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Mid Week AMGA SPI Assessment @ the Gunks October 1-2
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By Matt Shove
From Ragged Mountain
Aug 25, 2014
Ragged Mountain Guides is offering an AMGA SPI Assessemnt October 1-2 at the Gunks. If you meet the prerequisites and would prefer a mid week assessment, please inquire. I've had a number of inquiries for something like this, and I'm trying to meet minimum enrollments.

Matt@raggedmountainguides.com or call (203) 228-2311

Prerequisites for the AMGA SPI Assessment:

You are a current member of the AMGA.
You have successfully completed an AMGA Single Pitch Instructor Course, AMGA Top Rope Site Manager Course, or AMGA Rock Instructor/Guide Course.
You have led a minimum of 40 traditional routes, most of which should be 5.6 and on a variety of rock types.
You are able to comfortably lead 5.6 traditional routes, which means you place protection.
You are able to comfortably climb 5.8 on top rope.
The SPI Assessment can be taken directly following the SPI Course if the candidate successfully completed the course and meets the assessment prerequisites. However, it is highly recommended that the SPI Course candidate take time practicing and consolidating the skills learned on the course before assessment (6-12 months).
You do not need First Aid training to take the course or assessment. However, it is your responsibility to hold appropriate medical certification for the location that you are working in.


Fees:
SPI Exam: $350
Mohonk Preseve Passes: $17/day (you pay, not covered in the assessment fee)
Lodging, transportation and meals not provided--you're on your own

Gear: You need all of your own

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By FrankPS
From Atascadero, CA
Aug 25, 2014
Here's a quick sampling of some SPI assessments offered and what they charge (this is for the exam, not the course, which is separate).

sierramtnguides.com/program/am... ($300)

vertical-adventures.com/course... ($345)

coloradomountainschool.com/cou... ($335)

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By doligo
Aug 25, 2014
Jose Cuervo Fruitcups dirtbag style
It's an instructor course, not guide. The AMGA distinguishes that. Being a good teacher/instructor has nothing to do with how well you climb. Although it does help to at least look the part (as in not be 50lb. overweight or look like you just bought your rack yesterday).

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By Stephen Fitts
Aug 25, 2014
vermilion
Xam wrote:
I get the impression that Morgan is talking about the AMGA in general and FrankPS is talking about this particular guide service...


I don't know why anybody would be slandering the AMGA considering achieving a full guide certification in any discipline is a relatively rare and prestigious accomplishment. Pretty negative and nonconstructive comments. Since when is 350$ "absurdly expensive", not even a weeks worth of pay considering it could launch a guiding career. And seriously as if a domain name system has anything to do with credentials? Sounds like somebody has some resentment or propensity to trolling.

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By Stagg54
Aug 25, 2014
Stephen Fitts wrote:
Since when is 350$ "absurdly expensive", not even a weeks worth of pay considering it could launch a guiding career.


Obviously one of us has some misconceptions about how much guides get paid. But most of the people I know who guide would consider $350 a lot of money...

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By Christopher Gibson
From Frisco, Texas
Aug 25, 2014
Live to Work not Work to Live.  We Love Our Jobs!!!
$350 for an AMGA SPI Cert is a drop in the bucket for most guides looking to get certified through the AMGA, the marketing benefit that comes from being certified is a no brainer let alone the skills in site management that you gain. The costs come from the travel to the site and sustaining yourself while your there. But of course your always going to have people that will bash the AMGA or anything else for that matter. It's not for everybody.

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By coppolillo
Aug 25, 2014
$350 is "absurdly expensive"?

damn, times must be tough!

sounds like Matt got some interest in the assessment, so hope he fills it.

i'd rather have my kids or friends doing an intro course with a certified SPI than somebody uncertified...at least the person's been taught and assessed....just a few threads on MP and it becomes abundantly clear there is an enormous range of, uh, competencies out there....

good luck, Matt, hope it goes well and you hit your targets!

RC

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By Christopher Gibson
From Frisco, Texas
Aug 25, 2014
Live to Work not Work to Live.  We Love Our Jobs!!!
^^^ My point exactly.

