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HelloHelloHello

Michael Alkaitis
 very late July/early August, 2006

Mike Alkaitis
Mike AlkaitisMike AlkaitisMike AlkaitisMike Alkaitis

FRB: Thanks for the interview Mike.
         Tell us a little about you please.

Mike: I am the current Executive Director of the American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA) and a current Certified Rock Guide. I am a proud father and husband and love spending time with family and friends. I have been climbing for 25 years and enjoy Bouldering, Traditional, and Sport climbing. As I grow older I truly believe the people I spend time with and climb with are more important than what I have climbed. I guess what I am trying to say is I cherish the memory of the people I am with.

FRB: How did you get into climbing?

Mike: I started climbing in the Gunks of New York when I was 13. It was an option given to me for a school activity and I thought it was a pretty cool idea. After the first climb I was hooked. I also remember watching a group of climbers try the Gill Egg boulder problem and thinking it looked absolutely impossible. The Gunks was a great place to learn how to trad lead as well as become powerful enough to climb a few boulder problems.

FRB: How did you get involved with the AMGA?

Mike: After guiding for 10 years I was lucky enough to be asked by the AMGA Board of Directors if I would like to become the Program Director of the AMGA. I was looking how to make a little better living and loved the idea of staying in the climbing industry. My motivation to this day was to make Mountain Guiding in the US a true profession. A profession where you can earn a decent living, have benefits, a family, and retire.

FRB: Tell us about the history of the AMGA.

Mike: The American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA) is the national, 501 c- 3 non-profit organization dedicated to the excellence in training, preservation of culture and raising the standards of professional mountain guides in America. The AMGA is the nation's sole representative to the nineteen country International Federation of Mountain Guides Association (IFMGA), the international governing body responsible for guiding standards and education around the world.

Representing eleven hundred members, thirty accredited guide services, and forty five corporate partners, the AMGA provides the education, training and certification in the rock, alpine and ski mountaineering disciplines. The organization also raises the standards of guide services and climbing schools with regard to safety, Leave No Trace practices, client care, education, and land stewardship.

Currently, the AMGA represents the country's guiding and climbing community with federal relationships and policy negotiations for the public and outdoor industry.

FRB: What are your typical day to day
          duties with the AMGA?

Mike: Working on public policy issues with public land managers such as climbing and back country skiing access for the public based on resources. We want to ensure people are able to have access to climbing and bc skiing areas as long as we do not negatively impact the resources. Climbing and bc skiing are such great, unique activities and should be promoted as a great use of our public lands.

I also work on development, e-mails, and trying to ensure the AMGA continues to be a positive influence and member of the climbing community.

FRB: What do you predict will be the future
         of the AMGA?

Mike: The future for the AMGA? Good question. I would say the future is full of growth for the AMGA. Certification will become the standard for guiding in the US and the AMGA will continue to advocate for the climbing and guiding community.

FRB: How does the AMGA effect
          the typical boulderer?

Mike: The AMGA works to keep open all climbing and bouldering areas where the activity is sustainable and we do not negatively impact the resource. We also work with the American Alpine Club, USA Climbing and Access Fund on issues relating to climbers. I think this synergy between climbing organizations is imperative to the survival of our climbing resources. If we can speak with one voice to land managers is will allow us to keep our natural resources open to bouldering and climbing.

FRB: What about the FHRC and ACE.
         What are your duties?

Mike: I sit on the Board of Directors for the Action Committee for Eldorado (ACE) and am a committee member of the Fixed Hardware Review Committee (FHRC). ACE is responsible for advocating for climbers in Eldorado Canyon State Park. The FHRC is responsible for overseeing the placement of new fixed hardware in the park as well as the replacement of existing fixed hardware.

Volunteering my time on these boards and committees is my way of giving back to the climbing community and helping others enjoy the activity I cherish so much.

FRB: How does the FHRC and ACE effect
          the typical climber?

