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Bringing safety to the complexity of Eldorado Canyon: Pepper Dee on his AMGA Rock Guide Course

When I moved to Boulder, Colorado in the fall of 2017, Eldorado Canyon was a place that I treated with a high degree of respect. Known for its delicate route-finding, variable rock quality, and stiff, old-school grading, Eldo is a humbling place to climb. Rock guiding in Eldo has always struck me as particularly impressive—the variability of the terrain in the canyon necessitates a familiarity with a wide range of guiding techniques in order to stay safe with a group of newer climbers. This is one of the main reasons why I chose this venue for my Rock Guide Course.

My second mock lead on the course tackled an aesthetic, rambling three pitch climb on the Wind Tower. I had done the climb before, but had never been responsible for three other mock-climbers. I found myself doing nearly everything differently with my mock-climbers in tow—positioning my climbers out of the way of loose rock, breaking pitches up into shorter, up-and-down sections, and rigging lowers down exposed, short steps that I had always simply down-climbed. All told, a climb that had taken a mere hour and a half climbing independently took me three quite involved hours to guide.

To me, that is the part of guiding that I will always love the most—the challenge of using every trick in your toolbox to make a section of terrain as safe as you can for your climbers. My Rock Guide Course endowed me with plenty of tricks, from terrain belays to rigging rappels to rope management systems. The real excitement of the course, though, was getting experience applying these tricks in one of the most complex rock climbing areas in the country.


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