In 2012, I was the fortunate recipient of the Walker Family Foundation Scholarship, which made it possible for me to attend the AMGA Rock Guide Course and Aspirant Exam in Red Rocks, Nevada that took place October 2-11, 2012.
As a working guide with over 15 years of work experience leading groups in the outdoors (for NOLS, Alpine Ascents International, and the U.S. Antarctic Program, among others) but with no AMGA certification, I’ve been a low-income earner. In no uncertain terms, the Walker Family Foundation Scholarship made it possible for me to attend this AMGA course–-as an AMGA course costs about 10 percent of my annual income. To enumerate, my current Boreal summer employment is working as a “paid volunteer” for Yosemite Search And Rescue (YOSAR), meaning my income over the summer is quite minimal (though the climbing opportunities are phenomenal).
My Boreal winter employment, my bread and butter for the last few years, has been working as a mountaineer for the U.S. Antarctic Program (USAP), which is work that has been financially rewarding as well as interesting, but not great for my development as a skier. I chose this season to leave the USAP in order to develop myself as a skier, which is essential to my pursuit of a full IFMGA certification. My job working for Kirkwood Ski Resort as an entry-level ski patroller does not pay anywhere near as well as my work with the USAP. So all in all, the Walker Family Scholarship provided me with the ability to attend the Rock Guide Course and Aspirant Exam–something I would have otherwise been unable to do.
In fact, the value of the scholarship went beyond it’s financial reward. It gave me the gift of practice for the course: three mock guiding days with Doug Walker and two of his friends. When I received the scholarship, Doug was cc’d in the email, and he reached out to me to say that he would be in Yosemite in the spring and that we should climb together. Of course, I said “Yes” to the man who had given me the gift of a scholarship to a $1,800 course. I met Doug at the Awahnee hotel in mid-April, planning to climb Serenity/Sons (5.10d). We climbed Serenity Crack, and I found his company so enjoyable (Doug is in his 60s and VERY fit, not to mention quite active as a wilderness advocate) that I proceeded to climb two more days with him and his people, climbing Moby Dick (5.10a), Central Pillar of Frenzy (Grade III, 5.9), and Snake Dike (Grade IV, 5.7). I wasn’t just spending time with him in order to thank him, I was also climbing with a man whose company in the mountains I greatly enjoyed. Perhaps this is the ideal client/guide relationship?
Thank you, Doug, for the amazing climbing experience last spring, and thank you to the Douglas J. Walker Family Scholarship for the gift of an AMGA scholarship!