On any given week you could bet good money that the MMG crew is out at the cliffs introducing folks to climbing and or new climbs to them, as well as working on their own climbing and guiding progression. This past week was no different! Below is a quick collection of updates from the past week.
Early on in the week Erik got out to Rumney Rocks for a half day of climbing with Jen and Amanda. These gals were visiting the area for the week, coming from Long Island. They’ve started climbing in the gym back home and venturing into Top Rope terrain when they travel. We had a gorgeous day for a sampling of classic pitches at Rumney!
This weekend Mike got out with the Schildge family. While on vacation in the north country they joined MMG for a day on Square Ledge. This venue has great moderate climbing for a family outing, with what is possibly the best backdrop of any crag in New England.
Earlier on in the week, Art was joined by Jerry “the Gale force” They had a couple of great days swinging leads at Rumney and reclaiming perennial classics on Cannon!
On the personal training front, Alex has headed out to CO to take the Advanced Rock Guide Course through the AMGA, one of many professional development courses MMG guides are involved in this summer. The course, and his acclimatization are taking place in Eldorado Canyon and Lumpy Ridge in the Estes park. Back home, Erik is taking advantage of dry days between the rain to regain strength on some steep sport routes. Most intriguing of these days was at the Groton High Grade Wall, in Marshfield VT.
Alex in CO
Erik in VT
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.
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.
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.
Alex on Raising the Roof
Alex leading up Raising the Roof
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.
Alex heading up Rainbow Slabs
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!
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!
Art instructing on the 10 day AMGA Rock Guide Course
Alain Comeau instructing on Erik’s Rock Instructor Course
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.
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.
Core skills assessment – Climbing movement at the Sunny and Steep and Winter Heat Wall areas.
No projects here – all routes were climbed solid and clean. Great to see all of us fired up to send.
Triassic Sands – a Red Rock Classic crack climb!!!
Max and Ryan did a great job guiding me on this awesome route
Angela and Karen discussing the proposed climbing route and time plan for the next day.
Karen leading us into Black Orpheous on a beautiful morning. Karen cruising the lower pitches of the route.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Dustin on the tricky final pitch of Inferno – Whitehorse Ledge.
Will running two ropes on the sparsely protected Sea of Holes.
Scenic NH – Mt Washington Valley.
“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.
Dustin instructing us on the jam crack moves – Funhouse Cathedral Ledge.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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 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
This day on Cannon was different. I was being guided with Ken by MMG Guide Matt Ritter. You see Matt is getting prepped for his Rock Instructor Exam and he is looking for mileage on a variety of routes. Ken and I teamed up for a two to one ratio on a Cannon Classic – The Whitney Gilman Ridge.
In this role I was able to take a few different photos from below. What a great day, the team, the weather and no crowds. As you can see Cannon is a great place to be during the fall climbing season.
Suns out guns out.
Pitch One the Whitney Gilman.
Ken enjoying Cannon the alpine playground.
The crux pitch.
Cannon one of my favorite climbing areas for sure.
Thanks to Ken and Matt for a great day.
The AMGA Single Pitch Instructor course is an ideal training program for proficient recreational climbers wishing to transition in to the world of professional guiding and instruction. Despite some weather related challenges (Read: Thunder, downpours and hail!), I just wrapped up an excellent SPI course with three well prepared and motivated participants. Here are a few scenes from the course.
Solid anchors are essential components of effective guiding. SPIs should be able to build them quickly and with a minimum of equipment to maximize efficiency and climbing time for guests. The two solid pieces below are joined using a two-loop figure eight knot on a static cord, forming one of two legs which will comprise the final anchor.
Below we see the overall rigging used to create an actual anchor.This is a bombproof system constructed with just the placements themselves, four carabiners and the static rope. Efficient indeed! The extra strand on the right leg is an instructor tether, offering a secure clip-in should both ends of the climbing rope by otherwise used, as in a belayed rappel system.
This is the big picture. Peter is thoughtfully arranging his belay station as a tidy and efficient work space. Visualizing how to organize a given belay stance to maximize its utility for working is a key SPI skill, and surprisingly tricky for many folks at first.
Here, Peter practices running a belayed rappel. Note that he is connected to the tether mentioned above by his GriGri, which allows him to easily adjust his position and maintain good line of sight as Taylor descends. Just out of frame on the tether line is a catastrophe knot, a prudent measure to close the system and eliminate the possibility of going off the end of the tether should the GriGri not engage.
Peter, Taylor and Brian were a pleasure to work with. Thanks, guys. I look forward to seeing you out on the cliffs this summer!
-Derek Doucet, MMG