FLAG
 
By MJMobes
From The land of steady habits
Aug 25, 2014
modern man
Mountain project should change their name to mountain $$$, it seems some only use it for $$$ and don't really contribute much besides that.

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By Christopher Gibson
From Frisco, Texas
Aug 26, 2014
Live to Work not Work to Live.  We Love Our Jobs!!!
Thanks for not deleting my account, It's much appreciated. I think MP just took a couple of steps closer to RC.com.

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By Bill Kirby
From Baltimore Maryland
Aug 26, 2014
Me eating a cliff bar walking back from Frankenstein Amphitheater
That course, no matter what the price is welcomed asset. How many MPers have come across a camp, a Boy Scout troop or a college group that's TRing on an unsafe anchor or doing something else dumb?

I bet the parents of these groups see the value of this cert.

I know someone who has a name for these sorts, Camp Sketchy a Anchor! Haha. Priceless.

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By spencerparkin
From Salt Lake City
Aug 26, 2014
Me at work.
From among the many people I've climbed with, there's been a wide variety of opinions expressed about the AMGA. I'm not sure what to think. On one hand, many people say that they're making it too hard (expensive) for poor people to get into guiding. On the other hand, many people say that what the AMGA is trying to do is make it so that not just anyone can start calling themselves a guide and start a guiding service, which I think is a fair argument. Without some sort of standard for guides, people may unwittingly put their life in the hands of an incompetent person. But I see the other side of it too. Like so many other things in life, lack of opportunity, (especially because of money), is an injustice. To get fully IFMGA certified, I'm sure it would be extremely expensive.

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By coppolillo
Aug 26, 2014
Good points, Spencer...though I wouldn't say "the AMGA is making it expensive"...believe me, if they could subsidize all the candidates' educations/certifications, they would...but the reality is, it's not yet the industry it is in Europe. While the French, Italian, and other countries' guide associations are heavily subsidized...we simply aren't here in the States. Insurance and permitting are two other significant hurdles here...

So yes, it's frickin' expensive to go for your IFMGA...but there are great guide services that help their guides pay tuition and there are limited scholarships at this point, too, from the AMGA.

As for standards...well, there's the rub. In Colorado you need some sort of certificate from the state to cut hair in Great Clips. Nothing for "mountain guiding," and believe me--there are some spooky people calling themselves guides out there. There are also plenty of very, very competent guides who haven't done a lick of AMGA training--but I suspect that is changing and in time that will be much less frequent.

Further--one often doesn't need pursue certification in all three disciplines (ski, alpine, rock)...a SoCal guide making her living at JTree can blow off the ski/alpine quite happily/successfully...but guides in the PNW or those wishing to travel have every reason to see it through. The wages in Grindelwald, Zermatt, Chamonix are way better than the US, for the most part. Someday it'll be way less expensive to study here...but until then, the cost is indeed a barrier.

The misperception, though, is that the AMGA folks are driving around in Escalades or something. Or that somebody, somewhere is raking it in...I live in Boulder and don't see anybody getting rich off the system. A few guides making a living, absolutely...but it ain't easy and it ain't buying a house in town, that's for sure...




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By Christopher Gibson
From Frisco, Texas
Aug 26, 2014
Live to Work not Work to Live.  We Love Our Jobs!!!
Operating a guide service in and of itself is not a cheap proposition to begin with and your right its probably not for the "poor" but neither is climbing. I mean you can't really have people out climbing in bicycle helmets and swammy belts even if you are a lone one man operation you have to have proper equipment for yourself and the people your guiding. If you can't afford $350.00 or whatever then maybe you shouldn't be guiding. I tell people that want to learn to climb all the time that it requires a commitment personally and financially and that certainly goes for guiding. And to say that the AMGA has no purpose or has ill intentions is just plain uninformed or idiotic, take your pick. That's like saying the Access Fund just wants to be land owners and real estate agents.

