Acadia Mountain Guides Climbing School is proud to offer the outstanding courses of the Professional Climbing Instructors' Association. We believe this selection of courses represents the best sequence and curriculum design of courses currently available to those seeking to expand their knowledge of instructing climbing.

Visit our schedule for dates, rates, and location

The majority of outdoor top rope climbing instruction takes place at bottom managed sites. Recognizing this the PCIA has created a focused course and optional certification exam that addresses base managed climbs. The Base Managed Climbing Instructor course (BMCI) provides instructors and potential instructors with an in depth and standardized understanding of the skills essential to teaching climbing in an outdoor setting. Like other PCIA courses, the course reinforces the importance of teaching technically accurate information and debunks many common climbing myths. The emphasis is again on refining core skills and improving educational delivery of material.

The thirty hour (3 day) course builds upon the existing skills of competent recreational climbers taking an in depth look at site selection, equipment, knot selection, anchor construction, rope systems, Leave No Trace practices, rescue and assistance skills as well as key instructional skills. Most importantly the course stresses blending these skills together to form a more seamless and efficient climbing experience for participants. Upon completion of all course components participants are consider PCIA Assistant Instructors.

Assistant Instructors may elect to take an optional certification exam to achieve Base Managed Climbing Instructor Certification. The one day examination stresses efficient site and gear utilization, client and instructor safety, site management and educational delivery. The exam may be taken any time after completing all course components.

This course and exam may be taken as stand alone course or coupled together with the one day Top Managed Climbing Instructor Module and/or the two day Single Pitch Instructor Module.

Base Managed Climbing Instructor Course Pre-Requisites

  • You are currently at least age 18.
  • The candidate must show an adequate experience level to the course provider illustrating that they are ready for the course. Examples include regular climbing for 2 – 3 years, a high intensity of climbing in the past few months, etc.
  • Lead climbing experience is highly recommended but not required.
  • You are able to comfortably set-up base managed climbs, to belay, and to rappel without guidance and can Demonstrates detailed familiarity with anchoring principles, natural anchors and artificial anchors (wedges, hexes, passive and active cams). These skills may be assessed at the start of the course.
  • You possess the personal equipment necessary for the course.
  • You are capable of comfortably climbing 5.8 terrain while on a top rope.

Base Managed Climbing Instructor Component Skills

Professional Skills

  • Presents themselves with a professional demeanor and appropriate attire.
  • Presents themselves with essential and well-maintained personal equipment.
  • Discusses differences between recreational climbing and climbing instruction and supervision.
  • Continuously practice and illustrate a high level of Leave No Trace understanding.
  • Understand various legal and administrative aspects related to outdoor climbing.
  • Designs and demonstrates professional client greeting and facility introduction.
  • Discusses options for working with youth populations vs. adult populations.
  • Able to discuss professionalism, professional training programs, and the role of organizations such as the PCIA, CWA, ACCT and the AMGA.
  • Appropriately choose terrain to meet client needs and match terrain from a guide book or base of cliff with appropriate anchor at the top of the cliff.

Climbing Ability

  • Model a top rope climb at the 5.6 standard illustrating confident, smooth, and controlled movement.
  • Demonstrates a variety of basic and intermediate physical climbing movement skills.

