Redefining Success | A Counterintuitive Approach to the Rock Guide Course

Lyndsay Mynatt | 2019 First Ascent Charitable Foundation Scholarship Recipient


Success is what we define it to be. I was climbing in Red Rocks prior to the course, struggling to lead a 5.9 route. In the midst of the challenge, all mental focus was lost. The negative internal chatter loudly questioned everything from my climbing ability to the reasons for taking the rock guide course. Back on the ground, I felt frustrated and nearly defeated until a little girl with big eyes peeked around a boulder and shyly whispered, “That was you climbing up there, wasn’t it?” I smiled, cringing at my terrible performance. In a more confident voice she said, “You were REALLY good!” This encounter was a humbling moment. Working with youth and women’s specific groups to inspire confidence and growth has been the primary motivator to take the rock guide course. The awe in that little girl’s voice immediately changed my perspective and redefined the experience. While I was perceiving failure, success made a different impression.

IFMGA certified guides understand the internal and external pressure that students feel entering into their first AMGA course. This performance pressure can often be a road block to success. On day one, Course Director Jeff Ward establishes the standards and expectations: “To learn new methods, you have to get your hands on the rope and screw it up.” From the start we had permission to fail in order to succeed. The rock guide course is unique in that it gives opportunities to misapply techniques in vertical terrain and receive real-time feedback from qualified instructors. Error correction and debriefing are powerful methods for understanding when and how to apply specific systems like extended anchors, short roping versus short pitching or bumping the rappel. Feedback was a critical component to understanding what we were doing well and how to better manage our risks, technical systems or overall guiding experience.

In the end, I learned a valuable lesson that extends beyond climbing: the journey of success is not possible without making mistakes along the way, and mistakes are not synonymous with failure. Tying into the sharp end of the rope is a chance to hone skills and continue to practice a craft that I love and want to share with others. That’s success. As a former Program Director at a summer camp, the parallels were evident—I was at a rock guide camp for adults. I experienced layers of growth that only a 10-day intensive training could provide. The instructors built team dynamics and mentored us to become better versions of ourselves. There were moments of doubt refueled by encouragement and fun. Our fingers were raw, feet sore and we all went home feeling taller than when we arrived, stretched and expanded.

The AMGA Rock Guide Course has prepared me to be a qualified and confident guide. I hope to perpetuate the cycle of empowerment by helping other climbers break their gaps of uncertainty in the vertical terrain, extending the realization that achieving success often means working through perceived failure. I am grateful to the amazing team of patient and risk tolerant instructors—Jeff Ward, Karen Bockel, Ian Nicholson & Pete Keane—as well as the support from the First Ascents Charitable Foundation to make this course a reality.