Yoga for guides

Yoga for GuidesBy Richard Parker:  ACS Guide, AMGA Rock Instructor & Certified Kripalu Yoga Instructor

A big part of managing life as a professional guide is staying healthy (mind, body, and spirit) to meet the demands of the work. Keeping the body flexible, balanced, and strong is generally not too tough for those in their 20’s. As folks move into their 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s, having an excellent program for strength and flexibility, injury prevention, and recovery becomes increasingly more critical. Yoga is a great way to keep you biologically young for decades, as well as help with stress reduction and with cultivating serenity, acceptance, and kindness.

Yoga…small “y”…large “Y”: Most people think of yoga (small “y”) as a series of postures (known as asanas) linked with breath that increase flexibility and strength and aid in managing stress. Yoga (capital “Y”) is an ancient system with ethics, breathing disciplines, and meditation techniques designed to advance one’s spiritual journey. Within the practice of Yoga, asanas play an important but secondary role. This post focuses on the physical practice and its specific benefits for guides. A subsequent article will expand to include discussion of breath work, meditation, and other possible benefits of Yoga.

Guiding produces specific and repeated motions that can lead to imbalance, injury, and reduction in the range of motion (ROM). Shortened hamstrings and restricted hips from repeated stepping upward (climbing, skinning, and approaching), drooping and rounded shoulders and rounded upper back from carrying heavy loads, painful elbows, wrists, and fingers from too much crimping, moving rope, and hanging on to ice axes while placing screws, strained necks from looking down (or up) and coaching while belaying, tweaky lower backs from leaning forward in skiing and sliding into poor posture as the long day of work extends…this is just a start to a list that I am certain many of us could easily add to.

I have yet to meet someone who said, “it sure would be great if I could be more tight!” As we teach our clients every time we guide, efficient movement and technique is crucial in technical terrain, and flexibility is a key to this. We are all looking for flexibility because flexible muscles are strong, resilient, and provide our joints with a full ROM, and, yes, tight muscles are the opposite: weak, vulnerable, and limit the ROM. Stretching while breathing mindfully not only lengthens muscles and makes them supple, it is also helps muscles recover from stress by increasing blood flow. A key to asana practice is not to force muscles to lengthen, not to use one muscle group against another but to relax, breathe, and allow the muscles to open. Attempts to push generally lead to injury or stagnation.

By stretching specific muscle groups in a systematic and balanced way, a regular asana practice can effectively help avoid or diminish the effects of repeated stress and imbalance. I look for heart opening poses and back bends to address tight shoulders and lumbar compression, hip openers like lunges and pigeon pose to address tight hamstrings, psoas, hip flexors, quadriceps, and calves, arch stretches for stressed feet, chaturangas (low push up) and hand/arm balances to add some pushing to counter the pulling that dominates climbing and moving rope, inversions to help the legs flush out toxins and allow for easy lymphatic fluid return, core exercises to strengthen the muscles that support all motion and especially the lower back, and very careful attention to the neck to address “belayer’s neck”. I also add balancing poses to bolster this key skill and exercise the proprioceptive (body awareness) sense of feet, ankles and legs, etc.

American Mountain Guide and Instructor Pool member Art Mooney has been a proponent of Yoga for many years: “My practice of yoga began over ten years ago. At that time I found myself feeling sore, overall stiffness, and injured at times. I needed flexibility and thought yoga would help. Yoga was originally intended to increase my overall flexibility which would reduce injuries. Since then I have found a consistent practice of yoga offers many other benefits. Flexibility is certainly one big benefit, but I also noticed my focus, power, breathing, and alignment all improved. With all these yoga benefits I am much more in tune with my physical body and I have taken climbing/guiding movements to a higher level. As a working mountain guide, yoga helps me wind down from a tough day or multiple days at work. The practice of centering and leaving all the guiding work and business behind is truly the way to clear and refresh the mind. After a yoga practice I feel refreshed and ready for another day in the mountains.”

