We all know that when you go to a doctor you expect them to have graduated from Medical School and be trained and certified. Or maybe you see a Nurse Practitioner or intern, but understand they also have achieved certain levels of training and are qualified to help. Plumbers, bookkeepers, auto mechanics, child care providers… we expect most the professionals who help us to have formal qualifications.
Can the same be said of the guide who accompanies you out in the mountains? Often not.
Over the last 4 decades guiding in the USA has been slowly evolving, becoming more structured and more standards applied. Sierra Mountain Center (SMC) and owner SP Parker have been a part of this since the beginning, being one of the originators of the alpine and rock disciples. Our involvement and support continues.
Starting July of 2022 the AMGA (American Mountain Guides Association) is implementing its SOP (Scope of Practice). The SOP document has been in development for several years. As with any large bold step, it has been controversial, with a wide range of opinions being voiced.
Basically the SOP means that guides are required to limit their guiding to within their level of training.
There are a number of training levels:
- Apprentice Guide: An individual who has successfully completed any first level course (Alpine Skills Course, Rock Guide Course, Alpine Guide Course, or Ski Guide Course).
- Assistant Guide: An individual who has passed the exam component of an advanced level course.
- Aspirant Mountain Guide: An individual who has passed the Aspirant Exam component of all three advanced level courses.
- Certified Guide: An individual who has passed a Guide level Exam (Alpine, Rock, or Ski).
- American Mountain Guide/IFMGA Guide: Any Guide who has passed all three Guide level exams is an American Mountain Guide.
Sierra Mountain Center is an AMGA Accredited Guide Service. As such we are required to hold our guides to this standard and ensure that our guides operate within the terrain limitations that go with each level of training. (For example, a person who is an Apprentice Rock Guide cannot guide in glaciated or high standard alpine terrain.) If we do not, our Accreditation is in jeopardy. Non-accredited guide service are not held to this standard — and have nothing to lose.
Upholding these standards will not be easy but SMC is committed to doing whatever we can to do so. It means hiring the right staff, ensuring that they get mentoring and supervision and scheduling staff on appropriate programs. But we believe that this is the best way to ensure that our guests get the right guide for their program and to enhance their mountain experience.
We encourage our guests to seek out AMGA accredited Guide Services and to ask what the level of training of their guide is.