2017 Arc’teryx/AMGA Alpine Discipline Mentorship Camp | Japhy Dhungana

On August 23-24 of 2017, the AMGA, in partnership with Arc’teryx, ran the 2017 Alpine Discipline Mentorship Camp. This two-day event consists of low ratio (2:1) alpine discipline specific training with a local AMGA Instructor Team Member. Mentorship Camps provide opportunities for AMGA members to further their skill sets and help prepare for their next AMGA course or exam.

This year’s Alpine Discipline Mentorship Camp attendees were AMGA Apprentice Alpine Guides, Elaina Arenz and Japhy Dhunghana. Here’s what Japhy had to say about his experience:

japhy-and-elaina-approach-on-mt-baker1) What does “mentorship” mean to you? Has this definition changed as the result of attending the camp?

To me, mentorship is synonymous to growth.  I am a firm believer in skill-building, practice, and application – to aim for constant and critical development.  I’ve worked hard to hone the skills I have, but am also astutely aware of my weaknesses as a guide.  Being a good mentee and learner, to me, is to be humble to be able to articulate these weaknesses and seek out teachers and role-models to be able to learn from.  In turn, a good mentor is someone who cares for and is invested in her/his mentees growth.  In making myself open and available to feedback and critique, I hope to become a better guide and to prepare myself more fully for the Advanced Alpine Guides Course/Aspirant Exam. 

As has been said elsewhere, good mentorship is “having a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction.”  Attending the camp certainly allowed all of these to happen.  Jeff Ward and Elaina both served as mentors for me, helping me hone the complex craft of the alpine guide.

2) In what ways do you feel mentorship is significant to the craft of mountain guiding?

japhy-on-the-north-ridge-of-bakerThe craft of mountain-guiding is complex, and there’s no single book or course that can cover the topic (sorry Marc and Rob – the book is excellent, but one can’t read it and be an IFMGA guide just from that!).  I feel that mentorship allows for the folds of those complexities to be peeled back and studied in a more careful way.  It allows for the human-touch of guiding to take hold – to make better decisions, refine judgment, and create a more holistically capable guide.

3) How did the 2017 Arc’teryx & AMGA Alpine Discipline Mentorship Camp help you grow as a professional?

The Alpine Mentorship Camp gave me an opportunity to subject myself to critique and review from an Instructor Team member and a fellow peer in the industry.   I greatly appreciated all the feedback that was shared, and loved the discussions we had throughout our few days together.  Climbing in the North Cascades was also super special and the fact that we were “onsighting” helped refine our judgment tremendously.  

4) What was the biggest learning you had on the Mentorship Camp?

Among the many things that we experienced and reviewed, I’d say that my biggest learning was around refining my alpine transitions.  Climbing the N Ridge of Mt. Baker allowed for so many transitions: from glacier mode to pitched snow climbing to short roping, back to glacier mode, to parallel pitched ice-climbing, back to pitched end-roping, and every permutation of this!  I gained valuable feedback on how to make these transitions smoother and more efficient, as well as how to refine my judgment on exactly what transition to choose for the terrain.  Rather than “giving the answers away” at each junction, Jeff helped Elaina and I assess the terrain, the conditions, and the clients, and pointed out that there is no black/white process to decide on how to guide a certain section.  While some guides may have pitched out a pitch, others may short-rope it.  These discussions and refinements in judgment were my greatest learning.

5) What was the most fun you had while on the Mentorship Camp?

2017-arcteryx-alpine-mentorship-camp-6Spending time with Jeff and Elaina was very fun.  The conversations we had on the trail and hanging out at camp were very enjoyable and I appreciated the opportunity to get to know both of them.  Of course there are the margaritas, but that’s a different story.  

6) What is your next step on your path to becoming an AMGA Certified Alpine Guide?

Up next for me is to take the Advanced Alpine Guides Course/Aspirant Exam in 2018.  I’m stoked and more inspired than ever to take this next step, and am feeling ready and prepared for it, thanks to the mentorship camp.  

7) What advice do you have for future mentorship camp attendees?

Come with a “beginner’s mind” and remember that this isn’t an exam.  This isn’t the place to show-off how bad-ass you are as a guide; rather look at it as a valuable opportunity to receive feedback, to subject yourself to review, and learn new skills along the way.  img_6623