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 Oregon Mountaineering Association
131 NW 4th St. # 258; Corvallis OR 97330
oma@i-world.net
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Oregon Guides and Guide Services

Qualification Terminology

(The difference between certification and accreditation. If you see these terms being used make sure they are used correctly - don't be misled!)

The AMGA (American Mountain Guides Association) is trying to establish guide certification in this country, in a manner compatible with most of the rest of the world. Unfortunately some of the established guide services in this country are trying to capitalize on this movement in their marketing by misusing terms. Meanwhile few of them have actively supported the certification paradigm by offering their guides incentives and assistance in obtaining certification, hiring certified guides, or allowing certified guides access to their permit area under their permit.

Certification is offered to guides, not companies. The certification process is rigorous and costly in terms of both time and money. Guides certified in all three American disciplines (rock, alpine, ski mountaineering) are IFMGA recognized and can guide in other IFMGA countries (including all of Europe) without restriction. Certification is a very significant accomplishment. However, it has very limited meaning when it comes to guiding in the US since the Forest Service does not issue permits on a qualification basis. (Nor does the Park Service.) At this time a certified guide would not be allowed to operate independently on on Mt Hood, while existing permittees have no incentive to certify their guides.

Timberline Mountain Guides has recently made the choice to become active in the AMGA and at least some of their guides are certified or working towards it. Oregon Peak Adventures also offers a bit of an incentive to guides who are certified or working on it, but their guiding in Oregon is mostly limited to hiking since they have not broken into the closed group of permittees for climbing on Mt Hood.

Accreditation is offered to companies, not guides. It is only a review of the companies business practices (i.e. insurance, registrations, etc). It is entirely unrelated to certification at this time. The AMGA has claimed that this will change and that in the future there will be a connection between accreditation and certification. Presumably an accredited company will have to have some certified guides on staff and/or some incentive for their guiding staff to work towards certification.

Is your guide certified?

It is pointless to look for an independent certified guide in Oregon (or much of the US) at this time. The best one can do right now is to seek out a guide or service who is actively supporting the introduction of certification in the US. An increasing number of concessions do have at least some certified guides so clients can inquire about this and specifically request one if possible.

Remember that an accredited concession does not necessarily have certified guides, and that a company may have some guides who are certified and some who are not. Often they will not tell you in advance who your guide will be, making it impossible for you to determine their credentials.

Clients have a right (ethically if not legally) to know who will be guiding them and what the individuals credentials are. Insist on this when you contact a concession, and if they will not accommodate you consider filing a complaint with the USFS. This is the only way to promote change. (Note that the local ranger districts and their concessions are often pretty close with little accountability, so if you do file a complaint you should also send copies to the National Forest, Regional, and National levels.)

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