams where we all Reach a Higher Ground.

The exam start has been adjusted and changed over the years and now begins with a climbing movement day on the stone. I have the view that  so much arises on this day of climbing sport and traditional routes. The scene I create is a professional but relaxed setting and candidates and examineers can perform movements in a setting that promotes us to reach the top. Risk management is achieved, movements are gauged, the exam pressure can be decreased and lastly its a fun day on the rocks.

The next four days are for the candidates to showcase their multi pitch guide skills on the walls of Red Rock Canyon. Compassion and understanding is a key component for me as the examiner. Each morning I take a step back and revisit when I put my exam shoes on in my first exam 1999. This certainly helps set the stage for the day. Many of the routes we climb are moderate multi pitch lines in the 5.7 to 5.10 range but there are times we venture into remote areas onto the lesser traveled routes. This is the place to encourage solid guiding within ones limits. Any guide should know what it will take to red line their abilities and be able to shut it down before reaching this zone. A true self assessment and solid decision making must take place as it represents excellent risk management as a guide.

Our final day is a review of the entire exam week. First on each course or exam I conduct an overall exam discussion with each of us highlighting important moments (our crux) and then a time on which we sent  (achieved excellent results) during the day or climb. The completion must followthrough with personal talk to each student. This final debrief is the place for encouragement – passing or not passing – all must continue to gain from this experience and move forward to a higher level.

IMG_0175

Core skills assessment – Climbing movement at the Sunny and Steep and Winter Heat Wall areas.

                IMG_0179 IMG_0177 IMG_0180

 

No projects here – all routes were climbed solid and clean. Great to see all of us fired up to send.

IMG_0184 IMG_0191 IMG_0194

Triassic Sands – a Red Rock Classic crack climb!!!

Max and Ryan did a great job guiding me on this awesome route

IMG_0198

Angela and Karen discussing the proposed climbing route and time plan for the next day.

IMG_0202 IMG_0206

Karen leading us into Black Orpheous on a beautiful morning. Karen cruising the lower pitches of the route.

 IMG_0214

Each day routes are split in half with the two participants – a morning session and then the afternoon. He is Lee guiding the upper pitch on Black Orpheous. Lees leads us on excellent rock with high exposure upwards into the upper Painted Bowl.

IMG_0208

To guide these longer routes effectively one must have tools of the trade. This Mammut Revelation rope is one of the tools that assists the guide in the job of rope work. This rope is durable yet slides easily over the rock and it runs smoothly and easily through the belay plates.

IMG_0221   IMG_0222

Windy peak is a remote location for Red Rocks. One hour plus to arrive a the base and Jubilant Song is one of the lesser climbed routes in the area. Seba and Peter  were guides in the led on this spectacular crack and corner climb in the desert.

IMG_0229

Parting shot of Max reaching for the gear on the upper pitches of Olive Oil.

It truly was an excellent week of guidance. These apprentice guides should be commended for their commitment for displaying their craft of guiding guests up the long multi pitch rock climbing routes. This is what we guides love to do – take guest onto the rocks and teach each of  them new skills in an amazing location.

Art Mooney

 

Hats off to Dustin, Derrek, Grant and Will for their dedication, performance and excellence in guiding!!!

 For each of these Gents this AMGA Rock Instructor Exam in North Conway was the culmination of many years of education, training, and mentorship. The finale being a week long assessment of guiding skills and expertise while leading teams up multi pitch rock climbs.

Any exam can be a stressful experience, to pass or to fail runs through one mind. The ego can set in, the nerves get racked both which alter ones performance. As an AMGA examiner it is my job to manage and mitigate the overall risk, critique and grade ones performance and at the same time develop a positive learning environment that will allow each student to perform at their peak level of guiding.

Sound easy its not – for me or the students.

This group of Gents worked long hours, they trained on difficult climbs and learned how to balance the soft client skills. This was a key factor during their preparation for this week long examination process. It showed and was noted on the exam. Alain and I were both highly impressed with the top quality of technical guiding skills and the solid professionalism brought forward.

IMG_1955

Dustin on the tricky final pitch of Inferno – Whitehorse Ledge.

IMG_1918

Will running two ropes on the sparsely protected Sea of Holes.

IMG_1919

Scenic NH – Mt Washington Valley.

IMG_1923

“Guides Guiding Guides”

My Experiences with the AMGA Rock Instructor Exam

I had been considering doing the Rock Instructor exam for quite a while, and this year I finally decided to commit and go through with it.  I know quite a few people who skipped the RIE and went straight into the guide program, and that was what my original plan was.  Having just finished the instructor exam, I am certainly glad that I went through with it.  I think that I may have learned more on the exam than I did during the course, and I also think that I will be able to better and more confidently serve clients now that I have completed it.

