Base Camp Blog

Five U.S. Guides Earn Top Honor

IFMGA Pin5/8/13 - After passing ski mountaineering exams in the mountains of Alaska, British Columbia, and Colorado, five more American guides have been fully certified by the IFMGA, the International Federation of Mountain Guides Associations. The guide training and exams, administered by the American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA), lead to the highest level of professional certification available. Only 89 U.S. guides (including eight U.S. women) have been fully certified in rock, alpine, and ski guiding by the AMGA since the American program was recognized internationally in 1997.

The five guides who've just won their IFMGA pins are:

•  Andrew Councell, Boulder, CO, who guides most often for Colorado Mountain School.

Gary Falk, Ridgway, CO, who guides for San Juan Mountain Guides, Exum Mountain Guides, and Rainier Mountaineering.

Patrick Ormond, Ouray, CO, who guides for Exum, Alaska Mountaineering School, and others.

• Jediah Porter, Bishop, CA, who guides for Sierra Mountain Guides.

• Eric Whewell, Boulder, CO, who guides for Colorado Mountain School.

Becoming an internationally certified guide is a huge commitment, requiring years of mentoring, over 100 days of formal training, rigorous and stressful exams in rock climbing, alpine climbing, and ski mountaineering (many guides fail one or more exams before eventually passing), and tens of thousands of dollars in tuition and travel costs. The process can take a decade to complete. Partly as a result, other organizations, including the Professional Climbing Guides Institute and Professional Climbing Instructors Association, have sprung up to offer a lower-cost road to certification for people working in schools, gyms, and other venues. But there's no higher honor in American guiding than to become a fully certified IFMGA guide. In addition to the résumé boost, the certification is required for U.S. guides to work legally in Europe and other foreign venues.

"I was fortunate to begin guiding at a time when formalized guide training was becoming more widely recognized and available," said Porter. "IFMGA certification will open some new doors, but most importantly it will help me to work more safely and sustainably on the terrain I have already come to love."

Big congratulations to all the new guides!


Previous Comments

I'm glad to read all the support for these guys...they deserve it; in fact, I know a few docs who are amazed at the effort and accomplishment in attaining this designation

big D - 05/12/2013 8:15:43

The "100 days" point doesn't include the required training and guiding to be completed to continue between courses and exams. There are also three formal levels of avalanche training (AIARE or AAI courses), which also have required training days outside of their courses and exam. I'm not sure what Luc's point is...but it sounds like some sort of resentment or round-about statement about guides he's met or known, or perhaps thought he's known. His problem. The guys on the list worked hard and earned it, at the least the four with whom I'm acquainted. Good jobs, gents! Oh, and for the record, Luc...plenty of guides don't wear their pin. To wit: Piolet d'Or winner Vince Anderson hasn't worn a pin that I've ever seen, and that's after 20 days in the field with him during AMGA courses/exams. Dunno, man, maybe take up the resentment/envy with your therapist? Just a thought.

Rob Coppolillo - 05/12/2013 3:34:27

Little D: hilarious

Yucky - 05/09/2013 6:12:22

Luc: I'm not sure I see the connection between comparing doctor's achievements and climber's achievements?? No one was saying these guides have attained more than Ph.d's or medical doctors. Just that they have attained the highest achievement in their field, which is worthy of celebration and honor and IS DUE to a ton of hard work, diligence, and many other admirable traits. And it HAS been 10 years of working toward this goal for my brother, who is one of the guides listed here. Bravo to doctors. Bravo to these 5 guides who have achieved IFMGA status. Maybe you should educate yourself a bit on what these guides go through before you bash??

Martha - 05/09/2013 1:17:09

Maybe Luc didn't make medical school.

The Great Eye - 05/09/2013 12:23:42

Luc - sounds like you would make a great guide. You have so much wisdom and passion towards leading people in the the your own direction. (See: definition of PRIDE) ;)

little D - 05/09/2013 10:31:15

Luc... yeah, whatever. A fantastic achievement for these guides, lots of hard work and yes, now they have more tools to really start learning how to guide!! A great set of skills to offer the general public to help make peoples dreams in the mountains come true..... pride? Not too much but it sure is great to be able to make someones day/week/dream. I would add though that NOBODY has WON their pin -- very much earned!!!

tim - 05/09/2013 9:08:31

Luc you are a downer... Fill up your glass bro. I know plenty of doctors who aren't worth their weight in pins. You can add post doctorates to that statement as well. Post docs are just in their training after obtaining their doctorate.

Jon - 05/09/2013 8:28:24

Luc, have fun on the couch...and the doctor's office.

Michael - 05/09/2013 6:52:08

The 100 days is not the training but the exam time over 10 years of training. The article here is inaccurate. Just to say that I would much rather put my life into the hands of one of these guides, anytime...hands down.

Lorraine - 05/09/2013 5:42:45

So a hundred days of formal training is a huge comittment? What about people that get doctorates, post docs, etc then? If all professionals wore pins like these guides do, and if the size of the pin was proportional to the number of days of training and studing, then medical doctors, phds and the like would not be able to walk around, crushed as they would be by the weight of their pins. There is too much pride in the guide title. It is a hundred days of training and instruction, not ten years of university studies.

Luc - 05/09/2013 2:11:22