Single Pitch Instructor Course

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

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Spring is guide training and education time at Mooney Mountain Guides. While Art was off in Eldorado teaching a Rock Instructor Course, I got the Single Pitch Instructor season underway in Franconia Notch with Steve, Nadya, Paul and Matt. The SPI course is designed to serve as both a stand alone educational experience for those working in single pitch settings, and as a building block for higher level AMGA rock guiding courses.

Nadya maintaining good line of sight

Nadya maintaining good line of sight

Working from the top of the cliff or from a stance in middle of a cliff reached by leading is an essential part of the SPI curriculum. Effective stance management is crucial to provide the best possible guest experience in top managed settings. Above, Nadya has constructed a clean and organized lowering system using a munter hitch (out of the frame) backed up with an autoblock on her harness, positioned her rope stack neatly and out of the way on her side of the stance, and has great line of sight. Nice! 

A simple, bombproof anchor using the static rope.

A simple, bombproof anchor using the static rope.

 All climbing anchors need to be solid enough to withstand the highest foreseeable loads in a given situation. For professional guides and instructors, there is more to the equation. Professional anchors need to be clean and efficient in terms of the time and equipment used to build them. Above is a close up of a sound working anchor, constructed out of just 3 pieces of solid protection, the static rope, and a few carabiners. Note the crafty use of clove hitches to distribute the load between the 2 pieces on the left. As rigged above, about half of any load will be applied to the small cam on the right, which is perhaps less than ideal, but all of the placements, including the small yellow cam, are so good that it’s a non-issue here.

A nice belayed rappel system in action

A nice belayed rappel system in action

What goes up must come down, and so rappel instruction is a fundamental part of the SPI bag of tricks. Working from the same anchor shown above, Steve has assembled an ideal instructional work space. The line of descent he’s selected begins low angle and steepens only gradually to ease his guest’s nerves. He’s positioned himself with excellent line of sight all the way down the cliff and is securely clipped in to the anchor masterpoint. A separate belay is in the system as a backup. Finally, the rappel line itself is fixed in a releasable fashion to facilitate assistance techniques should anything become stuck in the rappel device. 

Paul and Matt working on stance management and rappel instruction

Paul and Matt working on stance management and rappel instruction

Paul and Matt got in on the rappel instruction practice as well. Here Paul, in instructor mode, is providing clear and concise coaching to Matt, playing the role of student. Technical proficiency is of course essential for a climbing instructor, but a calm, professional demeanor and outstanding teaching skills are just as vital.

Thanks for a great course Paul, Nadya, Matt and Steve! I look forward to seeing you all at the crags this summer.

Derek Doucet, MMG