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

“Best Camping Mess Kits Here –

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EMS Schools Guide Training

Occasionally guests ask me what type of training climbing guides go through to become guides. While the answer can vary dramatically from guide to guide, and company to company, I wanted to share some info about a training day last Friday at Whitehorse Ledge with EMS Climbing School Manager and AMGA Certified Rock Instructor Keith Moon and fellow EMS Guide Anne Parameter (also AMGA CRI) brushing up on guiding skills as part of EMS Schools commitment to professional development. The day was jam packed with information as we worked on techniques to give our guests the best possible days out climbing with us. Some of the skills I personally improved upon:

Quick Belay Transitions to Lowers; In order to give our guests more value in their climbing days it is often beneficial to lower a climber after they have topped out rather than convert everyone to a rappel. With some handy pre-rigging skills a guide can quickly lower a guest back to the deck and be rappelling seconds after the guest is back on the ground ready to move on to the next climb. I especially liked learning a better way of “tricking” my ATC Guide into a re-directed lower that did not involve opening the rope or anchor carabiners.

45 Minute Rescue Drill; This exercise in problem solving and conceptualization requires a solid understanding of belay escapes, tension release-able systems, 3:1, 5:1, 6:1 hauling systems, counter balance rappels, and improvised work-arounds. Being able to work through this scenario in 45 minutes (which seems like a lot of time… it isn’t) is a good test of how well one understands these concepts and can use them to fix any number of problems one can run into in the vertical world.

Quick Transitions from 5th Class Belaying to 4th Class Scrambling; Most multi-pitch guiding occurs in a 2:1 or 3:1 ratio, and being able to put a rope (or two) away and still provide top-belayed security for guests while scrambling up the last 400 feet of easy 5th class terrain can save an hour or more in a guiding day, allowing for more climbing for everyone involved. While practicing this I also got to climb a Whitehorse Slab route I have never finished, the aptly named “Beginner’s Route”, so it was nice to do something different.

The summit slabs of Whitehorse Ledge, Cathedral Ledge and Humphrey's in the background
The summit slabs of Whitehorse Ledge, Cathedral Ledge and Humphrey’s in the background

Short-roping transitions; There are some circuits on the backside of Whitehorse that provide some excellent 3rd & 4th class terrain to practice this skill. Short-roping, to short lowers, to belayed down climbing, and back up again. While these skills are a must for aspiring Alpine Guides they come in handy in quite a few spots around here, and with practice a party can move as fast as an un-roped party but with markedly better protection.

Anne lowers Keith while short-roping in 4th class terrain
Anne lowers Keith while short-roping in 4th class terrain

This 2:1 training event was a bit new considering we usually schedule some larger group training events but the benefits were clear. If Anne or I had a question or wanted to practice a skill over again there was no hesitation to “go over it again”, something group training exercises might impede.

If these kind of skills interest you a great first step is to take an AMGA Single Pitch Instructor Course or AMGA Rock Instructor Course.

I hope this brief recap sheds a little light on that question “What type of training do guides do to become guides?” After 10 years of guiding for EMS Schools it really is clear the learning never stops!

See you in the mountains,