A Student Tells All about the Rock Guide Training Program

Tomas a graduate of the Whistler Adventure School provides a personal view of the Rock Guide Training Program in Whistler, Canada. Check out what he has to say about the climbing trips, gear recommendations and his perspective on arriving in Canada from the Czech Republic to take the Rock Guide Training.

Where do we Climb? 

You can find all these climbs near Highway 99, located between Squamish and Whistler, British Columbia. It’s a light walk to the rocks which serves as a perfect warm-up before you start to climb.
My choice for a climbing guide is the Squamish Select – The Best Routes in Canadian Top Climbing Destinations by Marc Bourdon (ed 2012).  I recommend buying any climbing gear, guidebook or other supplies in Squamish. Whistler tends to be more expensive tailoring their pricing to tourists. I’d rather use my extra bucks on beer :).

Getting to the Rocks
The Whistler Adventure School is located in Function Junction in Whistler whereas most of the climbs occur in Squamish. Squamish is approximately 57 km from Whistler so if you plan to focus only on climbing I recommend you settle in Squamish and arrange trips to Whistler when you need to visit the school.

All the Instructors for the Mountain Guide Training Program live in Squamish and the meetings for my courses were daily at the Squamish Adventure Center in the heart of Squamish or at the Smoke Bluff’s car park which is very close. All the theoretical lessons take place at the rocks which is absolutely amazing, who wants to be in a classroom when you’re learning rock guiding! When I was there I only visited the school once to sign waivers and other administrative details.

My Climbing Gear Recommendations You’ll receive an equipment list from Whistler Adventure School, however you might want to consider the below items as well.Based on my own experience, the list below will make your Rock Guide Training more comfortable.

  • Harness
  • Climbing Shoes
  • Light Trekkers (for access to rocks and for light climbing)
  • Helmet
  • Gloves for Climbing (not necessary, it depends on you, but they were situations where I would like to wear them)
  • Chalk bag and Chalk
  • ATC buck + carabiner with lock (Triact-Lock) – for bottom/top securing (for reverse carbine extra)
  • 4 HMS carabiners with lock (Screw or Triact Lock) – for building stagnation
  • 2 Stitches 120cm (Dyneema is better, narrower) – for building stagnation
  • 1 Stitch smack 120cm + carabiner with lock (Screw or Triact Lock) – to PASS (as descent)
  • 2 Carabiners with lock (as a spare, for attaching shoes/bottles of water)
  • 1 Reep string – length 1.5m/diameter 6mm + carabiner with lock (Triact-Lock) – prussian
  • 1 Reep string – length 5m/diameter 7mm – for long rescue techniques
  • Small backpack (up to 15 liters)

My Favourite Climbing References
There is plenty of literature about rock climbing. If you are interested in some pre-reading before the course starts, I highly recommend the below books. They cover everything in the Rock Guide Training Program curriculum and some additional helpful information.

Squamish Select – The Best Routes in Canada‘s Top Climbing Destination, 2012 | Bourdon, Marc
Climbing Self Rescue: Improvising Solutions for Serious Situations | Loomis, M. Tyson
Rock Climbing: The AMGA Single pitch Manual, A Falcon Guide | Gaines, B.; Martin, J. D.
Horolezecka abeceda, Epocha, 2010. Frank, T.; Kublak, T.:  (in Czech)

A Great Rock and Boulder Locations As part of the Rock Climbing Guide Training course, we visited local areas that lie between Whistler and Squamish. To practice certain techniques, each was specific to the type of climbing guiding techniques we were learning, so it was quite common to climb several areas within a week. We visited: The Smoke Bluffs, The Malamute, Stawamus Chief, Area44, Shannon Falls, Electric Avenue, and Nordic.

If you want to practice indoors there are two places I recommend.

The Core Gym
Located in Whistler Village you can find a multipurpose gym, low wall with winches about 6m high.

Ground Up Climbing Centre
This centre offers a high wall of approximately 15 m tall.

Our Mountain Guide Instructors
Chris Lawrence
The Whistler Adventure School Rock Guide Training Program is taught by professional mountain guides who have limitless experience in climbing. In my particular case, 90% of the time was with Chris Lawrence, a tendinous man from England, who is a walking encyclopedia of climbing facts. In addition to rock climbing, Chris teaches the Ski Guide and Alpine Guide Program. Everything he teaches is verified by his own life experience. He tries everything personally before sharing with his students so you can be sure that the knots and their alternate uses are always verified by his safety standards.

Guillaume Otis
Guillaume Otis also taught us and his unique skill set had us pushing our limits thus widening our horizons with other techniques.

Rock Guide Training Program
The Rock Guide Training Program is divided into three sections one preceding the next. The program is a total of approximately 160 hours, that is 20 days each lasting 8 hours. If the weather was bad, we changed the program as needed. The hourly subsidy is maintained even if the weather is bad. In such a case an alternative (like moving under the overhang to train some rescue techniques or theory discussion) is performed. A total of 20 days of the course is spread roughly over two months. We started at the beginning of July and finished the first week in September. So you have enough free time to practice, refresh or absorb new techniques on your own. After graduating from the school, we received a graduation package which consists of a certificate, personal evaluation, advice, and comments from both mountain leaders, what to improve on and how.

Why Whistler Adventure School?
Why would I become an International student and travel to Canada from the Czech Republic to study to become a Rock Climbing Guide?
The simple answer is the program offered all the components I need to follow my goal passing the test to be accepted into the international association of mountain guide UIAGM.  Naturally, there are many similar courses that are much closer to my country and even my home. However, when you compare the financial expenses and real-time spent in the mountains or practicing on the rocks, these cannot be compared.

The Whistler Adventure School Advantage:

  1. The WAS program offers 160 hours, much more significant than the 80-hour program offered in the Alps.
  2. The guides work intensively with you side by side where you are improving step by step.
  3. You can apply the experience and skills you have acquired as part of your one-year visa program enabling you to work while you earn your Rock Guide Training.
  4. There are multiple climbing routes and training walls in very close vicinity.
  5. My main goal is to pass the test of the International Association of Mountain Guides (UIAGM). To apply for training to become a mountain guide with UIAGM, you are required to show a list of climbing routes, tracks in the mountains, alpine tours on touring skis and more. To accomplish this, one has to have the necessary experience and knowledge, how to move in the mountainous terrain, what to do and what not to do. Where can all this be systematically learned for a reasonable cost making the opportunity to study at WAS helped me accomplish my dream.
  6. All the information and the acquired skills are internationally recognized.

ABOUT Tomas Titor
Tomas is a dreamer who decided that his dreams needed some help to enable them to be fulfilled. After a six-year study of restoration and subsequent several years of work in the field he realized he hasn’t climbed at all! He almost forgot the skill! In 2018 he changed his life path and travelled to the other side of the world to follow his dream. His passion. Even his life purpose. After graduating from the Rock Climbing Guide at the Whistler Adventure School and exploring the beauty of the local British Columbia mountains, he changed his dreams to be even bigger. His newly found passion in Alpine Guiding. Tomas plans to study at Whistler Adventure School next summer in the Alpine Guide Training Program and the Ski Guide Training program in the upcoming winter. He is also going to write articles about these other programs to provide future students with a first account information and share his knowledge on what to expect in these programs.

Learn more about how to get involved in the Rock Guide Training Program with Whistler Adventure School.

Photo credits: Guillaume Otis, Rock Guide Training Program Instructor at Whistler Adventure School and Tomas Titor, Rock Guide Training Program Student.