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By Stagg54
Aug 27, 2014
Here is the rub as it's been explained to me from several guide services on the East Coast:

You've got these guide services that have been guiding for 30 years. Know what they are doing. Great Reputations. In some cases known on a national scale- ie. you'd probably recognize some of the names. Not AMGA certified though because it didn't exist.

Along comes the AMGA and guy shows up and says "Hey we want you to pay us to certify you". "What?" "You give us money and a bunch of your time and we'll give you a piece of paper that says you know what you are doing. - It'll be great!" "But I already no what I'm doing - I've been doing it safely for 30 years" "Yes but you don't do it the AMGA way" "But the way I've been doing it is perfectly fine and safe" "Yes but its not our way"

So the guides politely decline and what does the AMGA do? They go behind their back and whisper in the land owners ears and now suddenly every guided group has to have an AMGA certified person with them. Now guide who has been working for 30+years can't guide on public lands anymore because he's not certified. He either has to shell out and take the classes (which to get fully certified -beyond SPI - is a long and involved process) or he has to hire some college kid whose been climbing for 2 years but took an SPI class and doesn't know jack.

For the record taking an SPI class is great and I'm sure the students learn a lot, but an SPI course with only 1 year or so of experience means jack to me.

So yes there are some people out there who don't like the AMGA and yes I do think they have some pretty valid reasons.

Personally I do see the value in standards, but who made them the self-appointed standard bearers?

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By FrankPS
From Atascadero, CA
Aug 27, 2014
Stagg54 wrote:
They go behind their back and whisper in the land owners ears and now suddenly every guided group has to have an AMGA certified person with them.


That's quite the conspiracy theory - that the AGMA convinced the land managers to only allow AMGA-certified guide services. Maybe the land managers actually wanted an industry group to provide some standards. I wonder if that's possible?

Stagg54 wrote:
Personally I do see the value in standards, but who made them the self-appointed standard bearers?


Many industries and professions have organizations, associations and industry groups. The AMGA happens to be it for climbing. They are the largest and oldest and most-respected industry group in climbing in the US.

FLAG
 
By MikeS
From Boulder, CO
Aug 27, 2014
Stagg,

Check out the history of the AMGA. Maybe this will help to clarify some of your misconceptions:

amga.com/harnessing-the-beast-...

They have been around for as long as most currently active mountain guides have been practicing. Some pretty heavy hitters- Chouinard, Doug Robinson, and Jim Donini all saw the need for standardized training and certification . In fact, many of the reputable 'old timers' that you refer to were actually grandfathered in to certification back when the pool was a lot smaller.

What you'll also notice is that they've been trying to cooperate this entire time, in order to unite the guiding community, not divide them. From insurance issues to public lands access for qualified guides, to international reciprocity, I feel like they've done their best to represent our career interests; despite having the huge hurdles of federal red tape across our public lands and an overwhelmingly litigious society.

For comparison, google a brief history of the BAR exam to become a lawyer. Is it expensive? Yes. Will people fail and get pissed off? Yes. Would you trust someone who just told you that they practice law without a license? It's not even legal.

Not everyone will agree that a single certifying body is the right choice for every individual case. But as the industry grows and more people choose it as a career path, it's a necessary choice.

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By John McNamee
Administrator
From Littleton, CO
Aug 27, 2014
Artist Tears P3
coppolillo wrote:
Good points, Spencer...though I wouldn't say "the AMGA is making it expensive"...believe me, if they could subsidize all the candidates' educations/certifications, they would...but the reality is, it's not yet the industry it is in Europe. While the French, Italian, and other countries' guide associations are heavily subsidized...we simply aren't here in the States. Insurance and permitting are two other significant hurdles here... So yes, it's frickin' expensive to go for your IFMGA...but there are great guide services that help their guides pay tuition and there are limited scholarships at this point, too, from the AMGA. As for standards...well, there's the rub. In Colorado you need some sort of certificate from the state to cut hair in Great Clips. Nothing for "mountain guiding," and believe me--there are some spooky people calling themselves guides out there. There are also plenty of very, very competent guides who haven't done a lick of AMGA training--but I suspect that is changing and in time that will be much less frequent. Further--one often doesn't need pursue certification in all three disciplines (ski, alpine, rock)...a SoCal guide making her living at JTree can blow off the ski/alpine quite happily/successfully...but guides in the PNW or those wishing to travel have every reason to see it through. The wages in Grindelwald, Zermatt, Chamonix are way better than the US, for the most part. Someday it'll be way less expensive to study here...but until then, the cost is indeed a barrier. The misperception, though, is that the AMGA folks are driving around in Escalades or something. Or that somebody, somewhere is raking it in...I live in Boulder and don't see anybody getting rich off the system. A few guides making a living, absolutely...but it ain't easy and it ain't buying a house in town, that's for sure...