Technical Understanding

  • Demonstrates ability to correctly identify and discusses( in depth) a selection basic climbing gear including various carabiners, belay tools, webbing and cordage materials and ropes.
  • Possesses a working knowledge of and an ability to inspect basic climbing gear such as ropes, anchor cordage and webbing, harnesses, belay devices, carabiners, climbing shoes, belay tools and artificial forms of protection.
  • Ability to confidently demonstrates and discusses appropriate use of the following knots: Figure 8 Follow Through, Figure 8 on Bight, Double Bight Figure 8, Overhand on Bight, Overhand Follow Through, Bowline.
  • Demonstrates and discusses appropriate use of the following hitches: Clove Hitch, Munter Hitch, Blocked Munter, Block Belay Plate, Prussik Hitch, Klemheist Hitch, Auto Block.
  • Demonstrates construction of a sit harness with webbing or rope. The harness must include leg loops, a swami and be redundant such that if the closure knot loosens, the harness remains secure.
  • Demonstrates rope coiling into a mountaineer’s coil and a backpack coil.
  • Demonstrates confident and competent belaying using a variety of belay methods including aperture devices, assisted locking devices, and a Munter Hitch with both right and left hand as break hand.
  • Demonstrates the proper placement of artificial protection including tapers (Stoppers), Hexentrics, Tri-cams, and Spring Loaded Cams. May evaluate as part of other anchor evaluations.
  • Demonstrates the use of various methods of slinging natural features with rope or webbing and will articulate the pros and cons of each.
  • Articulates how to assess bolts and pitons.
  • Constructs an effective master point using more than one natural anchor point and the joining material of their choice. The master point must be within 12 inches of a location chosen by the course provider. Time Limit: 10 minutes.
  • Demonstrates the ability to efficiently build a variety of adequate anchors with artificial gear as well as a mix of natural and artificial gear. Time Limit: 10 minutes / anchor.
  • Demonstrates the set up and use of an instructor belayed rappel utilizing one or two ropes.
  • Demonstrates the set up and use of a releasable instructor belayed rappel utilizing one or two ropes and discusses situations when this set up is warranted.
  • Demonstrates set up of a base managed climb with easier edge access and rappel down the redirected rope demonstrating protecting themselves adequately both while descending over the edge and while rappelling. Time Limit: 15 minutes.
  • Demonstrates set up of a base managed climb with difficult edge access and rappel down the redirected rope demonstrating protecting themselves adequately both while descending over the edge and while rappelling. Time Limit: 15 minutes.
  • Demonstrates a variety of base managed student belays – anchored, unanchored, direct, indirect – and articulate appropriate use of each.
  • Demonstrates the ability to supervise a base managed site with at least two climbs operating.
  • Demonstrates how to take a weighted and un-weighted indirect belay from a student belayer at the base of a climb.
  • Demonstrates counter-ascending to assist a client and counter-rappelling to the ground with the client using an assisted locking device.
  • Demonstrates a variety of belay transitions.
  • Demonstrates multiple alternatives for protecting a belayer from both an upward pull and falling backward
Safety Skills
  • Present a sample site safety briefing.
  • Discusses selection of safe climbing routes for varying abilities and styles of climbing.
  • Evaluate and problem-solve the need for back-up belays and the use of anchors.
  • Performs basic assistance and rescue skills such taking over a loaded belay, counter ascending / rappelling, and a climber pick off.
  • Prepares a risk management and emergency plan for a sample location.
  • Demonstrates effective supervision of both bouldering and roped climbing areas.
  • Demonstrates effective spotting techniques.
  • Demonstrates effective construction of a chest harness with webbing or rope. The harness must attach to the rope in such a way as to not compress the torso or fully weight the chest harness.
  • Continuously demonstrates adequate personal and student safety.

Educational Ability

  • Designs and demonstrates a 45’ lesson on harness application, knot use, belaying and communication.
    Designs and demonstrates a 45’ lesson showing effective coaching of movement skills through activities, verbal direction and modeling.
  • Designs and demonstrates a 45’ lesson on artificial gear placement.
  • Designs and demonstrates a 45’ lesson illustrating essential considerations master point creation with various materials.
  • Facilitates a 10’-30’ educational presentation on carabiners, belay tools, climbing grades, reading route top, webbing and cordage material specs and use, how to select a rope /rope dynamics, Leave No Trace practice.
  • Designs and demonstrates a 45’ lesson on knot and hitch tying including figure 8s. overhands, clove hitch, block Munter Hitch and Prussik Hitch.
Visit our schedule for dates, rates, and location

Upon successful completion of the BMCI course components an individual may elect to take a one day certification exam. A skill consolidation period after the course is recommend but not required. The examination is a one day field exam that evaluates both core technical skills and educational delivery. The target goal for the certification standard is for candidates to be able to generalize learned information - in other words to be able to utilize various principles to create solutions for problems at hand. Generalization is considered the fourth learning stage following memorization, comprehension, and application.

Exam pre-requisites:

  • Candidate must have completed the PCIA Base Managed Climbing Instructor course and be considered a PCIA Assistant Instructor or,
  • Candidate must have completed the AMGA Top Rope Site Manager Course or Single Pitch Instructor Course.

Exam candidates will be asked to:

  • Complete a written exam with a score greater than 75%
  • Present a minimum of two professionally organized lessons chosen by the examiner from a published list of topics.
  • Complete two technical scenarios illustrating full comprehension and application of all technical skills taught in the course.

Only one marginal score is allowed within the four exam activities.
A candidate who fails the exam may retake the exam at a future date.

Why choose AMG for your PCIA Cliimbing Instructor Training?
The PCIA was established to provide the instructional climbing community with a sequential curriculum that would serve climbing wall instructors, base managed and top managed top rope instructors, and single pitch instruction. Like the original AMGA climbing instructor program, the PCIA program was largely designed by AMG's school owner Jon Tierney. The user friendly design is based upon the results of industry surveys, conference discussions, and the experience that Jon gained leading the AMGA program for six years. Jon is the current educational director for the PCIA.

