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Q&A With a Cool Coloradan: Dale Remsberg

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Dale Remsberg is an avid climber and the technical director for the American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA). We talked to him about why using an AMGA guide is so important for your next climbing trip in Colorado. 

What exactly does it mean to be an IFMGA guide, and what did you do to earn your accreditation?  

The IFMGA stands for International Federation of Mountain Guides Associations, and it is the international organization that sets the standards for mountain guide training. To become an IFMGA guide in the U.S., you have to get certified by the American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA) in rock, alpine and ski disciplines. In addition, you have to have an 80-hour wilderness first aid course and pro 2 avalanche training. The whole process is about 120 days of training, plus all the prerequisite training. A motivated person can get the process done in about 4 years, assuming they are already a good skier and climber. It’s the highest certification level a mountain guide can get.

Why do you recommend visitors to Colorado hire an AMGA guide to climb and/or ski? 

Aside from the obvious risk-management reasons, the main reason to hire an AMGA certified guide is that they will provide an excellent experience. The certified guide is trained to be efficient while focusing on the overall client experience. They are also familiar with the local area; they know where to go for the best experience and can organize a climbing/skiing trip for any ability. And by seeking out an AMGA guide, you are guaranteed that they have passed the minimum standard in guide training and safety. 

2019 is the AMGA's 40th anniversary. How long have you been with the AMGA? What do you see in the next 40 years for guiding and the AMGA? 

I have been working for the AMGA since 2006. I started as an instructor for guide programs, and have now worked my way up to Technical Director. I still get in the field more than 100 days a year and really thrive on the adventure of training guides. The AMGA has come a long way in 40 years, and the next 40 will be mostly about refinement of our education program. In addition, the AMGA is working hard to diversify the people that are becoming guides, and hopefully, in the near future, we will see more women and people from diverse backgrounds breaking through into guide roles. 

Where does your climbing passion come from?

I grew up in a small mountain town in Washington state, and my dad kindled my passion for adventure in the mountains. He was not a climber but encouraged me to become a skier at a young age and was always supportive of my crazy adventures. As a senior in high school, a good friend and I were getting deeper and deeper into the backcountry fishing and backpacking, and one thing just led to another, and we started climbing. Initially, we were self-taught, but quickly realized we needed mentorship. Once I started climbing, I never looked back and used every spare moment to climb or train for climbing.

What are some of your favorite places to rock climb in Colorado? And ice climb?

Colorado is a very diverse climbing state, and it’s hard to pick out my favorites! I would say the Flatirons in Boulder for rock climbing because they have all types and difficulties of climbing. For ice climbing, you can find the best ice in the southwest corner of the state in a little town called Ouray.

Describe your ideal day to climb.

The perfect day of rock climbing starts with an egg and avocado breakfast, smothered in Sriracha, followed by a nice hike with my girlfriend and dog up into the Flatirons — where we will seek out a cliff in the shade. It’s 74 degrees out, and we can climb in shorts and a T-shirt, but if we are sitting around a light jacket is needed. Our dog will keep the squirrels at bay, and after we are tired from climbing, a taco and margarita dinner will cap things off!

Do you have any gear recommendations for people getting their start? And any advice?

The perfect place to start is at the climbing gym. Our favorite is Evo Rock and Fitness in Louisville, as it’s only five minutes from our house and it has a brewery right next door. Take an intro-to-rock-climbing class and once you are ready to venture outside look for an AMGA-certified rock guide to show you the ropes. To start out, you don’t need much gear. A helmet, harness, shoes and chalk bag will get you going. 

Are there any misconceptions about climbing you’d like to clear up?

The funniest things are how some of the climbing slang was coined. Free climbing is actually climbing with a rope, and free soloing is climbing without a rope. That is one of the biggest misconceptions when I describe climbing. People think I am crazy when I say I free climbed something because they think it was without a rope, but in fact, I rarely climb without a rope.

Your dog seems to be a big part of your life, does she ever go on hikes or climbs with you?

Indie the pup goes on tons of hikes and to the base of climbs with us, but she mostly stays on the ground. She has gotten herself into a few predicaments trying to scramble around to find us up on a climb. So far, she has figured out how to get back down. She is actually a pretty good scrambler and does not seem to have any fear. 

What are you up to when you’re not scaling a mountain?  

I love backcountry skiing and mountain biking. If I’m not trying to scale or climb a mountain, that is likely where I will be. 

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