Although it is true that in some member countries the cost of certification is subsidized, but for many others that is not the case. For example, in New Zealand, it took me 6 years and about 25 thousand dollars in course fees to get IFMGA certified. Many people think that is a lot of money but it really isn't when compared to other forms of education. How far will 25K go at a university and will you have a job at the end of it. When I retired about 12 years ago, I was easily making 60K a year working about 9 months.

Although I was certified as a full mountain and ski guide, I specialized in helicopter skiing in Canada and New Zealand. It was easier on the body and the payday was higher. I worked two winters a year.

When I moved to the USA I intended to join the AMGA and do some guiding at weekends, volunteer my time on courses, etc., but I got so turned off by the application form and in particular having to produce a list of climbs, etc., that I just gave up.

I would have thought that an experienced IFMGA guide offering to help their program would have been welcomed, especially considering that I assessed on a AMGA Ski mountaineering course in California and the Cascades and afterwards wrote a report to the Secretary recommending that they be allowed to join the IFMGA!

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By coppolillo
Aug 27, 2014
John McNamee wrote:
Although it is true that in some member countries the cost of certification is subsidized, but for many others that is not the case. For example, in New Zealand, it took me 6 years and about 25 thousand dollars in course fees to get IFMGA certified. Many people think that is a lot of money but it really isn't when compared to other forms of education. How far will 25K go at a university and will you have a job at the end of it. When I retired about 12 years ago, I was easily making 60K a year working about 9 months. Although I was certified as a full mountain and ski guide, I specialized in helicopter skiing in Canada and New Zealand. It was easier on the body and the payday was higher. I worked two winters a year. When I moved to the USA I intended to join the AMGA and do some guiding at weekends, volunteer my time on courses, etc., but I got so turned off by the application form and in particular having to produce a list of climbs, etc., that I just gave up. I would have thought that an experienced IFMGA guide offering to help their program would have been welcomed, especially considering that I assessed on a AMGA Ski mountaineering course in California and the Cascades and afterwards wrote a report to the Secretary recommending that they be allowed to join the IFMGA!


John--that is a drag and regrettable...your expertise would've been/would be useful to the AMGA, I'm sure!

I think we have a few mutual friends up here in town....it'd be great to get in some pitches/turns together sometime!

RC

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By Morgan Patterson
Administrator
Aug 27, 2014
Stoked...
Chris Nischan wrote:
Hey Morgan, your Phoenix is showing...


lol! how u been Chris? still in CT?

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By MJMobes
From The land of steady habits
Aug 27, 2014
modern man
doligo wrote:
Being a good teacher/instructor has nothing to do with how well you climb. Although it does help to at least look the part (as in not be 50lb. overweight ).


hmmmm.

FLAG
By Stagg54
Aug 27, 2014
FrankPS wrote:
That's quite the conspiracy theory - that the AGMA convinced the land managers to only allow AMGA-certified guide services.


You can call it a conspiracy theory. I call it simple economics. Part of their overall goal is to promote standards and professionalism, etc. and running lots of courses and certifications is part of that. But let's not be naive, the AMGA makes money off of very course and certification. I don't necessarily have a problem with them making money. It's the monopoly that bothers me. There are other groups out there and the AMGA has basically shut them out.

