It's a nice warm end-of-summer evening in Canmore. It's still light outside, it's 8 pm, but inside all three bedroom doors are closed and the lights are nearly out. In a normal circumstances I would consider this slightly odd. But this week, it is the norm. Tomorrow my roommates Claire, Kate and I start our 8-day exam for the Apprenctice Rock Guide program. That the three of us share traits in common is unmistakable: we are focused, committed, organized and making it a priority feed and rest our bodies as well as we can. We feel we should: eight days of back-to-back climbing can be exhausting, both physically and mentally, and even more so with the added pressure of being examined.
We each prepare our dinners at staggered intervals and weave through each other in the kitchen. Except for the clinking of climbing gear, mostly we are quiet. The conversation is minimal tonight. It is apparent we are all feeling the jitters. Claire remarks that it feels like the night before a first day of school. Indeed. I have no doubt that we are as prepared as we ought to be. At this point. For this exam. Throughout my training this summer I have learned that guiding is a craft and each day on the rock brings new lessons. In that sense, there is no end in sight. Our present challenge then is to bring to the table the lessons we have already integrated and to trust in ourselves, our training, our judgment, and our bodies. And to have fun!
As a friend put it earlier this week: how awesome to spend an entire week climbing! Awesome indeed! I'll be sure to store this thought and pull it out next time I feel overwhelmed by the process; perhaps even tomorrow morning when the alarm rings at 5 am. :-)
DAY 1 (Tuesday September 3, 2013)
It's 6 pm and oddly I'm feeling tired, more than I should after a short day like today. Fatigue aside, today was a very great day. We accomplished the program goals (climbs, rescue & lesson) and got the exam started. The three examiners (Derek W., Sarah H. & Craig M.) are friendly and relaxed and are setting a nice tone for the week. I pulled off my three assigned sport climbs (10c Sunglasses & Sideburns, 10d/11a Heartbreak Hotel & 10d White Imperialist). On the outside I appeared confident, but on the inside I struggled to shake off the jitters all day. I hope to shake them off soon!
DAY 2 (Wednesday September 4, 2013)
A great second day at Back of the Lake today. The examiners are (still!) so nice and friendly and all the participants were a bit more relaxed today, myself included. I think having Day 1 under our belt helped us relax a bit. I did well on my three technical skills (knot pass lower, tandem rappel and ascending). For the gear climbing portion of the assessment I climbed Violet Hour 10b (I love that route!), built an anchor part way, belayed Derek up and lowered him. The examiners seem pleased with our group overall and we finished the day's agenda by 1 pm. So they threw in some extra practice. I guided Sarah and Alex up Corner Journey 5.8, splitting it in two pitches and using parallel rope techniques. So much fun! We got home late tonight and are getting prepared for tomorrow, but off to bed soon for another 5:00 am start. Such a cool experience to be part of this!
DAY 3 (Thursday September 5, 2013)
Had a fun day out with Claire, Cory and Sarah on Gooseberry 5.8 today. We swapped leads throughout the day (e.g. I led Cory up the first half behind Claire who was leading Sarah, and then we rotated and I was a guest on the second half of the route). I was assigned the lead guide role for the technical descent (a.k.a. rappels) and we all managed to escape unharmed. Overall we were fairly efficient and down early (1:30 pm) so we went over to Ballista 5.10c and I led Sarah up the first pitch and lowered her down on a munter. Cory did the same with Claire as his guest. Today we were still allowed to ask questions during the climb and it was nice to discuss guiding issues with Sarah; tomorrow we're on our own! We are all hoping the wet weather will skirt us tonight.
DAY 4 (Friday September 6, 2013)
Today was the "speed ascent with technical descent" day and our team climbed Geriatric 5.8 followed by Raptor 5.10c. We rappelled from the top of Pitch 6 of Geriatric and from the top of Pitch 7 of Raptor. I was out front guiding Derek in the morning (guide's meeting, approach hike, approach "pitch" and Pitches 1-3 of Geriatric). Then I became a client for the rest of that route. We were cold and shivering for most of Geriatric and once back on the ground we put on rain pants and jackets for the rest of the day. On Raptor I guided Cory, following behind Claire and Derek, and given the focus on speed and efficiency, we were allowed (and encouraged!) to "French Free" the greasy moves. Yay! Overall we were lucky with the weather and managed to sneak in 13 pitches of climbing/rapping before the rain hit Canmore. Let's see what tomorrow brings!
DAY 5 (Saturday September 7, 2013)
We used today's wet and rainy weather as best we could. Our goal today was to practice and receive coaching on parallel rope configuration. Our group went to a new route near Raven's crag in Banff. All three groups got rained out after a couple of pitches and rappelled. The techniques I learned in Alaska were helpful: I rappelled wearing paddling neoprene gloves, had everything in a giant Ziploc and hiked in with a dry bag backpack! In the afternoon we drove to the base of Mt. Rundle and managed to sneak in a few pitches of Rundlehorn during a lull. Cory led in the morning and Claire in the afternoon. We got home early (5:30pm) and are now preparing for a big day on Yamnuska tomorrow. Forbidden Corner is the route our guest (Craig McGee) is keen on climbing.
DAY 6 (Sunday September 8, 2013)
A challenging (and spicy) day today on Forbidden Corner. Ominous clouds hung around most of the day. I was assigned the last lead, which meant being a guest on the first three pitches, then leading Cory up the middle pitches and finally leading the examiner (Craig) up the last four pitches. I started my lead just before 3 pm. Almost immediately it started raining and thundering. I was told to gun it for the summit. I managed to lead the last three pitches in about 45 min. We all managed to get up safely, watching lightning touching down on the horizon around us. We ran down the backside of Yam and got back to the car safe and sound. However, I received a "substandard" mark for my Pitch 9 anchor (pitons were not properly equalized). A good lesson to learn and one I will certainly never forget!
DAY 7 (Monday September 9, 2013)
The goal today was to practice and receive coaching on short roping techniques. Our group was assigned the NE Ridge of Ha Ling 5.6 and practiced short roping on the approach scramble section. I was assigned second lead, which meant being assistant guide (ie. guiding another candidate) for the first third, guiding the examiner (Craig) in the middle section and being a "guest" for the last third. After Forbidden Corner yesterday, today felt like a pretty relaxed day: easy climbing, blue skies, and no rush or fear of thunder or lightning overhead... We were back at the car at 4 pm and the examiner instructed us to be at the Yam office tomorrow morning at 10:30 am. The three of us looked at each other: a 10:30 am start means no climbing on the last day! Yahoo! We immediately took a table at The Wood and spent the next 5 hours swapping stories with the other candidates. The relief was palpable. As was apparent in the tab when we left :-)
DAY 8 (Tuesday September 10, 2013)
We met the examiners at the Yam office in the morning for a quick exam wrap up, including a discussion of scope of practice and supervision requirements. Then, one by one, we had the opportunity to meet the team of examiners for a final personal debrief. During the debrief they highlight your strengths and areas for improvement but they do not discuss grades (final marks will be sent in two week's time). So at this point, we don't really know what the results are. As a group we all feel that we all did well, but time will tell. I had invited the participants and examiners for a BBQ and a group of us visited together for a while in the evening. It was nice way to wrap up the summer and to cap off, what was for many candidates, myself included, a long process. Everyone is now stoked to climb... for fun!
|The Travelling Llama joined me on Day 3 of my exam.|
It appears his presence startled Sarah.
|Have no fear, the Travelling Llama is quick to make new friends!|