I couldn’t articulate to you the definition of “guide culture”. If I probe my own self-awareness, I do know I enjoy teaching and sharing climbing with beginners as much as I enjoy any other day of climbing. I know I always try to be a steward of any climbing area I visit or work in. I also know I like to apply a level of professionalism to everything I do.
Guides tend to spend a lot of time in an area they work. We tend to climb popular routes regularly and, as such, are in a good position to be stewards. We watch out for loose blocks, replace weathered tat, and retrieve bail gear, stuck ropes, etc. for parties upon their request. Recently, FMG received an email about a pair of ropes stuck on the Peregrine rappels. Fortunately, a training session for work on passing knots was already planned for the evening. It was a no-brainer; we could take the training session to The Nose and grab the ropes while we did the training!
The latter part of my self-awareness, being a professional, is what drives an interest in technical knowledge. The AMGA curriculum provides a foundation for guides to build skills. While there is much to be learned beyond the curriculum, completing the AMGA guide track offers a valuable credential for companies and clients. As with most professionals, the best guides are (at least partly) identified by their versatility and capacity to efficiently execute an infinite variety of tasks with limited resources. The knot pass is not only an essential tool for guides and climbers alike, but it is also one of the “standardized tests”, if you will, of the AMGA certification process.
During the training session, on a ledge 260 feet up, we discussed different ways to enhance efficiency and speed without compromising security. Two teams were sorted out, ropes were stacked, and each team began lowering people to the ground. Our exercise lasted only an hour, but in the meantime, night set in and a light rain began. The need to pass a knot while lowering someone isn’t commonly encountered; however, you can bet the one time you need to assist your guest or an injured friend to the ground from more than a rope length off the deck, it will be dark and raining. Perhaps, it’s this conscious, concerted effort to learn and practice skills that is my favorite vestige of “guide culture”.