FrankPS wrote:
that the AGMA convinced the land managers to only allow AMGA-certified guide services.


They have a large financial interest to do so... I doubt the land managers just one day stumbled onto the AMGA website and said "Hey these are the only guys we should allow to guide on our lands".

Now I'm not saying there was anything necessarily illegal or immoral there. Sorry if I implied that in my first post, but you can kind of see how some of the existing guide services might have felt (right or wrong) a little slighted by that.

MikeS wrote:
Stagg, Check out the history of the AMGA. Maybe this will help to clarify some of your misconceptions: amga.com/harnessing-the-beast-...


I just read that and maybe I missed it, but it seems to reinforce a some of my "misconceptions". It seems more top down than bottom up. It seems like a lot of high name climbers got together and made a decision about standards and then tried to force it on everyone else. You can call that cooperation if you want... It looks to me more like coersion.

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By coppolillo
Aug 27, 2014
Stagg54 wrote:
But let's not be naive, the AMGA makes money off of very course and certification. I don't necessarily have a problem with them making money. It's the monopoly that bothers me. There are other groups out there and the AMGA has basically shut them out.


Again, that fave myth (one of many): that the AMGA is "making money" off courses. I haven't seen the books, but I can assure you, there's nobody making a killing off courses. And the monopoly? A fiction--there are other certification bodies within the US. And "the AMGA has basically shut them out"--I'm not sure how the AMGA would prevent somebody from starting up another certification body...if the AMGA indeed had that sort of pull, I assume AMGA guides would have full access to Yosemite, Denali, and every other choice parcel of Federal land...which they do not.

there are legitimate gripes/criticisms/debates regarding the AMGA, land-access issues, certification....but some sort of lucrative monopoly in the guiding world ain't one of 'em. if you're really looking for somebody "making money" off guiding, check out guide services with sole concessions within YOUR national parks...federally mandated business, no competition, 10 year contracts....those are privately owned/run guide companies, NOT the AMGA. happens in Rocky, Rainier, Denali...if anything, the AMGA is trying to loosen that system, not reinforce it.

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By Stagg54
Aug 27, 2014
coppolillo wrote:
if you're really looking for somebody "making money" off guiding, check out guide services with sole concessions within YOUR national parks...federally mandated business, no competition, 10 year contracts....those are privately owned/run guide companies, NOT the AMGA. happens in Rocky, Rainier, Denali...if anything, the AMGA is trying to loosen that system, not reinforce it.


That I would definitely support.

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By coppolillo
Aug 27, 2014
Stagg54 wrote:
Personally I do see the value in standards, but who made them the self-appointed standard bearers?


A multi-year probationary period with the International Federation of Mountain Guides Association (IFMGA/UIAGM; the same body that oversees guiding/certification in France, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, Canada, New Zealand, etc...), 1994-1997 if memory serves, established the AMGA as the standard-bearer in the US. Now, it did not deem it THE standard-bearer...other countries (like Italy) have multiple bodies certifying guides, and each of those three bodies has passed through the IFMGA standards process...so another group in the US could in fact petition the IFMGA and have its curricula approved and therefore certify guides....but no one has. And the AMGA didn't tank anybody's efforts; they're just the only ones who've seen it through.

The AMGA is the sole organization in the US that has developed its curricula, petitioned the IFMGA, had visiting guides from Canada and NZ and beyond review its practices/testing....so by virtue of that, it is the lone standard-bearer for int'l guiding at this point....no conspiracy, no collusion...just history, unless you know of some backroom dealings I'm not aware of....

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By coppolillo
Aug 27, 2014
Stagg54 wrote:
That I would definitely support.


Right on, as do I!

I certainly don't know of all situations nationwide...but in Rocky Mtn Natl Park, the AMGA recommended to the Park that other guides/guide services get user days/access, in addition to the longstanding/successful/positive concession Rocky has had with Colorado Mtn School...and the park launched a pilot program this summer doing just that...sounds like a more permanent program will hit 2016...god willing, it will work!

now i'm sounding naive!

RC

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