After signing up for the exam, I wasn’t sure what to expect, especially since I do not know that many people who have done it.   I got quite a bit of exceptionally vague advice, and my imagination ran wild with expectations of obscure routes, girdle traverses, heinous descents, and examiners that were going to be constantly trying to untie their knots or undo their harness buckles.  Needless to say, none of that ever happened.  The examiners work to minimize guide stress and bring out the best in folks, the routes are guide routes, and there were few tricks thrown at us.  Having completed the exam, I have the same vague advice to offer to others as was given to me:  Wait until you are ready—the exam shouldn’t be a test, but rather a chance for you to show the world what you can do.  Be able to climb the grade comfortably, you should be able to focus entirely on guiding and not have to worry about crux moves.  Lastly, keep it simple.  Rock instructor terrain is straightforward and doesn’t require any guide tricks or rope work.  The routes are short and there is plenty of time; take advantage of it and think through everything you do.  Guide confidently, give the examiners the same experience you give paying clients, and believe in yourself.

 Thanks to Will for the extra effort in providing this fine critique of his experience.

IMG_1941

Dustin instructing us on the jam crack moves – Funhouse Cathedral Ledge.

IMG_1945

 Derrek – demonstrating solid, steady moves on the classic crack climb – Retaliation

Overall, the AMGA Rock Instructor Exam met or exceeded my expectations. I was very impressed with both the professionalism of the examiners as well as the examinees. This certainly aided in creating a less stressful atmosphere throughout the entire process. The feedback I received from the examiners during the exam was pertinent to my success and will help me continue cultivating my guiding technique.  It is apparent the exam is designed both as an educational piece as well as a standard for certification.

Thanks to Derrek for his review of the RIE. 

IMG_1957

Grant finding solid hand jambs on Inferno.

Thanks to everyone for an amazing week of guidance in New Hampshire.

It was a pleasure to meet up with each of you again.

Art Mooney

Over the past ten days I worked for the AMGA with Larry Goldie of North Cascade Mountain Guides teaching 6 students guide skills on the AMGA Rock Instructor Course. This RIC is the first level multi pitch instructor course. The course is spread out over ten intense days, the curriculum is varied and in depth, and the venus host a variety of multi pitch rock climbs.

Rock Instructor Course (RIC)

The Rock Instructor Course (RIC), is the 1st step in the Rock Guide education and certification process and is designed for aspiring guides who have a strong rock climbing background and for instructors who are interested in improving their skills and increasing knowledge. The Rock Instructor Course places strong emphasis on maximizing client rewards while effectively managing risks.

IMG_1140 IMG_1201

Eldorado Canyon is located just west of Boulder Colorado.

 The Eldorado Canyon gorge is narrow, the sandstone rock is steep and fractured, and the fast flowing river adds to the excitement. It’s amazing how just a few miles outside the Boulder city limits one can quickly climb on variety of high quality traditional rock climbs in such a surprisingly wild environment..

First photo views looking down canyon with West Ridge, the Redgarden Wall on left and Bastille formation on lower right.

Second photo host the amazing Naked Edge rock climb up the center rib.

IMG_1138

The AMGA team!

First row – Brett (Estes Park), Andrew (NOLS), Matt (Seneca Rocks Climbing School)

Second row – Andrew (Outward Bound) Larry Goldie (North Cascades Mountain Guides) Colin (Apex Ex Guides)  Joe (NOLS)

IMG_1142

Approaching the Front Range Flat Iron formations we climbed the second one.

IMG_1198

Larry adding info to students during our daily morning guide meetings.

IMG_1177  IMG_1173

IMG_1176

Rescue techniques for the Rock Instructor

IMG_1192

Matt – ready to travel with kiwi coil,  providing a seated hip belay on a short down climb to start.

IMG_1197

Joe leading our guide meeting on the final day.

IMG_1202

Joe starting the Bastille Crack on a cold and windy morning.

IMG_1157

Andrew taking the lead on the final pitch of Hand Cracker – Long John Wall.

IMG_1203

 Andrew cruising on the climb.

IMG_1160

Colin of Apex Ex Guides guiding the team on Long John Wall.

IMG_1166

A close encounter for us!

IMG_1167

Rocky Mountain meltwater – the river is raging at this time of year.

IMG_1180 IMG_1181

Using the I Phone – one technique to have  route topos and a description on hand.

IMG_1189

Adam enjoying the varied climbing on Icarus.

IMG_1190

Brett topping out on the final pitch of Icarus.

IMG_1196

Fantastic times with a great group of guys.

Thank you all,

Art Mooney

AMGA IFMGA Licensed Guide