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Apply Now: Alpine Ascents’ First BIPOC Guide Training Program

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Are you a person of color who wants to become a guide? Then apply for this brand-new, upcoming 8-month BIPOC-specific Guide Development Program.

Via a new partnership, Alpine Ascents International and Edgeworks Climbing now offer a program designed to increase the representation of BIPOC individuals in the mountain guiding industry. The certification-focused curriculum is solely dedicated to training prospective BIPOC guides.

Free, unpaid American Mountain Guide Association (AMGA) courses and exams, a paid work opportunity, and ongoing job guidance are all on tap for the Jan.-Nov. 2023 program.

“We want our guide staff to be representative of the climbers we want to welcome into the outdoor space,” stated Alpine Ascents, which is located in Washington state.

Program Overview

This program is open to people of color over 20 years old who want to improve their existing climbing skills and develop into guides. The operating partners will select six applicants to join the cohort and benefit from provided financial support.

AMGA-certified professionals will lead the 8-month program. It covers a wide range of technical skills, with the end goal for each participant to earn AMGA Single Pitch Instructor (SPI) certification.

The Washington-based guide service will provide instruction and shadowing opportunities aimed at priming BIPOC guides for the field. Participants can take the Washington SPI course and exam (which typically costs $625-650 plus another $450 for the exam) for free.

Alpine Ascents International and Edgeworks require applicants to have only basic knot skills and one year of climbing experience. Note that you’ll need a solid climbing resume to become an SPI. The prerequisite for anyone taking the exam is 40 leads of traditional climbs 5.6 and harder.

If you test out in mid-October 2023, the program operators will then offer assistance as you apply for guide work.

BIPOC rock climber
(Photo/Eric Gomez T via Shutterstock)

Financials, Housing, and Limitations

Don’t worry if you don’t meet the SPI prerequisites — you can still participate in the BIPOC Guide Development Program. And while you won’t benefit from the free, unpaid AMGA course and exam, you can still get a financial boost through Alpine Ascents.

Everyone in the program who needs extra cash can grab a paid seasonal job working in Alpine Ascents’ gear and logistics department. The hours are 35-40 hours per week and will also double as a total immersion opportunity. Though, this perk is optional.

Alpine Ascents and Edgeworks will only provide housing during multiday training sessions. The companies did note that most one-day training sessions take place near campgrounds.

If participants don’t have their own gear, they can borrow Alpine Ascents International rental gear for each training session. Everything from crampons to down jackets is available.

Ideal BIPOC applicants (at least 20 years old due to liability) will display “enthusiasm and commitment to entering the field of guiding,” along with a suitable outdoor resume and the ability to attend all training sessions.


  • Location: Washington state
  • Cost: Free
  • Commitment: 8 months (April 1-November 1, 2023)

Eligibility Requirements

  • Identify as BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color)
  • Competence in overnight backcountry camping
  • One year of personal climbing experience
  • Familiarity with basic knots, belaying, and rappelling
  • Able to legally work in the United States

Program Outline

  • Free Alpine Ascents field training throughout the 2023 summer season
  • Free AMGA SPI Course provided by Edgeworks Climbing on October 11-13, 2023
  • Opportunities to shadow Alpine Ascents courses/climbs throughout the summer
  • Opportunities to shadow Edgeworks Climbing programs throughout the summer
  • One Edgeworks Climbing course (Sport Leading, Trad Leading, Rock Rescue, or multipitch) of your choice
  • Monthly check-ins with Alpine Ascents Guide Department
  • Direct mentorship from current Alpine Ascents and Edgeworks guides
  • Free climbing gym membership at Edgeworks Climbing

Schedule Itinerary

  • April 1: Physical Conditioning for Mountaineering (virtual)
  • April 14-16: Three-day Glacier Focused Training, Lower Nisqually Glacier
  • May 20: One-day Navigation & Tour Planning Seminar, Snoqualmie Pass
  • June 24: Technical Rope Skills, Exit 38
  • August 6: Efficiency in 4th and Low 5th Class Terrain, Mount Erie
  • September 22-24: Three-day Alpine Rock Training, Washington Pass
  • October 11-13: SPI Course provided by Edgeworks (participants must meet SPI pre-requisites)
  • October-November: Applying for a Guiding Job + Individual Check-Ins (virtual/Seattle)

Certifications Upon Successful Completion

  • AIARE Level 1 Course, operated by Alpine Ascents
  • AIARE Rescue Course, operated by Alpine Ascents
  • AMGA SPI Exam, operated by Edgeworks

How to Apply

The application period is from November 1, 2022, to January 1, 2023. Alpine Ascents International and Edgeworks Climbing will then select the six-person cohort to join the program in Washington state.

To apply, send a cover letter, a resume, and answers to three application questions below to dei@alpineascents.com.

Application questions:

  1. How have your identities shaped your relationship with the outdoors?
  2. What are your career goals and how will this program positively impact your career path?
  3. How will this opportunity enrich your life outside of the mountains?

More BIPOC Guide Programs & Organizations

Aside from Alpine Ascents’ new program, there are other organizations and courses that BIPOC individuals can enroll in for additional training to prepare them for a leadership role.

The North Carolina Outward Bound School’s Fellowship for BIPOC Staff is a paid 6-month fellowship position for BIPOC individuals. This fellowship is designed to increase diversity in the outdoor professional community in North Carolina (and beyond).

The components include Wilderness First Aid, rock climbing, whitewater paddling, backpacking, ropes courses, and more. This is a great opportunity for those in the area or who can relocate for the duration of the program. However, the training isn’t as robust as it is with Alpine Ascents’ BIPOC Guide Development Program.

Another program to consider is the NOLS Southwest Leaders of Color Expeditions. This 9-day program is particularly great for those with limited time who want to gain hands-on experience in the outdoors but with a broader overview.

However, unlike many other options already out there, Alpine Ascents’ program stands out because it offers extensive technical training in rock climbing; access to free, unpaid AMGA training; and assistance in finding a job in the industry.

If you or anyone you know meets the program’s eligibility requirements and wants to become a guide, don’t forget to apply before January 1, 2023.

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