Five U.S. Guides Earn Top Honor


5/8/13 - 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!