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Rock Climbing Instructor Certification

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Getting your rock climbing instructor certification requires extensive rigorous training in all aspects of climbing instruction including professionalism, knots and rope handling, teaching, anchoring, risk management, conditioning and climbing movements. The American Mountain Guides Association is the only professional association of certified climbing instructors in the U.S. recognized by the International Mountaineering and Climbing Federation and the International Federation of Mountain Guides Association. Choose instructor programs accredited by the AMGA for the widest possible acceptance of your certification in the U.S. and abroad.

Climbing Wall Instructor Course

Obtain your climbing wall instructor certification as your first step toward becoming a fully certified rock climbing instructor or rock guide. The AMGA offers a two-and-a-half day, 20-hour climbing wall instructor certification program that covers client orientation and beginner instruction, teaching basic climbing skills and techniques, teaching proper belay techniques, emergency and rescue procedures and equipment and facility use.

You must be 18 years old or older, have completed at least 20 documented indoor and/or outdoor climbing outings and have current first aid and CPR certifications to attend the program. You must also be able to climb at 5.8 level on top rope, lead 5.7 climbs on artificial walls and demonstrate your ability to take controlled falls on rope and while bouldering. The course costs $350 and is offered in Colorado, New York and North Carolina as of December 2010.

Single Pitch Climbing Instructor Courses

The AMGA Single Pitch Instructor program is the second course required to become an AMGA-certified climbing instructor. The three-day, 27-hour course prepares instructors to teach rock climbing in outdoor single-pitch settings. You must be 18 or older, have 12 months of climbing experience, be an active lead climber with CPR and first-aid certification, have led trad climbs on at least 15 graded rock climbing routes and must be able to climb a 5.8 route on top rope with ease.

Assessment for certification takes place over two eight-hour days in nine categories, including terrain assessment, movement skills and instructional technique. The course and assessments are offered at multiple sites in California, North Carolina and Arizona, and cost $475 and $300 to $325 respectively as of December 2010.

Rock Guide Program

The AMGA Rock Guide Program prepares and certifies you to be a professional rock climbing instructor and guide. The program begins with a 10-day Rock Instructor Course to develop and refine your skills for guiding single and multi-pitch climbs and outings. You must have five years of rock climbing experience and have led at least 50 different multi-pitch trad routes, 10 of which must be rated 5.10a or higher on a variety of rock types. You must also be able to lead crack and face climbs at 5.9 or higher, show proficiency with all basic climbing knots and demonstrate skill with multiple belay and ascension methods and devices to take the course. You must take a six-day Rock Instructor Exam for Rock Instructor Certification. The RIE and RIC cost $2,100 and $1,700 respectively as of December 2010 and are offered at various locations throughout the U.S.

Before advancing to the Rock Guide Course, you must also guide 20 days of multi-pitch climbing outings and lead 10 trad routes rated 5.10 or higher. You must then complete a three-day Rock Guide Aspirant Exam before taking the 10-day RGC and another six-day Rock Guide Exam to become a Certified Rock Guide. The RGC/AE and RGE cost $2,100 and $1,700 as of December 2010.

Top Rope Instructor Certification

Top Rope Instructor Certification is offered through the National Top Rope Instructor/Guide Certification Course in Devil's Lake State Park, Wisconsin. (reference 6) The 7-day, 100-hour course is designed to offer top rope climbing instructor certification for rock climbing teachers who do not require lead or multi-pitch climbing skills and certifications. Check with your prospective employers, park officials and top rope locations to make sure they accept the Top Rope Instructor Certification. The course costs $495 as of December 2010 and is only offered in Wisconsin. (Reference 6)


Garrett Daun started writing professionally in 1993. Daun has extensive training in meditation, rock climbing, yoga, martial arts, exercise and massage therapy. His work has appeared in "The Squealor," the "Earth First! Journal" and on numerous websites. Daun earned a Bachelor of Arts in religious studies and creative writing from the University of Oregon. He is a yoga and Radical Undoing trainer.

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