Caroline George: AMGA Exam

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

Caroline George: Khumbu Climbing School

Each year, I look forward to my time guiding at Chicks with Picks:
sharing my passion for ice climbing, meeting new ladies, spending time  in Ouray, eating great food, and above all, having a blast. This year  though, I chose to deprive myself of such a joy but donating my time  and knowledge to the Khumbu Climbing School in Nepal. The 2009 edition of the Khumbu Climbing School was run by Chicks with Picks guide Amy Bullard. So, in a way, it felt like we were having our own little CWP time over there.

The Khumbu Climbing School enables Nepali people to learn how to be  safer in the mountains. We teach them how to build anchors, walk and  climb on ice, belay, rappel, tie knots, climb up fixed ropes, etc. At  the end of the ten day course, the students take an test, which
provides them with a certificate, which, in turn, enables them to get
work more easily on Everest or other big mountains around. Working at  KCS proved to be really gratifying in that we were teaching for a
cause. Although it was a different venue than Chicks, it offered much
of the same satisfaction: at Chicks, we raise money for women
shelters, in Nepal, we provided our students with a paper that would
open doors.

Check out my blog for pictures of KCS: www.carolinegeorge.com

N. Face Mt Sneffels, Ridgway CO

Mt Sneffels

Mt Sneffels

The jewel of the San Juan Mountains is Mt Sneffels, a fourteener that splits the long ridge running above the skyline of Ridgway CO. It is simply breathtaking and rivals the beauty of the Tetons…at least us locals think so. I stare at this peak from the picture window of my house and have always drooled over the Snake Couloir slicing the north face in half.

Traversing into the Snake

Traversing into the Snake

On May day, they finished plowing the road to Yankee Boy basin making the peak much more accessible by four wheel drive. Sara, Megan & I headed up with the gear to climb Sneffels and ski the Snake which means you come out on the other side of the range near the Blue Lake’s trailhead. There was only one catch, we didn’t set up a shuttle or have a ride out…..yet.  On the drive in, we started to make calls to see if anyone was free to rescue three cute girls after the descent and with no luck, we started skinning up anyway with the option to ski back to the car.

We cramponed up one of the south couloirs and when we reached the summit it was a windless and beautiful – I whipped out my cell phone and to my surprise, I had coverage. I began making calls for a pick up which sounded something like this “Hi Chris, it’s Kim. I’m standing on the summit of Mt Sneffels with two other girls and we were wondering what you are doing in a couple of hours? Would you be willing to pick us up at Blue Lakes after we ski the Snake? Oh look up, you might be able to see us waiving to you.”  Sure enough, he said yes which was perfect.

Skiing near the top

Skiing near the top

To get into the couloir we used ropes to traverse a steep chute to the start of the descent since there was definite consequences below.  Once in the Snake, it is one of the most impressive big mountain, classic, kick ass lines I’ve skied. Not hard or even that steep (but steep enough to keep you on your toes)  just an awe inspiring place to be!  We skied one at a time and made the sharp curve into steeper terrain that gives this classic it’s name – also known to some as the “S” Couloir.

Chris & the Girls

Chris & the Girls

It took about three hours to ski the line and find our way out through the thick woods. We hit the road and my trusty friend Chris Whaling was waiting patiently, throwing snowballs for his dog with a six pack of beer. Big points for this dude!  Once in a while you just get lucky.