Mountain Guide Manual Clinic

Since my copy arrived this past May I’ve been steadily devouring the massive amount of information contained in Marc Chauvin and Rob Coppolillo’s recently published book, The Mountain Guide Manual: The Comprehensive Reference- From Belaying to Rope Systems and Self-Rescue.

The Mountain Guide Manual

This past Wednesday I attended one of Marc Chauvin’s Mountain Guide Manual Clinic’s; the first of three he is currently offering. I’ve heard rumors he will offer this in a few other locales outside of our Mount Washington Valley home turf and if one is offered in your area I would highly suggest you try to attend! If you can’t make one of the scheduled dates consider hiring Marc for a private day. The “guide of guides” who wrote the book on guiding is sure to give you a mind expanding day!

A friend who saw my Instagram story asked me what they should expect in a brief recap of the day and the type of material covered so I thought I could share that here for those who might be curious or on the fence.

Mountain Guide Manual Clinic

First, if you are considering the clinic you absolutely need to buy the book first! A brief run through the first few chapters, especially the long chapters on various transition methods, will better prepare you for the day, but a solid understanding of any of it is not quite necessary (unless perhaps you are preparing for a guide exam and want to crush transitions). I’ll also say you don’t need to be or want to be a guide to benefit from this book or clinic. Two of my fellow clinic-mates where not guides and were there to become more proficient in their recreational climbing.

Mountain Guide Manual Clinic
AJ, Lovena, and Zach practice a transition to rappelling while leading “parallel” style with two seconds

Marc will challenge the way you’ve been “doing things” for years. He will help everyone in the group re-program their climbing brains and get them thinking about things like “rope-end equations” and “back-side of the clove-hitch” in ways that actually simplify and streamline our processes. A simple example was introduced early in the day. We dissected how two climbers might climb a single pitch route with a single rope and then rig to rappel. Basically the “climbing to rappelling transition”.

Most of us would imagine both climbers tether into the anchor with slings, PAS’s, etc. untie from both ends, thread the rope, and rappel one at a time. Marc demonstrates how we can pull this off with greater security and speed by using what is already built instead of deconstructing and re-building a whole new system. This method also allows the leader to stay tied in, removes the need to tie a “stopper knot” in both rope ends, and is really pretty darn slick. This isn’t “rope trickery” but classic “think big picture/outside the box” type stuff. I’m not going to describe it fully here but it might make it into a future Tech Tip!

Mountain Guide Manual Clinic
Marc can teach so much without ever putting on a harness!

I’ve heard from a couple guides, some close friends, that they are kind of avoiding these “new” techniques. They want to stick with what they know and kind of have the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” type mindsets. I’d encourage any and all of my climbing acquaintances, friends, and colleagues to try to stay open minded in their full climbing careers, from day 1 to your last.

Seek to get better, learn more, go faster, safer, simpler, when ever and where ever you can. The fact that there is always something more to learn is what drove me to a career in mountain guiding and avalanche education. It is thrilling to know there is no finish line!

Thank you Marc for continuing to inspire and challenge me from the first course I attended in 2002 to today!

See you in the mountains,

Northeast Alpine Start



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11 thoughts on “Mountain Guide Manual Clinic

  1. […] Following Antonio’s 16 pitches of climbing on Cathedral I re-scheduled his alpine climbing day to Monday based on the weather forecasts indicating some severe afternoon weather. It was with a little irony that by freeing up that day my boss asked if I could cover a Waterfall Rappelling adventure so he could attend Marc’s Guide Manual Clinic yesterday. […]

  2. Hi, thanks for sharing your thoughts. I was debating if I want to spend one of my climbing vacation day attending the clinic. I’m sure it’s helpful, but I haven’t climbed in Red Rocks for over a decade. Tough call. My question for you (hope you see this in time) is: if I’m an astute student and can study books well, do you feel that I can still gain much from the clinic beyond what I can learn from the book? Thanks!

    • Hi Mei, thanks for the comment. You question is a good one. All I can say is just about everyone I’ve seen attend the clinic whether the were aspiring guides, current guides, or recreational climbers who just wanted to improve efficiency, felt it was time well spent. I also think most people grasp these concepts more completely when they start with hands on training then follow up with self study. That said if you feel you can gain a high level of competence without instruction perhaps you can skip the clinic, it’s your call.

  3. Oh BTW, I’m not a guide and will never be, but I’m always interested in improving efficiency in system, and going fast while safe. Climbing with two seconds, or even just one who needs to be babysat, is not what I normally deal with. So, would most of the clinic content not really apply to my type of climbing?

    • To elaborate a little on your second question I’d say this type of focused training really helps broaden your ability to problem solve and “think outside the box”. As I’ve discovered after 24 years of climbing I still have a lot to learn as we keep figuring out better/quicker/safer ways to accomplish seemingly simple tasks (transition from going up to going down)…. While learning to use the back-side of the clove-hitch is simple in process what I find cool is seeing how many situations where applying it has lead not only to greater efficiency but more comfort for everyone, even if it was just two of us at an awkward anchor stance.

  4. Hi David, I just wanted to provide an update as others may stumble on this post when they search for feedback. I did skip running up an ultra classic at Red Rocks in order to attend the one day clinic and it was totally worth it. I’m really excited to incorporate the brilliant ideas in my own climbing. I’ll try my best to convince my friends to take it as well if they ever come to NorCal because the systems work the best if everyone is on the same page. Again, thanks for your time writing the post and answering my questions, David!

    • I’m so glad to hear that! I know setting aside time to train vs play can be tough but I’ve never spent a day with Marc and not walked away better for it!

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