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...an AMGA accredited school with AMGA certified Top Rope Site Managers, Rock Instructors, Rock Guides, and Alpine Guides, and AMGA trained Ski Mountaineering Guides.

Maine's only AMGA accredited Climbing School!

Professional Climbing Instructors' Association

Climbing Instructor Training Overview

  • 2 day Climbing Wall Instructor Course & Exam
  • 3 day Base Managed Climbing Instructor Course
  • 1 day Base Managed Climbing Instructor Exam
  • 1 day Top Managed Climbing Instructor Module
  • 2 day Single Pitch Climbing Instructor Module

Train the Trainer programs

  • Climbing Wall Instructor Provider Course
  • Outdoor Climbing Instructor Provider Course


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

There are a number of climbing areas where managing climbs from the top is the best choice. A site over water is a great example as are locations where the approach leads to the top and the cliff sides are too difficult to easily hike down or are pristine and would suffer from impact.

Another reality today for many popular crags is a very real concern about gear theft on the top of the cliff while the climbers are on the bottom. And then there are times when the top is the more durable surface or is more comfortable than the base might be that day. All of these are great reasons to top manage climbs with a group. However, top managed sites hold different risks and require different skills from base managed sites to effectively manage climbing groups. The PCIA Top Managed Climbing Instructor Course addresses these needs in a one day course designed to build upon skills acquired in the Base Managed Climbing Instructor Course. Like other PCIA courses, the course continues to reinforce the importance of teaching technically accurate information and to debunk many common climbing myths. The emphasis is again on refining core skills and improving educational delivery of material.

The 10 hour (1 day) module focuses heavily on the use of direct belays by both instructors and students and presents the subtle but important differences in systems that make life easy on the top. The course also addresses rescue and assistance skills such as escaping direct and indirect belays and raising systems. The basics of mechanical advantage systems are taught and raises are practiced through assisted locking devices as well as aperture style devices.

Top Managed Climbing Instructor Certification
Upon completion of all TMCI course components graduates are upgraded to certified Top Managed Climbing Instructor. There is no separate exam for this level unless challenging.

Top Managed Climbing Instructor Course Pre-Requisites

  • You are currently at least age 18.
  • Are a PCIA Certified Base Managed Climbing Instructor.
  • You possess the personal equipment necessary for the course.
  • You are capable of comfortably climbing 5.8 terrain while on a top rope.

Top Managed Climbing Instructor Component Skills

Professional Skills

  • Appropriately choose terrain to meet client needs.

Climbing Ability

  • Model a top rope climb at the 5.8 standard illustrating confident, smooth, and controlled movement.
  • Demonstrates a variety of basic and intermediate physical climbing movement skills.

Technical Understanding

  • 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 in a top managed setting.
  • 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 discuss situations when this set up is warranted.
  • Demonstrates the set up and use of an student belayed rappel utilizing one or two ropes.
  • Demonstrates weighted and unweighted transitions between belay methods.
  • Demonstrates an appropriately placed anchor master point and the set up of a top managed climb with an instructor belay. Time Limit: 15 minutes.
  • Demonstrates an appropriately placed anchor master point and the set up of a top managed climb with a student belay. Time Limit: 15 minutes.
  • Demonstrates the ability to supervise a top managed site with at least two climbs operating.

Safety Skills

  • Present a sample site safety briefing.
  • Able to discuss 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.
  • Demonstrates an understanding of mechanical advantage systems to include: 1:1, 2:1, 2:1+1, 3:1, 3:1+1 and 5:1.
  • Demonstrates efficient use of at least two mechanical advantage methods to raise a climber at least 3 meters with no more than 1 meter of system slack while instructor belaying.
  • Demonstrates efficient use of at least two mechanical advantage methods to raise a climber at least 3 meters with no more than 1 meter of system slack while a student is belaying.

Educational Ability

  • Design and demonstrate a 45’ lesson on harness application, knot use, belaying and communication.
  • Design and demonstrate a 45’ lesson showing effective coaching of movement skills through activities, verbal direction and modeling.
  • Design and demonstrate a 45’ lesson on artificial gear placement.
  • Design and demonstrate a 45’ lesson illustrating essential considerations master point creation with various materials.
  • Facilitate 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.
  • Design a demonstrate a 45’ lesson on knot and hitch tying including figure 8s. overhands, clove hitch, block Munter Hitch and Prussik Hitch.
  • Design and demonstrate a 45’ lesson on escaping the belay.
  • Design and demonstrate a 45’ lesson on simple raising systems for rock climbers.


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 moste 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 AlpenglowGear.com. Certified PCIA members receive an on-going 30% professional discount from AlpenglowGear.com. 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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