What is the best way to get started? Find a certified and experienced teacher, and my bias would be to look for a teacher with an athletic background who understands the physical demands of your work. Take your time in finding a teacher and a style that suits you. It is important to learn the basics from a teacher to avoid injury, and injuries come easily to beginners, especially when one brings a competitive attitude and one chooses an aggressive style of asana practice. Once you have learned how to safely and effectively practice, it can be time to shift more to a home practice, which saves money, makes it easier to squeeze in a practice, and you can be guided specifically by what you need as opposed to what a teacher is offering on a given day. To see true gains in flexibility, try to commit to at least 2-3 sessions a week (daily is best), even if these sessions are at home (or while camping!) with a book or a video for 10-20 minutes at a time.

Noted Yoga teacher Erich Shiffman said, “Yoga creates symmetry through your whole body, making you strong and flexible in a balanced way. It also teaches you to balance the mental impulse to push, control, and be assertive with the complementary impulse to yield, surrender and be passive.” Try to avoid thinking of asana practice as a time to gain strength, and focus on the flexibility, balancing, and recovery benefits. This does not mean that there are not some opportunities to enhance strength through asanas, but specifically work on strength for climbing elsewhere.

Thanks to Richard Parker for this piece introducing the benefits of yoga for professional guides. A climbing guide since 1977, Richard is a certified Rock Instructor and certified Kripalu Yoga Teacher. In the next installment look for discussion of the benefits beyond the physical and for specifics about breathing exercises (pranayama) and meditation. In addition, I will provide guidance on how to build your own, balanced asana practice to do at home. In the meantime consider using the transition between the fall and winter to get started by taking some classes and establishing a regular routine. Feel free to be in touch if I can be of any help:

El Potrero Chico

Each winter many of the ACS staff travel to Northern Mexico to climb in the sun! El potrero Chico is a sport climbing mecca located about one hour from Monterrey. This amazing climbing destination makes for the perfect winter vacation! Here are some reasons why we keep coming back year after year…..


The climbing!

2000 foot limestone fins rise out of the high desert providing thousands of amazing and easily assessable sport climbs! From mellow single pitch climbs perfect for the first time climber, to huge 20 pitch routes that are often climbed over multiple days, El Potrero has it all!  The climbing is only a five minute walk from the camp sites and guest houses.

Tufa pullin'

Tufa pullin’

The weather!

Winter in Mexico is idea for climbing! With average temps in the high 70s  during the day and 60s at night  climbers often work on their tan just as much as they work on their climbing project! Rest days are often spent in the shade of a palm tree, pool side with a fruity drink and a good book. The layout of the limestone fins makes it super easy to climb either in the sun or the shade.

Katy on Pitch 3 of her first multi-pitch

Katy on Pitch 3 of her first multi-pitch

The food!

The food in Northern Mexico is remarkably fresh and delicious! Twice  a week there is a local food market where one can buy the most amazing fruits veggies and meats for pennies!  You can buy an avocado for about 15 cents!

ACS guide Christian Waggner on pitch five of Snott Girls

ACS guide Christian Waggner on pitch five of Snott Girls

The people!

The locals are all super nice and love climbers! As a climbing mecca EL Potrero brings in climbers from all over the world. The campsites are always filled with wonderful folks who are psyched to be climbing in paradise!

Sunset over the town of Hidalgo

Sunset over the town of Hidalgo

The accommodation!

Many options are available from $4.00 a night camping to beautiful private villas. All of the options are just a few minute walk from the climbing. No car needed!

The ACS crew will be staying in a house at La Quinta Pagoda for the entire month of January and we would love to see you down there and do some amazing climbing! In addition to offering private guiding we will also be offering an AMGA Single Pitch Instructor Course January 3-5th with an assessment the following weekend.

Traveling to El Potrero is super easy! Fly into Monterrey and our personal driver will pick you up and take you to your house, room, or campsite. Amazing climbing, beautiful weather, delicious food, and great people! What else could you ask for in a climbing vacation! Come on down to Mexico and climb with ACS!

Here are some great links to the area:

-El Potrero information

More general information

La Posada Campsites/rooms/houses/restaurant/yoga, etc..

 If you have any questions or would like more information give our office a call!

AMGA Single Pitch Manual!

The new American Mountain Guides Association Single Pitch Manual is complete! A huge thanks to Bob Gaines and Jason D. Martin along with the many others who helped put together this amazing resource together.


