Amy Ness | 2019 Rock Guide Course participant and First Ascent Charitable Foundation Scholarship Recipient
I was so nervous to attend my Rock Guide Course held in Joshua Tree National Park this March. Would I look unprofessional, unknowledgeable, or just plain dumb? It had been awhile since I had built a hauling system out of prusiks and cord. Would everybody else already know everything? In everyday life, and even everyday guiding, I consider myself a confident woman, inspired by growing up in a lucky generation where my peers, family, and teachers had always told me I could do anything. But for some reason, being a female in the outdoor industry has not always been as welcoming. I am in my mid-thirties and have devoted most of my adult life to climbing, yet as I drove into the park the day before the course, I felt all that self-confidence slip out my window with the breeze.
Part of my apprehension came from the stigma that I had attached to the older, male, IFMGA guides that were going to be running the course and who, I feared, would be knit-picking my every move. Then, there was the anxiety that the other students would surpass my knowledge and ability, maybe even laugh at me. How my mind could come up with such falsities and introduce unnecessary worries is somewhat beyond me. But the truth is, as a female, I am often overlooked as a serious climber and guide. People still assume that my husband does the hard pitches when we climb a large, difficult route, and have a hard time believing that I own a guide service.
I’m so glad that I did not let my assumptions get the best of me, because the “actual” experience was something I will forever be grateful for. I had the opportunity to ask all the questions I could come up with and get responses from some truly talented, but very personable guides. I made new friends while working through complex systems with the other participants. I got on-demand feedback on my guiding skills and all the little nuances that change a good guide into a great guide. I learned new systems and got to see the benefits and pitfalls of each. I was able to reset my mind while playing after class on some amazing stone with both fellow participants and our guides. It felt like a community. Creating a safe space for learning is something that I strive for in my guiding, and I cannot give enough praise to the AMGA and the amazing instructors we had for doing this so well. Having a well-developed training program for guides is really the fast-track to proficiency. I have been guiding for several years, but what I learned and the amount of instruction I received in ten days far surpassed my expectations. The First Ascent Charitable Foundation made this all possible for me, and I hope to make them proud by continuing through the Rock Guide Program and becoming the kind of guide I was modelled to be throughout the course.
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