So when you can take the course from AMG you are either taking the course either from the primary author or a skilled instructor who has been very close to the nucleus of the course and hand picked by Jon to instruct the course. This translates into a highly detailed and organized course.

Jon Tierney is an internationally licensed IFMGA guide. More importantly, Jon has been teaching rock and ice climbing to groups on a year round basis since 1983 and this curriculum is largely a synthesis of methods developed from that experience. He is actively engaged in several facets of adventure education including group-based experiential education, wilderness medicine, rock, alpine and high altitude guiding, and university outdoor programming. Jon previously served on the AMGA Board of Directors (1996 - 2002) and as a Discipline Coordinator for the Top Rope Site Manager program (1998 - 2004). He also served the AMGA as a member of the technical committee, an Instructor / Examiner and accreditation reviewer. Jon is a founding Board member of the PCIA and the current PCIA Educational Director. He is also an accreditation reviewer for the PCIA. He has continually strived to synthesize good concepts, challenge usual paradigms, and develop new ideas with the vision continually improving the standards of basic climbing instruction nationwide. This vision is reflected in the creation and implementation of this course and the entire PCIA program.

The Professional Climbing Instructors' Association (PCIA) courses are the most comprehensive and all important first steps in the sequence of training climbing instructor and guides in America. PCIA programs fare intended to help transition already capable recreational climbers into climbing instructors. Any organization or individual who teaches top rope climbing or uses climbing as a medium for personal or social change should consider a PCIA course as a required tool for improved risk management and state of the art information.


PCIA program are designed to benefit outdoor instructors, aspiring guides, and climbers who facilitate or seek to facilitate top rope climbing programs in group settings such as camps, schools, universities, therapeutic groups, and climbing schools

Each PCIA module focuses on a specific terrain type so that candidates may choose education approprieate to their needs.


Past Acadia Mountain Guides climbing instructor course graduates have been: Outward Bound and NOLS instructors, school teachers, college professors and Outdoor Education majors from universities across the country, climbing wall and summer camp climbing staff, instructors from private climbing schools and guide services, individual aspiring climbing guides and instructors, and recreational climbers seeking a higher level of skill and more intense instruction and feedback than is available in most climbing instructional courses.


"When I first heard of it, I wondered what I would learn over five days, it seemed a bit much as I thought I already knew how to top rope. When the course was over, I was wishing for another five days. The content and feedback are phenomenal."

"I have been climbing twenty years and teaching rock climbing for several seasons yet I found the course to be challenging and it really helped me to further understand what is meant by professionalism."

"I thought I knew a lot about TR skills when I came into the class but this really opened my eyes. I have done other private lessons with other guides and was not too impressed... I was really nervous about spending this much money on a class. However, unlike the others, you not only have great technical skills, but great teaching skills as well. I would recommend courses with you to anyone. Thanks for a great course , this has been well worth my time a money."

"I wasn't sure what I would learn coming into the course as I thought I had a pretty good handle on teaching climbing. What I learned is the difference between climbing and teaching it. Now that I have taken the course, I applaud your desire to see standards raised and was blown away by your own cliff presence and set-ups. It amazed me that you could set up 5 - 6 climbs in the time it took most of us to set one and still keep an eye on what's going on around you like seeing an unlocked carabiner 30' away and then have time to drink a Coke and you still can't even bend over (ed. note: Jon was recovering from a serious spinal injury suffered in a skiing accident)."

About raising systems - "Jon really helped me understand more about why and how with with subtle ways to make it doable. Thank you for your patience with my repeated questions - good example of the professionalism and educational skills - being able to explain it multiple ways to someone."


Without a doubt, Acadia National Park and the surrounding climbing areas offer the finest terrain opportunities for climbing instructor courses in northern New England. Sites that feature multitudes of both base and top managed as well as moderate single pitch routes offer unique site challenges and are easily accessible so no time is lost to travel or approach. Highly recommended.

In New Hampshire we have chosen sites in central NH that are more appropriate for this course than the better known crags surrounding North Conway which are better suited to multi-pitch climbing. The sites are also far less crowded.

We are also available to travel to your site.

Acadia Mountain Guides Climbing School is happy to work with organizations who would like to sponsor a course in their particular area. All we ask is that you have legal access to suitable sites. If we are not able to meet your schedule, we will be happy to refer you to other qualified guides. Courses are available by arrangement or you may sign up for an already scheduled course.


This course may be customized to meet the needs of any organization. For example, it can be split into weekend sessions to fit schedules. Pieces of the curriculum may be taught to those not seeking the full course or you may choose to arrange a private course to meet your specific instructional needs.


