My Last AMGA Exam - The lightness of being

This has been one of the craziest years of my life. It began in Chamonix, France, which after moving there three years ago, had become the normal starting point of the year. I brought in 2016 at a New Years party with close friends, but no husband in sight. It was the middle of the end.

By February, the day before I left for Norway, we decided to separate. Flying up north, luckily I had my own row of seats as I found myself leaning on the cold plastic window with tears quietly streaming down my face. My Lofoten family welcomed me into their arms, fed me cod and whiskey, and brought me back to life. It was my best season in Norway. There were fantastic conditions, wonderful clients, and I was able to break trail with a new energy found despite my broken heart. 

After five weeks, I came back to France and went straight to La Grave for the ten year anniversary of Doug Coombs and Chad Vanderham passing away there. Chad was my roommate my first winter in La Grave when I was seventeen. La Grave has always felt like a home to me, and it was such a comfort to be back under the shadow of La Meije with my healing heart. 

I enjoyed time with old friends, made new ones, and skied some amazing lines. The best was the Y Couloir, a line I've looked at for thirteen years. Benj, my new partner and I skied the Y from the top entrance, which hadn't been skied in over a decade. Perfect conditions led to a lasting euphoria. It was the line of the season.

Spring and summer went by in a blur of training for my AMGA alpine exam, work, family time, laughter and tears. The training kept me focused and distracted and without warning, September 7th arrived. I knew I had prepared as best I could for my last mountain guide exam, and now all I could do was my best.

The exam was hard. The hardest of my AMGA exams. I felt broken down after every harsh daily debrief, worried that I was failing. I'd been struggling with the emotions of failing for the past eight months, feeling destroyed that I couldn't make my marriage work. Would I crumble under the fear of failing this exam? My compartmentalizing skills held my head strong as I was fighting to keep my heart up. I balanced on the rope stretched between the peaks of my dreams, wavered in the wind some but ultimately made it to the other side.

My examiner called as I was packing a few last minute items into my duffles at my parents house in Seattle. I was moving back to France, but this time to La Grave. "Let me be the first to say congratulations on becoming an IFMGA guide!" he said happily. I had been waiting by the phone for the last five days, waiting for these words. For the first time in my life I cried tears of pure happiness. My mom was there and we hugged our joy and relief. The weight of my dream of becoming an IFMGA guide lifted away as it became a reality. My lungs filled and emptied completely for the first time in months. Fifteen hours later I found myself in my new home, something I hadn't had for the past ten months. I looked out the window up at La Meije, she stood strong and beautiful as always, and I felt grateful to have been able to take inspiration from her silhouette into my life and my future.

LA MEIJE

LA MEIJE

I received my first IFMGA pin from my brother Miles and sister-in-law Liz (both IFMGA guides who live in Chamonix). It was incredible to receive this from them, as they have been amazing mentors throughout this journey and have had a huge influence on my life in the mountains. 

I received my first IFMGA pin from my brother Miles and sister-in-law Liz (both IFMGA guides who live in Chamonix). It was incredible to receive this from them, as they have been amazing mentors throughout this journey and have had a huge influence on my life in the mountains. 


thank you

I would like to thank my incredible family and friends for helping me realize this dream. Without you, I would not be where I am today. Thank you to my parents, Doug and Irene for loving and supporting me in every way possible, my brothers Miles and Devin for being my best friends, and my sister-in-laws Liz and Heather for always sending me love. And to Molly, my rock. I love you all.

As well, thank you to my friends, training partners, teachers and examiners. There are way too many of you to thank here, but your wisdom and support has been invaluable to my success, and my life. Thank you!

Here's to the countless smiles in the mountains, and to many more!