Rock Climbing: The AMGA Single Pitch Manual is the textbook for past and future participants of the American Mountain Guides Association’s Single Pitch Instructor program. It presents the most current, internationally recognized standards for technical climbing systems used in single pitch terrain. Included are chapters on effective teaching, risk management, professionalism, and rescue.

“This is a comprehensive resource for understanding the complexities of teaching in the single pitch environment. Highly recommended!” Arno Ilgner, Certified AMGA SPI and author of The Rock Warrior’s Way: Mental Training for Climbers

This beautiful book can be purchased in our office, through the AMGA’s website, or on


The new Acadia rock climbing guidebook!!!!

Eli Simon on Head Arete at Great Head in Acadia, Maine.AssemblageThings changed for me this year.  For the first time in three years, I wouldn’t be going to Patagonia.  I’d be living in a house; paying rent.  I wouldn’t be rock climbing.  I’d be working.
Fortunately, I had a pretty good thing going for me.  Every once in awhile it would hit me that I wasn’t climbing in those bottom reaches of the world that I have come to love so much, but generally, I was just totally excited about what was right in front of me.  The New Hampshire winter treated me well, and I felt good being there.  I worked hard on the guidebook, sometimes staring at this computer screen until I could feel my bloodshot eyes burning in my head.  But although some of the techy moments proved trying for me, I loved working on the book.  Building topos, researching the history, writing route descriptions, and putting it all together – for me, that was all so exciting.
Now, there is a piece of it out there in the world.  The book itself is a year out, but with the help of Rakkup (recent recipients of Climbing Magazine’s Editor’s Choice Award), the first edition of a digital guide for the Iphone was recently released.  This edition covers over 175 routes at Otter Cliffs, Great Head, and the South Wall and features cool tricks like GPS navigation and search filters that allow your to find the climbs and conditions that you need for a perfect day.  Plus, there is all that critical route beta that you look for in a guidebook – route description, rack information, useful photos, etc.  
Visit for more information.  The app comes in a 2-month or a 2-year package (hint – if you have the 2-year package, you will receive next year’s second edition for free!), and if you buy it directly from the Rakkup website, you’ll save a couple of bucks.  Oh, and for the Android users out there, know that the Rakkup guys are working hard to finish up an Android version of this thing!
Well, here in St. George, Utah, the desert sun has risen, and the race is on to get to the walls before the shade disappears.  Hanna and I head to Zion tomorrow, a place that has some of the most inspiring walls I have ever seen.  The excitement is high!
As always, please feel free to contact me at
Happy spring,
Grant Simmons
ACS guide Grant Simmons on the summit of Cerro Fitzroy!
ACS guide Grant Simmons on the summit of Cerro Fitzroy!

Rock Climbing Adventure Camps in Camden, Maine.

This summer ACS will be offering two weeks of our Rock Climbing Adventure Camps! Come join us as we climb and explore the Camden Hills!

SPI assessment at Otter Cliffs

Maine Youth Adventure Camp (For ages 9-13)

2014 dates: Monday, June 30th – Friday, July 4th

This climbing and adventure day camp is perfect for kids who are new to rock climbing and want to learn the basics of the sport in a fun, rewarding and social setting. This camp is a great way for kids to build confidence, meet other adventurous kids, and experience the Camden Hills like never before.  Each day the campers will go on a new adventure, whether it is rappelling Barrett’s coves 200 foot face, rock climbing on Maidens cliff, or traversing the breathtaking Camden hills.

For young adventurous kids there is no better way to experience a summer in Maine! Campers will learn the basics of  rock climbing on real rock in an outdoor setting under the direct supervision of Certified AMGA guides. Topics covered will include climbing movement, belaying, rappelling, and risk management. In addition to these climbing-specific skills the campers will learn about leadership, teamwork, geology, Leave No Trace practices, and natural history of the Maine woods. All Atlantic Climbing School’s guides are certified by the American Mountain Guides Association and are trained in wilderness first aid.

Key Points

Location: Camden, Maine

-Five days of rock climbing, Hiking, and adventure in the outdoors!

-For ages 9-13

-No experience needed

-All equipment is included

– All campers should be dropped off at the Barrett’s Cove Picnic area at 8:00am. And picked up at the same location at 4:00pm each day

Cost: $425.00

For more information or to make a reservation give us a call at (207) 288.2521.


