The Colorado College climbing community is well-recognized, even scoring a feature in Outside magazine and drawing competitive climbers from across the country. This block break, an American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA) course offered students an intensive course that prepared them to guide professionally anywhere in the world.
Eight Colorado College students took the Single-Pitch Instructor (SPI) Course, which took place Friday through Sunday of this break. Students spent the majority of the day outside, learning rescue techniques and practicing building secure anchors, among other things.
Ryan Hammes, director of Outdoor Education at CC, is planning to model the CC Climbing Leader training after the AMGA’s course, and is hoping to make the SPI course a requirement for Level 3 leaders in the future. He finds the professionalism gained is highly valuable, not to mention the “hard” skills such as safe climbing and guiding techniques.
The International Mountaineering and Climbing Federation awarded this course the title of “approved association.” It is the only course in the US to hold this recognition. SPI, according to AMGA’s website is, “the only nationally and internationally recognized single pitch instructor climbing instructor certification program.”
The group visited several different local climbing areas during the weekend to get acquainted with various sites, ranging from the granite cracks of Turkey Rocks to the classic sandstone fins of Garden of the Gods.
This weekend’s course only involved the three-day training period; to gain the official certification, students must take an additional two-day assessment. Many of the CC students confirmed that they planned to take the assessment soon and most hope to guide over the summer or in the near future.
Students must be proficient climbers before taking the course. AMGA requires that they have 12 months of climbing experience and have climbed at least 40 routes. They also must be comfortable placing protection such as cams and nuts in cracks while climbing “traditional” routes. Traditional climbing differs from sport climbing; in traditional climbing, there is no permanent protection in the rock.
During the three days, students went over basic skills such as knots and belaying as well as technical skills like rescues. However, the majority of their schedule focused on skills that even proficient climbers may lack, such as teaching specific skills, managing group sites, professionalism, and risk management.
Jamie Sarafan, a freshman at CC, is a guide with Front Range Climbing out of Colorado Springs and took the course to strengthen her resume and broaden her skill set. Senior Chris Dickson and junior Hannah Trim both hope to guide in the future after being heavily involved in leading the CC climbing community.
The majority of the participants are accustomed to spending their block breaks climbing in Utah on personal trips, but despite the long hours and familiar climbing locations, they all found SPI to be a valuable use of their block breaks.
Hopefully the SPI course will become an annual part of CC’s outdoor calendar. Even for those not interested in guiding professionally, the skills gained in the SPI course are valuable for learning how to stay safe and keep others safe.