The American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA) has a certification that fitness professionals, interested in wall climbing, may have wondered about. Recently I had the opportunity to sit down with Amy DeLozier who obtained this certification. Hopefully this interview and review of AMGA will help you as you seek to broaden your personal training skills.
JC. Where about do you work?
AD. I work at Mansfield University at the Kelchner Fitness Center. It’s the recreation center for students on the Mansfield University campus.
JC. Whats your education/degrees/certs
AD. I have the following degrees:
- BS University of Central Missouri
- MA University of Oklahoma
- MA Mansfield University
I also have the following certifications:
- AFAA Group Fitness
- Cooper Institute for Aerobic Research Personal Trainer
- Zumba licensed
- Mad Dog Spinning
- Bokwa Fitness Level 1 and Step
- 200 Hour Certified Yoga teacher (slowly working on 500 hour)
- Yoga Fit Level 1
- Yoga Nidra Level 1
- Level 2 Ropes Course Practitioner
JC. What got you interested in wall climbing?
AD. I have a strong interest in fitness and recreation. I started climbing years ago as another way to stay fit. I’ve climbed on and off for almost 20 years, but it’s always been really recreational. I’ve never been a hard core climber. I only really started getting more interested a few years ago when we started talking about bringing a climbing wall to our campus.
I helped advocate for its construction and addition to our facility and had to quickly get knowledgeable about managing a climbing wall!
JC. Why did you pick the AMGA certification over other wall climbing certs?
AD. AMGA has a very good reputation and is leading the charge to create a more professional atmosphere among climbers and guides. They are the only certification that is recognized by the International Federation of Mountain Guides.
JC. Are there other rock climbing certs you looked at?
AD. The Climbing Wall Association is a newer organization than the AMGA and also has a climbing wall instructor certification. In the future, I plan to look into becoming a provider for their certification course. I would love to bring a standard training to our climbing wall student workers.
The Professional Climbing Instructors Association (PCIA) also has a climbing wall instructor course. I chose AMGA because they were the most reputable, have been doing this the longest and it was fairly easy to get a provider to come to our area and host a training for my staff.
JC. How much did the AMGA certification cost?
AD. The certification course was $350. In addition to the course, you have to pay an $85 yearly professional membership to AMGA to maintain the certification.
JC. Did AMGA require CPR /AED prior to the test?
AD. No, they used to require CPR certification but no longer do.
JC. Did you have to study for the AMGA certification?
The certification comes with its own manual. It’s recommended that candidates read and study that book prior to the certification class. In addition there are prerequisites for the practical portion. Candidates must have at least one year of climbing experience and 20 climbing outings before taking the test.Here are AMGA study guides on Amazon.
JC. How long did you study before taking the test?
AD. I spent a few hours doing a pretest and a few hours reviewing the materials.
JC. Was there a written portion of the test?
AD. No, there is no written portion-beyond a written pretest.
JC. Where did you take the certification test?
AD. Mansfield University, Kelchner Fitness Center. I arranged for the instructor to come to our facility and train myself and some of the student workers.
JC. Did you find out your test results immediately?
AD. At the end of the weekend, the instructor pulled each person aside individually and debriefed with them. The instructor talked about the good, the bad and what to work on. He also let us know if we passed or failed at that time.
JC. What happens if someone failed the test?
AD. The testing was primarily practical. Candidates are required to show climbing skills, teaching skill and specific skills with regards to belaying. If someone failed they would have to go through the course again in its entirety.
JC. How much does it cost to retest?
AD. It would require taking the entire certification over.
JC. How long do people have to retest, if they need to?
AD. They could do it along any time line.
JC. Is there a re-certification process every 1 or 2 years?
AD. Every 3 years the entire course needs to be taken again in order to recertify.
JC. What was the practical like?
AD. The practical portion runs through the entire course of the workshop. The course provider is constantly watching and assessing skills. He gave tips as the course progressed-and then suggested that the tips be followed in order to pass.
One tip included not “bumping” the belay device with the brake hand. It’s a really small thing – but a belayer can get a hand stuck in a belay device which is potentially painful. The first night of the course, the provider said the group were all proficient belayers – but we all had a tendency to bump the device.
He coached us on keeping our hand a few inches from the device and then shared that the expectation going forward was to use this new technique. From that point we were continually being evaluated even on that one small technique. There were tips and evaluations like this throughout the weekend.
In order to do well with the course it’s important for candidates to be very open to feedback and to changing habits. People who have been climbing or belaying for a long time might have really specific habits that are not necessarily wrong – but aren’t best practice. And the AMGA is all about best practice for everything.
JC. Do you have any tips to help people prepare for the AMGA certification?
AD. Yes here are some important tips:
- Be a strong belayer using the TBUS style of belay
- Know how to use both a tube style and assisted breaking belay device
- Have strong basic movement skills
- Know how to prepare and teach a lesson about climbing skills. Use an introduction, overview, global demonstration and constant testing of the students.
JC. What –if anything – surprised you about the AMGA test?
AD. As someone that’s been climbing and running a climbing wall for 3 years, I am always surprised by how much more there is to learn. Climbing feels like an area I’ll never know everything there is to know about. It will be a constant learning process.
JC. If you could change anything about the AMGA certification, what would it be?
AD. More time. The course is already 20 hours long, but I just feel like there is never enough time to learn everything you need to know.
JC. What was the hardest part of the AMGA test for you?
AD. There is a rescue section of the practical testing. I hadn’t ever done a rescue myself. I’ve seen it done and helped others with it, but for some reason never practiced. That was by far the hardest part as it involves ascending the rope with an assisted belay device on your own.
JC. How has your AMGA wall climbing cert helped you in your career?
AD. I’m hoping the certification will allow me to run a more professional climbing wall program. In the past, climbing has had a specific reputation for not being professional. As a University-run climbing wall, I want to focus on the educational aspects of climbing and climbing knowledge and run a professional program. I think the AMGA certification helps me do that.
Right now, a climbing wall instructor certification is not an industry standard certification. Having the certification now puts us ahead of the game when this does start to become a more recognized standard way of doing business. For me it’s also a step in a different direction.
I have done many group fitness and personal training certifications. I feel like I’ve focused on those for so long. It’s nice to branch out and find another interest with new information that keeps me interested in recreation and fitness.
JC. How can people find out more about you?
AD. People can reach out to me several different ways: