Falcon Guide’s AMGA Single Pitch Manual

Falcon Guides has just published Rock Climbing: The AMGA Single Pitch Manual (click through to purchase it at the American Mountain Guides Association site–it’s cheaper than Amazon and free shipping, too!), the latest in its “How to Climb” series. Written by longtime guides Bob Gaines and Jason D. Martin, both certified in the rock discipline by the AMGA, the book spells out in ample detail the Single Pitch Instructor (SPI) curriculum.

The SPI course and certification are specifically geared towards training climbers for the demands of top-rope and single-pitch instruction. Venues like Boulder Canyon, Joshua Tree, Red Rocks’ Calico Basin, and Leavenworth are all ideal single-pitch terrain. The program attracts everybody from camp counselors looking to refine their management and execution for relatively simple top-roping with kids to aspiring guides looking to begin their career in the mountains. My first certification was an SPI and it was a great way to begin progressing through the AMGA coursework towards rock, alpine, and ski certs.

The 256-page book builds upon the older AMGA course handbooks (which were distributed only to SPI students during their courses) and presents it to anyone interested, in a clearly written format with complementary color photos. Basic gear choices and use, rope-work, protection placement, and more complicated anchor rigging are all covered in clear, concise detail. For the beginning practitioner, this is all useful stuff–though for the more experienced it will be review, as it’s been covered well in other titles, by Falcon Guides and elsewhere.

One of the many spreads on rope techniques
One of the many spreads on rope techniques

Where The AMGA Single Pitch Manual really breaks new ground is within the sections on rigging simple and more complex anchors, and managing toprope sites. Gaines and Martin’s expertise outclasses the rest of the material currently on the market. With several decades’ experience between the two of them–much of it working within the toprope and singe-pitch environment–they show you how to rig extremely secure systems in a fraction of the time a less-experienced climber might take. This is an invaluable skill, whether introducing climbing to a gang of friends or a group of six paying clients. Learn the techniques taught herein and you’ll rig faster, more safely, and with less material than ever before.

I just passed my AMGA rock guide exam this spring and despite this being the highest certification available in the rock discipline, I still found myself learning plenty of useful techniques from this book. Working as a guide we end up getting all sort of days–ski, multi-pitch rock, ice–and occasionally the intro-to-climbing toprope day. I’m psyched to have Gaines’ and Martin’s book to keep me dialed for my SPI/toprope days. SPI really is its own discipline and though I can get by using familiar multipitch techniques, I’ll be much more efficient and elegant with my systems after having reviewed the Manual.

An interesting sidebar in the risk management chapter
An interesting sidebar in the risk management chapter


I took a couple weeks to read the book, cover to cover, even the sections on gear placements and materials. I appreciated the latest in research on testing and properties, covering everything from bolt placement to Dyneema. The up-to-date information spans the entire curriculum, too. For example, the authors mention the latest insights in risk management and how human psychology influences it. They obviously did their homework.

I hear climbers and non-certified guides discuss “the AMGA way” a lot, but this book proves there is no one way taught or endorsed by the AMGA. Rather, there are a collection of techniques that enable a guide or high-end recreationalist to achieve a certain end in an appropriately safe and timely manner. Thumb through the Manual and you’ll quickly see there are endless combinations of techniques–some cutting edge, some old-school–that will help take your climbing and guiding to the next level.

Great book, gents, it will be a trusted reference in the years to come.

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