This winter has been busy with travels, trainings and exam. Upon returning from the Khumbu Climbing School, I headed to beautiful and remote Silverton, CO to take my level III AIARE course/exam, which is a necessary step to take the AMGA aspirant ski exam. After much talking and learning about snow, I passed the AIARE III and headed to Vegas to teach clinics at the Red Rocks Rendez Vous. A day later, I flew to Switzerland to visit my family and friends, to ski and climb (see my blog for pictures of that trip: carolinegeorge.blogspot.com) and eventually, by mid april, flew to AK to train for my ski aspirant exam with Chicks with Picks guide, Angela Hawse.
We drove from Anchorage to the ski mountaineering and heliskiing mecca, aka Valdez, and immediately got down to business, checking out the terrain we later be tested on and perfecting our drills: sled lowers, building shelters, beacon search, snow profile and skiing
technique. Each day, we would head up another mountain and ski. Each night, we were greated with Anna’s – our hostess – amazing home cooked meals and pies and share beta with the other course and exam participants. After ten days there, we were ready for the course to start.
We met our instructors – Howie Schwartz, Bela Vadasz and Martin Volken – on the first day and headed out to get tested on the above
mentionned drills. We spent three days doing drills, which felt like an eternity. All we really wanted to do was ski. Eventually, the
skiing component started. We learnt new tricks of the trade, practiced some crevasse rescue and skied amazing corn snow. On day 6 (out of 10), we flew into the range in a helicopter and got dropped off on a little pass on a ridge. We spent the following three days traversing back to Thompson Pass (where most of the easily accessible skiing is located), carrying huge packs with our skiing gear (shovel, probe, beacon, skins, etc.), our camping gear (stove, fuel canisters, tent, sleeping bag, mat, jackets, headlamps, food, etc.), navigation gear (maps, compass, GPS, notebooks, etc.) and glacier travel gear (harness, ice axe, crampons, prussiks, cordelettes, carabiners, ice screw, first aid kit, tarps, etc.). Heavy! Yet, this was an amazing trip across gigantic glaciers and we benefited from amazing weather too. Angela and I shared the tent and the stove! We spent the last three days getting examined.
The exam component is a new one in the advanced course, and one that enables American guides to become IFMGA aspirant guides, once they have passed the three disciplines offered by the AMGA: rock, alpine and skiing. This was my last advanced course/exam. I completed the Alpine in August 08, the Rock in September 08 and the ski just this past April 09. With this, my lifelong dream of being an offical IFMGA aspirant guide came true and my need to belong fulfilled. This status will also enable me to be a better guide for Chicks with Picks… and hopefully, I’ll be an even better guide once I have completed the full IFMGA certification. To get there, I still need to take the exams in each discipline: alpine, rock and ski!
To see pictures of this story, view my blog: carolinegeorge.blogspot.com