Camden Climbing Camp (for ages 14-17), 

-2014 dates:  Monday, July 7th- Friday July 11th 

 The Camden Climbing Camp is designed for kids who want to take their climbing to the next level. This camp will provide the focused instruction required to master the fundamentals of the sport.  The diversity of terrain that Camden has to offer makes it a perfect location for climbers of all ages and experience levels. Each day the campers will have lots of hands-on experience climbing in an outdoor setting under the direct supervision of  AMGA certified guides. Topics covered will include: climbing movement, equipment, belaying, knots, anchors and rappelling. In addition to these climbing-specific skills the campers will learn about leadership, geology, Leave No Trace practices, and natural history of the Maine woods.  All Atlantic Climbing School’s guides are certified by the American Mountain Guides Association and are trained in wilderness first aid. 

 Key points:

-Location: Camden, Maine

-Five days of rock climbing and instruction in the Camden Hills

-For ages 13-17

-No experience needed 

-All equipment is included

–  All campers should be dropped off at the Barrett’s Cove Picnic area at 8:00am. And picked up at the same location at 4:00pm each day

– Cost: $425.00 

For more information or to make a reservation give us a call at (207) 288.2521.


    Our Guides: 

The core of our climbing school, or of any business, is its staff. At ACS our staff are expert climbers, dedicated teachers, and talented and friendly guides. As trained professionals, our guides are masters of matching a client’s needs with our local terrain in order to create courses that consistently exceed our client’s expectations. All of our staff are certified by the  American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA) for the terrain on which they guide, and we are proud to be the only guide service in Maine to have this distinction.

At ACS, we pride ourselves on our sterling reputation. With 19 years of  exceptional service, we strive every day to continue to be Maine’s premier climbing school.

What to Bring:

Clothing & Footwear: 
Please wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing that allows freedom of movement. Jeans are not recommended; in warm weather, shorts are best. Dress for the weather conditions but plan ahead for abrupt changes; layers are ideal so that you may easily adapt to changing conditions. Footwear needs to be sturdy: tennis, running or hiking shoes are best. Please, no sandals – the approach to some of our climbing sites requires hiking over rocky, uneven terrain.

Personal Items: 
Bring plenty of water and a few light snacks and a big lunchSunscreen and sunglasses are highly advisable since there is very little shade on the side of a cliff (it is best to put sunscreen on before you leave so you can wash your hands). A small day pack is necessary to carry your personal items as well as the gear we will provide – we do have packs available if you do not have your own. Don’t forget a camera – even the disposable kind – you won’t believe the great shots you and your guide will get! Please arrive prepared so that none of your course time is spent locating/purchasing these personal items.


What we Supply: 

Atlantic Climbing School provides each participant with a pair of climbing shoes, a harness and a helmet. Chalk bags and day packs are also available. ACS also provides all course equipment including ropes, technical hardware, and a first aid kit.


Drop Off and Pick up:

 All campers should be dropped off at the Barrett’s Cove Picnic area at 8:00am. And picked up at the same location at 4:00pm each day.



A day on Mt. Washington

Mount Washington at 6,288 feet is known for its horrendous weather. Last Sunday was no exception, but that didn’t keep Wendy, Manoj, and myself from having an awesome time on a mountain the natives called Agiocochook, or “Home of the Great Spirit.” The summit forecast called for negative temperatures and winds well above 100 miles per hour. The resulting -55 wind chill will freeze uncovered skin instantly. Although we were unable to summit in such conditions, we enjoyed the plethora of new snow on the 2.5 miles up to the Lakes of the Clouds Hut as we practiced crampon technique and moving efficiently in the mountains. Winds from the NW were were mostly behind us for the ascent and right in our faces for the descent back to treeline. It was definitely a day for goggles and face masks! Thanks Wendy and Manoj for being great climbing partners and wonderful company! Y’all crushed! Here are a few great photos from our trip.

-Matt Ritter: ACS Guide

wash 4




wash 6

New Winter Programs!

Skiing cadillac auto rd hairpin ice

When the snow starts to fly and ice begins to form at our favorite vertical playgrounds, it is time to trade in the rock climbing shoes and chalk bags for crampons and ices axes. Winter is here and the climbing season has just begun! New England is THE place to be for this magical time of year! Don’t hibernate this season, come on out and join The Atlantic Climbing School to see what Old Man Winter has to offer.

