By Sof Petros (she/they)
So you’re thinking about applying to the 2024 Alpine Ascents x Edgeworks BIPOC Guide Development Program?
My name is Sof Petros (she/they), I’m a rock climbing guide and instructor based in Snohomish, WA and a graduate of the inaugural 2023 cohort of this BIPOC Guide Development Program. I was truly so excited to apply, nearly a year ago, and am even more appreciative of the ability to connect with prospective applicants who are looking at this list of field trainings, dates, and prerequisites, and wondering to themselves — “is this the opportunity for me?”
If you’re an experienced recreational climber or early career guide or outdoor instructor who is Black, Indigenous, Person of Color, and especially if you are part of other under-represented and historically marginalized groups, I truly hope you’ll consider the Alpine Ascents program to support your professional journey in 2024.
Being on the “ground floor” of anything can be wickedly exciting – and this inaugural year of the guide development program certainly was. Growing from our cohort’s feedback, successes, and suggestions, the program has established four clear pillars – community, training, mentorship, and access. It’s through those lenses that I want to share my reflections and experience from year one — with the hope that the next crew will grow and take it even further!
Community: “ We go farther when we go together. Join a community of climbers with similar goals and climbing aspirations”
I came into this program as an AMGA Certified Single Pitch Instructor, and while young, with a few years of single pitch rock instruction and guiding under my belt. I mostly teach affinity group spaces in Washington, Oregon, and California. Still, I felt like I didn’t have that many close near-peers, particularly other young people of color, in similar stages to me in their guiding, climbing, and simply personal journeys. This program’s cohort completely upended that. The community that we built as the inaugural cohort was incredible — warm, inviting, sociable, and real — things that can only buttress our ability to learn new skills and push ourselves in technical terrain as we were often asked to do. That warmth was undoubtedly curated by the care and dedication and humanness that Mary, Kurt, and other trainers and mentors brought to the table.
We went dancing at Pride together after spending a sunny day in the Exits practicing multi-pitch transitions, cohort folks came to my Index birthday-climbing party, and we giggled our way through just about every training session. Our cohort made big family style pizza and mac and cheese dinners to follow up long days practicing short-roping in the Icicle Canyon. Months after the program’s formal “close,” the group chat is still going.
Training: “Learn industry standard guiding practices in field training sessions led by experienced mountain guides.”
The heavy curricular bent of the program toward alpine and multi-pitch rock skills was a huge boon to me this summer. I was affirmed in my approaches, knowledge and skills at many times — opportunity of which there is few as a very young, petite, non-binary guide of color. I was pushed to grow and explore new systems and styles and noticed a new confidence and hue in my personal alpine and multi-pitch rock climbing. My teaching this summer felt more solid thanks to all these skills, mentorship, and opportunities for refinement. Armed with this knowledge and confidence, I am excited to grow my rock guiding and am preparing now to apply in the 2024 cycle for a Rock Guide Course. I simply wouldn’t have felt that encouragement and stoke without this program, in addition to the technical preparation.
…and it was FUN! Finding and maintaining the joy is crucial through long days – cold and hot – focusing on technical skills. Our guide trainers’ competence, skills, and experience was only outmatched by their warm energy, hilarious jokes, and strong desire to make this learning fun. There was also a recognition of naming and practicing the myriad technical skills that exist in the gap between recreational climbing and guiding and are often hard to acquire – and especially so for those of us coming from underrepresented communities. The typical mentorship exchange that privileges people that look, sound, and are generally “like” old guard guides, can gatekeep these practices and limit knowledge sharing. Our guide trainers were committed to breaking that down and sharing skills.
Mentorship: “Access a community of accomplished mountain guides and climbers. Whether you have questions about a climbing route or are looking to get out and practice skills, we’ll help you link up with mentors who can help show you the ropes. Pun intended.”
Access: “Access the guide management team at Alpine Ascents and Edgeworks Climbing who are available to offer career and climbing advice. Attend open guided climbs and courses at Alpine Ascents and Edgeworks – an unparalleled opportunity to observe guides working and managing risk in the field.”
Mentorship and Access go hand in hand for me!
Through field training, courses, and a 3 Day Baker climb shadow, I got more exposure to glacier skills and guiding in alpine terrain – something I had been aiming for since I moved to Washington almost two years ago. I have a greater understanding and appreciation for the requisite skills and experience needed to make a successful glacier guide and feel motivated in acquiring them.
Guides on the courses and summit climbs I shadowed were gracious with their time, nuggets of wisdom, and stoke — even making themselves available to me after courses ended, and regardless of whether they were my official and assigned mentor. Travis W, helped me plan curriculum for my queer affinity AMGA SPI Course and Exam prep sessions for OUT in the Wild, lending his expertise as an SPI Provider.
In the middle of their hectic Denali prep, my mentor Morgan M, still made time to lend their ear over coffee to help answer and process not just technical concerns and questions, but bigger musings about life and approaches to guiding as a younger, early career guide. Feeling cared for and time made for me even when it wasn’t tied to technical skills and curriculum, made me feel connected and grounded in the program.