I was fortunate to be enrolled in the AMGA IIC immediately after the 21st annual Mount Washington Valley Ice Fest. The Ice Instructor Course (IIC) is a fundamental component of the alpine guide education and certification process and is designed for skilled rock and ice climbers. This course addresses the skills and techniques used while instructing and guiding in single- and multi-pitch ice terrain. This course can also be taken as continuing education by AMGA guides who have already passed through the Alpine discipline.
The course was well attended by local guides, and a number of visiting guides from Washington, Colorado, Wyoming, and Maine. Our instructors included local guides Marc Chauvin, Art Mooney, Silas Rossi from New York, and Geoff Unger most recently from Chamonix, France. They put together a sequential and progressive program to gauge our climbing ability (required to lead 4+/5.6 mixed) and skills as guides. We had some demonstrations on things like advanced anchoring options and v threads, but the majority of our time was spent guiding our small teams up most of the classic routes in Crawford Notch. Our teams generally consisted of a party of 3, and on the odd days, a party of 4. That’s right, 3 ‘clients’ in demanding, steep, multi-pitch terrain.
My group was assigned to Dracula for Day #1’s climbing movement assessment.
Day #2 found us in the Frankenstein amphitheater on Chia. The day’s Instructor Art Mooney did a demonstration climb up the Chia Ramp and Pillars. The hitch here was managing 3 clients.
It was then my turn to take the group up Chia Direct.
Jayson then took us up Pegasus
We headed back to the AMC Highland Center conference room for our end of day guides meeting. The weather was going to deteriorate and that 12″ of snow would affect us on day 3.
On Day #4 we all headed over to Mt Willard for laps on Hitchcock Gully, The East Face Slabs, and then back down Hitchcock Gully.
For our fifth and final day, we headed over to Willey’s Slide. Now I’ve climbed and guided Willey’s more times than I could ever count, but I have never climbed it 3 times in one day.
Some of my colleagues keep asking me what I learned. They claim that I must do just fine guiding ice since I’ve been doing it since 2001. What I gained from this was a number of little skills. I gained some confidence knowing that I have a fair handle on guiding ice climbs. I picked up a few rope tricks as well. I learned that it is OK to be a little more aggressive in my guiding as long as it provides adequate security to me and the clients.
The biggest take away here is going through a peer review process. I got evaluated by other qualified guides. That is worth something as a professional. Many other professions have similar processes (doctors, lawyers, pilots) of peer review. We’re raising the standard and building a future by going through this process of becoming highly qualified, certified guides. We owe it to ourselves and our clients.
Special thanks to all of the course participants and instructors for creating a positive and sometimes low stress learning environment and for sharing photos.