Kate McHugh – 2016 Patagonia Scholarship Recipient

Azissa Singh on SW Corner Headstone-Joshua TreeWhat is the role of a rock guide?  Some may look at our industry and say that a guide must climb efficiently, never get the ropes tangled, and look sharp (thanks to Patagonia for the scholarship to take this course). While those things are true, there is so much more that builds the foundation for good guiding.  Education, stewardship, safety and community are key components of providing a guided climbing experience.  In the Rock Guide Course, the American Mountain Guides Association emphasized the development of technical and interpersonal skills to carry forward in our careers.  Now the challenge lies in the application of these skills.

Dave Richards practicing the rescue drillI applied for this scholarship in order to develop a higher level of skill development in climbing to allow me advance in my career.  My goal in taking this course was two-fold: both to improve my technical skills – and to learn more about the guide as stakeholder.  After spending a few years working in an administrative role for outdoor education and conservation non-profits, I found myself ready to reconnect with the literal meaning of “boots on the ground” and “knowing the ropes”.  This year, I have started a master’s degree focused on climbing management and have entered into a new line of work as a Park Ranger.  It is exciting to be able to employ my Rock Guide Course skills in technical high-angle rescue and in climbing, canyoneering and caving patrols.  For application in my master’s studies, the Rock Guide Course has helped me gain a better understanding of the role of the guide on public lands. I am impressed at the AMGA’s commitment to excellence, education, stewardship and community; AMGA sets a high standard.

Saddle Rocks-Joshua TreeSince the course I’ve also been able to bring these skills back into my outdoor education profession. I had the opportunity to instruct the advanced rock skills training this summer for the Northwest Outward Bound School.  Transferring my AMGA education back to the organizations and communities I serve is another of the numerous benefits of having had the opportunity to take this course.

Joshua Tree SunsetI am looking forward to where these new skills may take me in my work with the National Park Service and in the conversation about climbing access and advocacy.  I am thankful to have a network of colleagues in the guiding community, who will carry the conversation about climbing access into the future.  And I am appreciative of the work AMGA does to develop industry standards and enhance the professionalism of mountain guiding.

Lastly, I am especially thankful to Patagonia for providing me the scholarship to take this course.  I may not have had the opportunity to invest in this career development without the generous support of Patagonia.