About AMGA and IFMGA Mountain Guide Certification
Northwest Mountain School owners and guides John and Olivia Race are both fully certified by the AMGA and licensed by the IFMGA.
AMGA Certification:The American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA) certifies guides in three different disciplines: Rock, Alpine, and Ski. An individual can be certified at a variety of levels in each discipline. Once certified that individual has been deemed qualified by the AMGA to guide within that discipline within certain terrain guidelines (listed below). They have taken several courses and passed a rigorous 7 to 10 day exam where they were required demonstrate a high level of proficiency while safely guiding on very challenging terrain. Additionally they are required to have specific medical and avalanche training for certain disciplines.
IFMGA Credentials:If an individual reaches the highest level of certification in each discipline they automatically become an IFMGA member and are an IFMGA licensed guide. IFMGA means International Federated Mountain Guides Associations and is the english translation of Union Internationale des Associations de Guide de Montagne (UIAGM). IFMGA guides are given a pin, and a card, identifying them as a licensed guide. The process of obtaining IFMGA credentials can cost upwards of $50,000 and takes about 5 years.
AMGA certification in a particular discipline means that your guide has reached the highest level of training available in that discipline, and IFMGA certification means they have done this in all three disciplines. You must be IFMGA certified to guide in Europe. There are currently about 100 IFMGA guides working in the US. As of January 2008 there are only 3 US women who have obtained IFMGA certification (Cathy Cosley, Margaret Wheeler, and Olivia Cussen). Olivia was the third US woman to do this.
The following is each AMGA discipline as described by the AMGA.
Certified Alpine Guide
When alpine certification is an integral part of, or basis for, obtaining a permit to guide, Certified Alpine Guides are required to operate only within the confines of the alpine certification and the terrain limitations applicable to that certification. This section outlines the type of terrain on which a Certified Alpine Guide is allowed to guide when alpine certification is an integral requirement for obtaining a permit. AMGA guides are allowed to work outside of these limitations when their certification is not an integral requirement for acquiring a permit.
Alpine terrain includes glaciated and non-glaciated peaks, approaches and climbs, with no limitation with respect to season and elevation. It includes rock climbs, peak ascents, waterfall climbs and expeditionary climbing.
Alpine guides are allowed to conduct their profession on all alpine and rock terrains which:
- Are Yosemite Decimal System (YDS) Grade V or shorter (for rock routes)
- Are not conducted on skis where the main objective of the outing is either a ski tour or the enjoyment of downhill skiing
- YDS Grade V or longer rock routes in alpine settings are allowed to AMGA guides who hold both Alpine and Rock Guide Certifications
Certified Rock Guide
When rock guide certification is an integral part of, or basis for, obtaining a permit to guide, Certified Rock Guides are required to operate only within the confines of the rock guide certification and the terrain limitations applicable to that certification. This section outlines the type of terrain on which a Certified Rock Guide is allowed to guide when rock certification is an integral requirement for obtaining a permit. AMGA guides are allowed to work outside of these limitations when their certification is not an integral requirement for acquiring a permit.
Rock Guide certification is designed to apply to all Rock Instructor terrain, but also includes climbs of much greater length, including big wall and aid climbs, and climbs on which significant short roping is appropriate for the safeguarding of clients on either approaches or descents. Rock Guide certification is not, however, applicable to terrain, which is alpine in nature, that is, remote, or involves technical snow or technical glaciated or icy terrain.
Certified Rock Guides are permitted to conduct their profession on all rock routes which:
- Are Grade IV or Grade V in length
- Routes up to 5.10c
- Approaches and descent may require extensive use of short-roping technique for security
- Routes may be remote in nature
- Do not involve glacier travel, the use of skis or exposure to avalanche risk
Certified Ski Guide
AMGA Ski Mountaineering Guide certification is designed for guiding either ski tours or ski ascents/descents, on nordic, alpine touring or snow board equipment.
Ski Mountaineering Guides are permitted to conduct their profession on all terrains which:
- Includes as the main objective, either ski touring, off-piste and/or mechanized skiing/snow boarding
- Are on slopes 50 degrees or steeper
- May employ use of short-roping techniques with the use of ice axe and crampons
- Requires travel on crevassed glaciers
- Have significant avalanche hazard
- Involve multi-pitch ice or rock
IFMGA Mountain Guide status is awarded to guides certified as Rock, Alpine, and Ski Mountaineering Guides. IFMGA Mountain Guides can guide on any climbing or skiing terrain without limitation.
Single Pitch Instructor (SPI)
This certification is for people instructing in a single pitch environment, up to grade 1, that is climbed without intermediate belays. Climbs should not be more than 1 pitch in length. To become qualified SPIs must complete a 3-day course and then successfully pass a 2-day exam. We employ a mix of SPIs and guides with a higher level of training on our group top-roped programs. Many guides seeking IFMGA or individual discipline certification will skip the SPI and immediately begin working on their Rock Guide certification.
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