Mike: ACE raises money for climbers trails and replacement of fixed hardware within the park. We work with the park so they are aware of climbers concerns within the park and ensure climbers have access to areas. ACE has raised and donated over $180,000 to Eldorado Canyon State Park for climbers needs.

The FHRC was put in place to work with ECSP to ease the tension between climbers from the bolting wars in the 80's. ACE and the FHRC wanted to conserve the unique climbing experience of Eldorado Canyon. There is space for new bolted routes and the FHRC process allows for this to happen in cooperation with the park.

For more info go to: www.aceeldo.org/.

FRB: What can the typical climber do for
         the FHRC and ACE?

Mike: Join us for the Celebrate Eldorado party on September 14th and16th. There will be a trail race, climbing and rescue clinics, chalk clean up, trail building and climb-a-thon in the park on the 16th.

There will be a party at the Boulder Rock Club (BRC) on September 14th. All proceeds go to ACE and the FHRC.

FRB: In your opinion, what can the typical
         climber/boulderer do to improve relationships
         with land managers?

Mike: Be great stewards of the land. Practice Leave No Trace principles and truly cherish your climbing/bouldering area. If we all take pride in keeping our bouldering and climbing areas clean and beautiful then the land managers will look at us in a positive light and as an advocate.

Participate in local clean ups, trail building and be nice to everyone. It is amazing what a smile and a hello can do for public relations.

FRB: Why should climbers be concerned with a
         'good working relationship' with land managers?

Mike: They control the access to our cherished resource. It is always nicer to be friends and considered assets to the people making the regulations. It seems pretty simple, but it is important to care for the land we love to boulder and climb on.

FRB: What is your affiliation with the BRC?

Mike: John Bicknell the owner of the BRC is also the President of the AMGA. Chris Wall has been kind enough to help me train to become a stronger individual there as well. I highly recommend stopping in and seeing what they have to offer.

FRB: Do you like to boulder, Mike?

Mike: Yes! I truly enjoy the freedom of bouldering and how you can focus all of your energy on movement. You can always find time to boulder.

FRB: Where do you usually rope up at?

Mike: Eldo, Vedauwoo, Boulder Canyon, South Platte.

FRB: Favorite climbs?

Mike: Naked Edge, Country Club Crack, Outer Space, Yellow Wall, Grand Wall, Rainbow Wall (NV), Yosemite (All), and Max Factor. There are so many.

FRB: Favorite areas?

Mike: Eldo always keeps me on my toes, Vedauwoo always keeps my honest and eating humble pie, Hueco Tanks I miss, the Diamond has so many offerings up high, and Squamish and Yosemite have it all. Is that too many? The Alaska Range.

FRB: Favorite shoes?

Mike: La Sportiva Baracuda. Great shoes that do it all.

FRB: Favorite partners?

Mike: Susy, my wife, Oz, my son. Jonathan Lantz for getting out bouldering with me at lunch and anyone psyched on climbing. There are so many great partners out there.

FRB: You've climbed a long time.
         What changes have you experienced
         in the climbing world?

Mike: Bouldering has grown so much and I believe helped create better climbers. At first bouldering was practicing and then John Gill showed us it was its own sport. Sport climbing brought the standards up, and then bouldering just upped the anti. People are climbing routes never thought possible and I think this will just continue.

I also believe climbing has become popular enough we need to join together to protect the bouldering and climbing areas we have.

FRB: What is the down side of living the life
         of a professional climber?

Mike: I love my life and if you hear me complain hit me upside the head. I live the dream.

FRB: Final words of wisdom, Mike.

Mike: Have a blast. Its all about how much fun we are having and who we are with. If you remember this you will have the psych to climb harder than you imagine. Being a dad rules.

FRB: Thanks for the interview, Mike.

Mike: You're welcome.

Mike Alkaitis
American Mountain Guides Association
Executive Director
1209 Pearl Street
Suite 14
PO Box 1739
Boulder, CO
80302
303-271-0984
mike@amga.com.

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