Trip Report: Alpine Ambassadors Squamish 2.0

Alpine Ambassadors are a group of climbers looking to push their limits together, learn from the mentorship of guides and highly accomplished climbers, and mentor others. The group is comprised of leaders from all branches with climbing programs. Hear from one of our Ambassadors about his recent experience learning in Squamish.
Sean Albert Sean Albert
Alpine Ambassador Leadership Team
September 11, 2019
Trip Report: Alpine Ambassadors Squamish 2.0

Alpine Ambassadors,  a group of climbers looking to push their limits together, learn from the mentorship of guides and highly accomplished climbers, and mentor others, held our second “rock” trip in the world class climbing mecca of Squamish, BC in July 2019. Spending six days (in a row) climbing in Squamish exposed us all to new techniques, rope systems, and climbing areas in a truly contagious learning environment. Together we pushed our  limits, challenged our abilities, and progressed as climbers.

The leadership team painstakingly selected 14 participants through an open call for application. Those selected had a good history of volunteerism with The Mountaineers and were climbing at the minimum grade required. We had a diverse representation from all branches within The Mountaineers and a 50/50 ratio of returning vs. new Ambassadors.

We had the wonderful opportunity to work with four talented Squamish Rock guides during six days of climbing. Two of the four guides returned from last year’s program, which ended up being an invaluable asset to the success of the program this year!

Our program is an unusual job for guides. They typically lead clients up routes vs. our program where they're work with lead climbers to increase lead grades and rope system efficiencies. These atypical days meant the guides all really enjoyed the program too! The returning guides knew what to expect from the Ambassadors, which allowed us to get out on the rock quickly and begin the mentorship process with a running start. Thank you again to our four guides!

Why do we hire guides?

Spending six days (in a row) climbing in Squamish exposed us all to new techniques, rope systems, and climbing areas, but in my opinion spending that time in the field with the guides benefits those in the program on multiple levels. Here are few that come to mind:

  • Guides are professionals! They’ve received countless hours of professional/industry standard/best practice training, testing, and certification. Thus, they really REALLY know their stuff! Mentoring with a professional is a proven way to learn a lot!
  • Home field advantage is huge! Climbing with guides who spend dozens or even hundreds of days climbing in Squamish per year makes moving from crag to crag, route to route, or linking routes very efficient. (How many times have your wasted precious time looking for the start of that one particular route or climbing area?) Plus, the guides know what places to avoid due to crowds, what climbs are good for breaking into a new grade, and how to get down from a climb efficiently and safely. Simple things help take advantage of and best utilize the time spent training in the field.
  • Monkey see, monkey do. Modeling is a real thing, so by observing and climbing with professionals, we all learn a lot about the little things, and sometimes pick up really great tips and tricks just by watching.

My experience

This was my second trip to Squamish with the Ambassadors. Unfortunately last summer I sprained an ankle half way through the program, which ended up being a pretty tough setback for me. Before my injury, I was climbing the hardest I ever had and feeling pretty good about safely pushing my lead grade during my week at Squamish. I was stoked! I ultimately pushed a little too hard on a day I was probably a little too tired to be doing so. It was good lesson learned, but a tough pill to swallow. While sitting on my couch the rest of the summer I had the dialog with myself that I’m sure everyone injured while climbing has: Can I still do this? What will taking the sharp end of the rope feel like when I’ve recovered? Is it worth the risk?

I worked my way back slowly on both the mental and physical recovery train, then had a great experience ice climbing with the Ambassadors in Ouray in January, so returning to Squamish in 2019 seemed like the best way to get back to where I was.

My focus at Squamish definitely shifted this summer from last. Besides not wanting to get injured, as a member the Ambassadors Leadership Team I wanted to see how other Ambassadors used the program, get their feedback as week moved along, and scheme with other them on how we could make it better. Sure, I personally worked on climbing new routes and harder grades, but I also used the opportunity to exposed new Ambassadors (some at Squamish for the first time) to cool routes and areas I knew about from previous trips there myself.

As a volunteer educator, I see the great benefit AA participants get from spending time with professional guides and climbing with their talented peers. It’s a truly contagious learning environment, pushing us to all get better, which was truly evident in our daily afternoon debriefs as a large group. And sure, pushing myself is always a rewarding challenge no matter the outcome, those days that I step it up are the ones that make me feel alive, as cliché as it sounds. But honestly, seeing others push their limits, challenge their own abilities, and progress as climbers is often more rewarding for me then my own progressions on the rock. Seeing others get stoked about learning, making great personal strides, and climbing in general is SUPER CONTAGIOUS!

We witnessed and experienced that stoke from each other on a daily basis throughout the course of the trip and it pushed us all to be better. In fact, ask any of the 2019 Squamish Alpine Ambassadors about their time in the program and I’m sure they’ll all tell you they caught the same stoke bug.

Become an Alpine Ambassador!

If you'd like to join a community that's focused on pushing your climbing skills while also mentoring others to push theirs, Alpine Ambassadors may be the right group for you! Below are the minimum requirements.

  • Confidence leading either 5.9 trad rock climbs or WI 3 ice climbs
  • Mountaineers membership is current
  • Contribution, at least once annually, to the Alpine Ambassadors community
  • Regular volunteer leadership for your branch’s climbing program

To find out more, visit the Alpine Ambassadors page. 

About the author

Sean Albert has a been a Mountaineers member since 2009, he’s climb leader, an active member of the Seattle Climbing Committee, currently serves on the PCE Leadership Development Committee, Alpine Ambassadors Leadership team, Advanced Alpine Rock leadership team, and is close to achieving national certification to teach AIARE Avalanche Level 1 courses with The Mountaineers.

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