I truly believe mentorship is a crucial component to any guide or climbing instructor’s progression. Professional development, another important aspect of our careers, is typically gained through formal courses or exams and/or internal trainings with climbing schools and guide services, however structured mentorship in the US guiding industry, is still in its infancy. This is not to discount what guides and seasoned veterans have been doing in the past — good mentorship work has and will continue to be done and where we are going is a result of the work done by those before us.
On December 20th, 25 guides and instructors from the Northeast gathered for the first of what we are calling Northeast Guides Mentorship Days, this inaugural day focused on ice guiding. The concept for the day was likely brewing in many of our heads, but I kept thinking about how much I love learning and growing as a professional climbing instructor and guide, and have been struggling to find mentorship myself. I direct the outdoor program at The White Mountain School, a school that has been an AMGA Accredited Business since 1998. In my role, I am the mentor, teacher and program director. I feel really confident about the quality of our climbing program and the instructors who work within it, but I also know that there are many people out there with more skills and experience than me. I really enjoy working with and mentoring my students and new guides as it is personally enriching for me. I also love a good social event too and so the ideas began to swirl. The social events have been one of the greatest aspects of the AMGA Annual Meeting for me, and if we are serious about cultivating mentor/mentee relationships, then building relationships beyond just the technical skills is super important.
As the wheels started to turn on this day, I had huge support from the AMGA office on current and future ideas, as well as Derek Debruin (AMGA Certified Rock Guide, Assistant Alpine Guide), who has been working hard to push forward mentorship within the AMGA membership. Derek and a few others have created excellent resources for future mentors and mentees that are available to anyone in the membership. As I kept talking to people everyone was psyched and it pumped me up to make this day happen. With continued momentum, the day began coming together and by the quickness of sign ups from folks through AMGA Facebook groups, I could tell others were craving this type of event. One thing that was important to us was to operate within the new AMGA Scope Of Practice, which meant we needed to be intentional about who was leading clinics and what we would be doing throughout the day to support the development of the attendees.
Our mentorship day started with a guides’ meeting and introductions as well as some discussion about risk management and climbing kits for ice guiding before we briefed the attendees on the first clinic topic of short roping. I was super fortunate to work on this day with three excellent, talented and competent Northeast guides who worked to build the curriculum and come prepared to teach skills and lead clinics. Art Mooney (AMGA Instructor Team member and American Mountain Guide/IFMGA Mountain Guide), Matt Shove (AMGA Board Member, AMGA Rock Instructor, Assistant Alpine Guide, SPI Provider and owner of Ragged Mountain Guides in CT), and Andrea Charest (AMGA Assistant Rock Guide, Apprentice Alpine Guide, and co-owner of Petra Cliffs Climbing Center and Mountaineering School in VT). Each of these individuals brought a wealth of knowledge to the table for the day.
We were able to cover a number of skills, from the basics like ice screw technology and strength, anchor considerations for multi-pitch ice guiding and ice threads to more advanced skills like rope management when guiding two clients as well as managing steep approaches with the rope. In hindsight and with feedback gathered from the attendees we will adjust how and what we cover for next time, but in general the feedback was that this event was a success.
At one point I remember looking around at all the small groups working on skills that had just been introduced by Art, it was snowing, the temps were warm enough for learning and the energy was high and I noticed that there were guides with a wide range of certifications, training levels and experience that had traveled from VT and NH to NY, MA and CT and even from WV. Everyone was psyched to work on skills, form new relationships and catch up with old friends. After the clinics concluded at the crag we gathered at the local bar and grill. My energy was super high leaving the Woodstock Inn and Brewery that night and it still is.
The plan for the future here in the Northeast, is to run two days like this each year, one before ice season and then one in early rock guiding season with the goals to build technical skills, mentorship relationships and cohesion among Northeast guides. We hope this day can act as a model for other regions interested in developing local mentorship events for AMGA members. Please feel free to reach out to me with questions or ideas on how to set up or improve future gatherings such as this one. Thank you to all the AMGA members who attended this day and made it a big success.
— Ted Teegarden
For resources on mentorship for AMGA members, please join the facebook group: AMGA Mentoring UNOFFICIAL (Please note, you must be a current AMGA Professional Member to join)