Revealed: Alpine Ascents New Guide Training

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by Kate Keith-Simms

After building up your climbing resume, assembling the required certifications, and submitting your application materials to the Alpine Ascents Guide Manager, you finally receive that long awaited email…

Congratulations! After making a very favorable impression during the interview process in addition to excellent references and an impressive climbing resume, we are happy to offer you a spot in our New Guide Training.

If we lost you on required certifications, go back and read our How To: Become a Guide blog post. For the rest of you, it’s time to dive into what to expect at the 10-Day Alpine Ascents New Guide Training (NGT). NGT is when the newest members of our team learn the ropes (literally) of the routes we commonly guide, practice AAI specific teaching methods, and show off their skills to the guide training team.

Training Overview:

New Guide Training takes place in late April on Kulshan (Mount Baker) and Tahoma (Mount Rainier) over the course of nine field days and one office day with the Guide Management team. Throughout the training, instructors set-up practice scenarios that rigorously test the technical skill level, decision making, and safety of each new guide. These types of difficult tests allow us to measure if the new guide will be able to guide and instruct climbers at the conclusion of the training. Guides receive a final review at the end of the course in addition to daily debriefs with the training team throughout.

Day 1 – 5: Mountaineering School Masterclass on Kulshan (Baker)
During the first five days, new guides receive a mountaineering school masterclass in arguably the best alpine training ground in the country – the Easton Glacier on Kulshan. Guide trainers demonstrate how we teach skills such as building snow anchors, setting ropes for glacier travel, and team crevasse rescue (3:1 Z-Pulley). Guides also spend significant time practicing and refining two person rope team crevasse rescue, aiming to meet the AMGA crevasse rescue drill standard. During the training, guides will make a winter ascent of Kulshan working on avalanche assessment, hazard recognition , navigation, and whiteout tour planning. In the evenings the training team will facilitate discussions on the non-technical skills of working as a mountain guide, such as client care, professionalism, and tips for being a steward of the mountain.

Day 6: Administrative Day at Seattle Headquarters
The office day is a much needed break from the rigors of field training and an opportunity for new guides to meet and mingle with the administrative staff, learn the behind the scene logistics of the company, and get familiar with the employee handbook and the history of Alpine Ascents. Naturally, there is a big pizza party for lunch.

Day 7 – 10: Summit Climbs 101 on Tahoma (Rainier)
Hopefully feeling refreshed with a gallon ziplock full of leftover pizza, new guides head to Tahoma for the second half of the training. Guides become intimately familiar with the climbing on Tahoma and continue to practice technical mountaineering skills. Guides will practice the am/pm meeting process of conducting a guides’ meeting in our weatherport at Camp Muir. The team of guides will make a summit attempt based on weather and avalanche conditions using our risk management matrix which is learned and applied in the new guide training.

After the Training:
After the 10-Day intensive training, new guides transition into our on-going mentorship program – an opportunity for new guides to practice teaching and leadership skills, and for Lead Guides to give feedback about performance while monitoring safety. On average, new guides spend a full summer season guiding climbs and courses in Washington before starting to lead trips.
One of the great things about guiding at Alpine Ascents is that the majority of our guiding is team guiding – working with 1 – 3 other guides on climbs and courses.

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Words of Advice from 2022 New Guides
Dane Fisher, a new guide with Alpine Ascents, reflects on his time spent in New Guide Training and wants to remind incoming guides to “do your homework and come prepared.” While the training is a time to learn and build upon skill sets, guides are still expected to arrive with a strong foundation of basic mountaineering skills and excellent fitness. We break down what we are looking for in our How To: Become a Guide blog post.

Other words of wisdom…

What was the most helpful aspect of New Guide Training?

  • The exposure, getting out and doing it on site.
  • Time spent with senior guide staff, the mentorship and observation of their refined skills.
  • Focusing on how to manage your team well with interpersonal leadership skills.

What advice would you give those going to New Guide Training next season?

  • Be physically ready so you’re not thinking about how tired you are. You can focus on your skills.
  • Make sure you have experience on relevant terrain.
  • Practice crevasse rescue in as real-world of a scenario as you can.
  • Walk with a heavy pack & get fit.
  • Be proactive during New Guide Training, it shows.

What experience did you have in the guiding industry before applying for Alpine?

  • Outdoor industry experience.
  • Significant glacier travel experience.

Tips for success in your first season as a guide

  • Take time to veg out- it’s ok to rest!
  • Get to know and get involved with the guiding community.
  • You’re always learning, stay on your toes.
  • Pull your weight and keep proving yourself- keep being excellent!

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