We offer private customized courses in ice climbing, mountaineering,snowshoeing and cross country skiing for everyone from an absolute beginner, to experienced outdoor enthusiasts looking to take their skills to the next level. From the granite mountains that rise from the frigid seas of Acadia, to the highest peak in the Northeast, Mount Washington, let our experienced guides make your winter a little more adventurous and FUN!  

snow shoeing cadillac south ridge

Learn more about:





Are programs are available in the following locations:

-Mt. Washington Valley, NH

-North Conway, NH

-Acadia National Park, ME

-Camden, ME

-Rumney, NH

-Grafton Notch, ME

-Mt Kineo, ME

-Baxter Sate Park (Mt. Katahdin) ME

Make a reservation today!

Rocktober ( a climbers favorite month)

For most climbers the month of October is the time to drop everything and hit the road. The temperature cools down allowing for better friction and ideal climbing  conditions. The days are still long enough for big objectives and the scenery is amazing with the changing of the season.  

This October I was lucky enough to travel to some of the best climbing destinations in the country with some great friends. What follows is a brief synopsis of my Rocktober!

As the guiding season slowed down (Park Closure)  I packed up the Sea Stack Slider (my Nissan Versa) and headed to the New River George with three of my favorite climbing buddies. Our plan was simple, we were going to climb as much as we could in this amazing area for just over two weeks.

Steep climbing at the New River George

 The New river George is a world class climbing area located in Appalachian Mountains of West Virgina.  The New is also white water rafting mecca offering boaters a chance to paddle the biggest white water sections in the east. Stunning sandstone cliffs line the New and the Gauley rivers and stretch for miles in every direction. There is enough climbing in this area to last 100 lifetimes! The climbing is varied with an abundance of both traditional and sport climbs.  We did tons of amazing routes and were also lucky enough to raft the upper Gauley River which hosts five super rugged class V sections.
 I would highly recommend this area to everyone! The people in West Virginia were super nice and the climbing was phenomenal!


Being weird in the New River George.


My next stop was Yosemite National Park! Yosemite is the epicenter of climbing in the US and with out a doubt my favorite climbing destination in the world! Whether you are a climber or not this is an area everyone should visit at some point. My favorite times to visit are in early May when the dogwood trees are in bloom, and in the fall when the crowds thin out.

I was climbing in Yosemite with my buddy Pete who used to run ACS with me. Pete now lives in CA and works as a vegetable farmer on a vineyard.

We arrived in the Valley at around 2:00am and got a few hours of sleep beneath the stars. It was super cold on the valley floor and I slept in three pairs of pants and two down jackets! The next morning we climbed Serenity-Sons which is by far the best free climb I have ever climbed in the Valley! That night we met up with some friends (three of which are ACS guides) in the meadow at the base of El Capitan. We had a few beers and watched the headlights up on El Cap start to blink on. Pete and I wanted to climb the Nose the following day. The Nose is the most famous rock climb in the world. It rises over 3000 feet from the valley floor and  begs to be climbed. In 2007 Pete and I climbed the Nose over three and a half days. Our goal was to now climb the route in under 24 hours.

We slept at the base of the route and started climbing at 6:00am just before the sun rose.  We had one 70m rope, five cliff bars each and one gallon of water. We were PSYCHED!

The best way to climb such a huge route is to break up the climb in to sections. This way there are fewer transitions between the lead climbers and each climber can settle in to his role (leading or jugging) for a longer period of time. We made good time up the route trying to free climb as much  as possible. The Nose is like a giant obstacle course linking sections of cracks with wild swings across the granite. We moved efficiently up the wall and made it to the summit 16 hours after we began. Climbing the Nose in a day had always been a dream of mine and it felt great to finally make it happen. We descended the East ledges in the Dark and slept back at the base of the route. It was an amazing day of climbing with one of my best friends!


Pete leading the great roof on the Nose!


The next two days we rested and enjoyed life with out a harness on.  After this much needed rest we geared up for one more climb before we left the Valley. We climbed the Silent Line on the Gold Wall. This is a spectacular line up a sea of golden granite. Lots and lots of very physical crack climbing leads to an amazing view of one of Yosemite’s most beautiful water falls and a great view of the West face of El Capitan. We had tons of fun climbing and made it back to our car before dark.  We were lucky to not have been eaten by bears! We saw tons of fresh bear sign!