First aid training is not required to take a PCIA course or exam. However, the PCIA recommends the following medical certification as a professional minumum: Those working close to urban settings who have EMS back up immediately available and are within approximately a two hour transport period from time of incident to actual arrival at a hospital should have at least a 16 hour course in Basic First Aid and CPR. Wilderness First Aid certification is recommended. Those working in remote locations greater than two hours from hospital care should be Wilderness First Responder certified. Ultimately, It is the responsibility of the individual to maintain appropriate medical training.


PCIA courses and exams exceed the climbing instructor training and evaluation requirements laid out by American Camping Association and the Association for Experiential Education. Accreditation or certification is now a requirement to instruct at many areas across the country including Joshua Tree National Park, New River Gorge, Ship Rock, Eldorado Canyon State Park and The Shawanagunks. The course also meets the State of Maryland certification requirements for climbing instructors.
PCIA climbing instructor courses fulfill the requirements of the American Camping Association Accreditation Standards for climbing instructors as stated in the ACA Accreditation Standards 1998 revised edition:

• PD-12. Supervisor Qualifications “The overall supervisor for each specialized activity must be an adult with certification or documented training and experience in that activity”.

• PD-13. Staff Skill Verification “Staff teaching specialized program activities must have their skills verified and evaluated prior to leading activities”.

The PCIA climbing instructor courses present the skills necessary to fulfill the requirements of AEE Accreditation for top rope climbing instruction as stated in the Association for Experiential Education (AEE) Manual of Accreditation Standards for Adventure Programs 1995: 

• 19.A.01 “Program staff have the skills, knowledge, and experience to conduct top rope rock climbing and to meet the risk management, operational, and curriculum expectations of this activity”.

• 19.A02 “Program staff keep up-to-date on changes in technology and procedures for top rope rock climbing”.

• 19.E.01 “Staff have the theoretical and practical training for climbing rescues”


I already know how to climb and have been teaching climbing for some time now. Why do I need this course?
Inevitably at the end of the class I hear that the course was "too short" and "I wish I had more days to practice." The course includes many new systems that have not yet made it into the climbing instructional books and it is packed with valuable information that many instructors know only a little bit about. This is a great foundation for instructors wishing to take the AMGA Rock Instructor Course.

Why should I take the course?
A professional is partly defined as someone who has had training and evaluation. If you are seeking employment as a climbing instructor, you will be more marketable. Summer camps, universities, and climbing schools are looking for certified instructors to comply with accreditation and land manager requirements.

The public and the insurance industry is beginning to recognize the importance of trained climbing instructors who have demonstrated a basic level of competency to their peers.

Peer feedback and review. First, we all benefit from increaing our knowledge base. Second, peer review is an excellent way to get feedback on your methods and let you know whether you are operating within, above, or below a national recognized standard.

Are there any economic benefits?

As a member of the PCIA you are eligible to receive a bi-annual 25% discount from Certified PCIA members receive an on-going 30% professional discount from Certified individual members are also eligible to use the PCIA logo in marketing materials and to be listed as an certified instructor on the PCIA website.

Can I get university credit?

Several colleges and universities now offer college credit for the course. If you would like help in setting this up at your school please contact us.  

What if I don't have enough personal gear?

If you need to supplement your gear, we also offer an economical rack rental program.

Training Courses

PCIA Climbing Wall Instructor

PCIA Top Managed Climbing Instructor

PCIA Lead Climbing Instructor

A History of
Leading the way...

Acadia Mountain Guides Climbing School is the preeminent leader in climbing instruction and guiding in Acadia and across Maine. We specialize in designing customized experiences or training for you, your family or your group.

Directed by internationally recognized IFMGA guide Jon Tierney who has been climbing in Acadia since 1982. Jon has over 30 years of local and worldwide experience. The IFMGA requires full AMGA certification as a rock, alpine and ski mountaineering guide.

All AMGCS instructors are certified by either the AMGA or the PCIA and all guides have been trained or certified by the AMGA.

• Since 1994 •
AMGCS is one of 30 AMGA accredited programs in the US and was one of the earliest to achieve accreditation.

AMGCS is the only climbing school in Maine to remain continuously accredited by the AMGA for eighteen years - several years longer than any other local service. We have had one or more full time AMGA certified rock instructors or rock guides on staff each year since 1994 - sixteen years more than any other local school.

• Since 2007 •
AMGCS has the distinction of also being accredited to the highest standards of the Professional Climbing Instructors Association. The PCIA requires all staff to be individually trained and certified.

Experience the difference.
Reach your peak with Acadia Mountain Guides Climbing School.



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