The view from a wild chimney on the Gold Wall.

The west face of El Capitan


We drove East over Tioga Pass and bivied in the desert near a hot spring. The next day was a long haul to St. George Utah. St. George has an abundance of great sport climbing. It felt nice to climb in a more relaxed setting.


Pete in St. George.


We are now in Zion National Park. Zion is incredibly beautiful and I am excited to explore some more of it’s classic climbs!



Tomorrows objective!


Overall October has been perfect! Amazing climbing with great people! I’m excited to see what November will bring……..





A new Guidebook to Acadia!!!

Grant Simmons enjoying a sunrise from the top of the Acadia classic Wafer Step.

Grant Simmons enjoying a sunrise from the top of the Acadia classic Wafer Step.


Somewhere there is an old ACS ad that reads, “Climb with the locals.  We wrote the book.”  Well, that ad can be renewed because we are writing it again!

In 2002, former Atlantic Climbing School owner Jeff Butterfield, along with Jason Huckaby, published a comprehensive guidebook to the climbing here in Acadia, a guidebook that still stands as the go-to for information on climbing in the park.  However, that book has been out of print for a couple of years now, leaving a void in easily accessible information for those who do not already own a copy.

Writing a guidebook has always been a dream of mine.  There is just something about those books that has always seemed to me a reflection of the author’s love of a place, a love that I have always admired and related to because it was deeper than the climbing itself.  There is an intimate knowledge of the area, not just the moves of the individual climbs, but the entire cliff, the entire mountain.

Admittedly, there are others who know this place better.  There are locals who have been climbing here for years, locals who are so honed in on every crystal of granite on the hardest climbs that they can carry on a conversation about how easy it is while casually making their ways towards to anchor above.  I have shared my enthusiasm for this project with these folks and they have encouraged me to go forth with it. 

I feel connected to this place; that intimate knowledge has been growing in me for the last two years, and I am excited to continue to foster it through this project.  Things that I do not yet know, I am excited to learn in the process.  There will be adventures to obscure cliffs and climbs, conversations with the pioneers of the island’s climbing, and of course, more of those moments that floor you while climbing here in the park.

The goal of this project is to take this knowledge and passion and put it to paper, providing a resource for both the visiting and the local climber and sharing with them my love of this area and the climbing that it holds.

I definitely have a lot to learn in the process, so feel free to share any input you may have with me.  I’m also looking for photos to be considered for the book, so if you have any amazing shots, please send them to me for review!

Happy fall!

Grant Simmons

July 2013 A wild end to the bird cam sessions!

I am lucky enough to be part of a large Phenology project that the National park service is running. My job has been to install and monitor a few different bird cams in various locations. One of these cameras has been at a Guillemots nest. It has been absolutely amazing to watch this site go from just a pile of rocks about six weeks ago, to a cozy little home for two little babies and two loving parents. The photos below will tell an amazing story with a wild ending…….



guillamontt birdcam ACS BirdcamACS  WSBC0013 WSBC0028 WSBC0049 WSBC0064 WSBC0069 WSBC0083 WSBC0087

On the fourth of July all was well in this little family………… Who knew what was going to happen that night, long after the fireworks had ended……














An American mink (Neovison vison) snuck in to the nest and ate everyone except one of the adults. Minks are amazing predators and probably could either hear or smell the babies. Minks eat duck, fish, muskrats and yes, even adorable baby guillemots!

For me looking at these photos was an emotional roller coaster. I was so happy to finally see the babies and the feeding habits of the adults, and then just like that, they were gone. I will miss them all. WSBC0111

A parting shot of the sneaky little mink as he disappears into the night.


The saddest part of this tragic story is the following morning momma (or dad) came back with some fresh breakfast to find the nest empty. (SO SAD!)



24 hours after the massacre the mink returned for an unknown reason.




Momma (or dad) cries alone in the corner!



I am sorry if this story bummed you out. It’s very sad but it is, also, the way things work in the wild. I feel lucky to have captured this footage and I am amazed at how everything is so connected and raw in the natural world.  I leave you with this……………

Happy Puppy


-Eli Simon