AMGA Single-Pitch Instructor Course and Exam


Single Pitch Instructor Certification

The American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA) Single Pitch Instructor Course is the first in the AMGA sequence of climbing instructor and guide training programs.

The SPI course was designed to help capable recreational climbers transition into capable and effective climbing instructors. The course focuses on the technical skills required by an instructor as they are applied in all forms of single pitch climbing instruction. In addition to this, the course addresses the essential educational and environmental tenets required to teach climbing. Those seeking certification may go on to take a two day field examination following the course or at any time within three years after successfully completing the course. Certified Single Pitch Instructors are expected to demonstrate the technical and educational proficiencies necessary to instruct a variety of single pitch rock climbing skills in a safe and effective manner to both groups and individuals. While not all students are fully prepared for the certification exam by the end of the course, every participant will have the training to practice and prepare for an exam in the future and will leave the course with many new ideas and skills.

An SPI Candidate practices lowering systems in Joshua Tree.

An SPI Candidate practices lowering systems in Joshua Tree. Jason Martin

All course participants receive a written evaluation at the end of the course and are granted a one-year associate membership in the AMGA. Benefits of membership include a subscription to the quarterly Mountain Bulletin guide's newsletter, discounts on the AMGA Guide's Manual, and opportunities to attend membership instructional clinics and membership meetings.

The SPI course is intended for recreational climbers who are already proficient in both top-rope and lead climbing. It was designed to benefit those who wish to facilitate outdoor climbing programs for groups such as those offered by guide services, camps, schools, universities, therapeutic groups, churches and climbing gyms. Those who wish to teach climbing in the outdoors tend to have a much higher success rate in obtaining employment as climbing instructors with this training and certification. The AMGA strongly suggests this course as a precursor to those interested in pursuing Rock Instructor or Rock Guide training and certification.

We offer this program in several locations, including Red Rock Canyon, NV, Leavenworth, WA, and at Mt. Erie, WA.

AMGA Single-Pitch Instructor Course and Exam

Course Curriculum

Pre-Requisites for AAI's SPI Course

  1. You are at least 18 years old.
  2. You are a member of the American Mountain Guides Association at the time of the course. (If you're not a member already, you can sign up at
  3. You have a genuine interest in rock climbing and instructing novices on single pitch crags.
  4. You have at least 12 months of prior climbing experience.
  5. You are an active climber with traditional lead climbing experience, and you have lead a minimum of 15 traditional pitches.
  6. You are able to comfortably set-up climbs, to belay, to rappel without guidance and can demonstrate familiarity with anchoring principals, natural anchors and artificial anchors (wires, hexes, passive and active cams). These skills may be assessed at the start of your course.
  7. You are capable of comfortably climbing 5.8 while on top-rope.
SPI candidates practice lowering on a Munter Hitch during a course in Leavenworth.

SPI candidates practice lowering on a Munter Hitch during a course in Leavenworth. Jason Martin

Course Curriculum and Contents

The following is a brief overview of the main points that will be discussed and practiced throughout the three-day course. Weather or other environmental factors may change the order of the curriculum.

Day One:

  • Introduction to the AMGA and the Rock Certification Process.
  • Carpool to the Instructional location
  • Discussion of climbing equipment and its importance to the climbing instructor.
  • Review of instructor knots and hitches
  • Instructor and student belay techniques
  • Management of the climbing site
  • Instructional anchors and rock protection
  • Teaching techniques and risk management for the climbing instructor


Day Two:

  • Professionalism in climbing instruction
  • Development of practical skills for top-managed sites
  • Climbing site organization and group management
  • Discussion and practice of lowering techniques
  • Assistance skills for a top-managed site.


Day Three:

  • Development of practical skills required for a bottom-managed site
  • Review of assistance skills required for a bottom-managed site
  • Techniques to teach climbing movement
  • Review Sessions
  • Individual and group debriefs



AMGA Single-Pitch Instructor Course and Exam


Two-Day Exam and SPI Assessment Candidate Prerequisites

The two-day SPI Certification Exam may be taken directly following the SPI course if the candidate successfully completes the course and meets the assessment pre-requisites. However, it is highly recommended that the SPI graduate takes time practicing and consolidating the skills learned on the course before assessment. 


SPI Candidates practice counter-balance rappelling in Joshua Tree.

SPI Candidates practice counter-balance rappelling in Joshua Tree. Jason Martin

You meet the SPI Certification Exam pre-requisites if:

  1. You have successfully completed the AMGA Single Pitch Instructor Course or the AMGA Top-Rope Site Manager Course.
  2. You have trad lead climbed a minimum of 40 graded rock routes. A large number of these should have been 5.6 or harder.
  3. You are capable of comfortably leading traditional routes at the 5.6 grade in a variety of settings (i.e. crack, face, slab, etc.). You will be asked to demonstrate your leading ability throughout the assessment.
  4. You are capable of comfortably climbing 5.8 while on top-rope.


To gain SPI Certification, candidates must:

  1. Successfully pass the SPI Assessment
  2. Hold current AMGA Membership at the Associate Level or higher
  3. Hold appropriate current First Aid Certification for the area where you desire to work. (Please see the SPI Program Manual for more information on first aid requirements.)


Many students let their AMGA membership lapse. You must be a current member of the AMGA for your exam results to be valid. 


 SPI Certification Upkeep and Recertification

SPI Certification is only valid with current AMGA Membership and valid current First Aid Certification. If you let either of these lapse, your SPI Certification is invalid until you rectify this.

SPI Certification lasts for three-years from the date of assessment. There are two options for renewal:

  • Certified Single Pitch Instructors can take the two-day SPI Assessment to renew their certification.
  • Certified Single Pitch Instructors who successfully complete one of the following AMGA Courses: Rock Instructor Course, Advanced Rock Guides Course, Alpine Guides Course, or an Advanced Alpine Guides Course is granted SPI certification for three years from the course end date. After completing a course, please contact the AMGA so they can update your records.

AMGA Single-Pitch Instructor Course and Exam

Dates & Locations

SPI Course and Refresher Dates:

Please note that for some programs we will work to decrease classroom time by having a mandatory, pre-program zoom meeting. Once you have registered for these programs, we'll send out a poll to determine the best time to meet.

  • June 11 - 13, 2024 (course) - Leavenworth, WA (JM-SPI-C-2024-2)
  • June 14 (refresher) - Leavenworth, WA
  • September 3 - 5 (course) - Mt. Erie (Anacortes), WA (JM-SPI-C-2024-4)
  • September 6 (refresher) - Mt. Erie (Anacortes), WA


SPI Exam Dates:

  • June 27 - 28, 2024 - SPI Exam - Mt. Erie (Anacortes), WA (JM-SPI-A-2024-3)


It is a common practice for students to take their exam at a later date, following completion of their course. This allows additional time to practice new skills, and to build confidence for the exam. Please feel free to register for any exam date of your choice.  


Private Courses and Exams

SPI courses and exams may be run with private entities at your leisure. Please contact our office for more information at 1-800-424-2249 or by emailing [email protected].


AMGA Single-Pitch Instructor Course and Exam


SPI Course Fee:
$650 - per person for 3 or more participants
$930 - per person for 2 participants

SPI Refresher Fee:
$200 - 2 or more participants

Exam Fee:

$450 - per person


$300 with 2 other Participants (Must have taken initial assessment with AAI)


Logistics, Equipment, and Pre-Course Reading

Meeting time and place:

Red Rock Canyon, Nevada: Participants will meet at the covered picnic area located in the Red Springs Picnic Area in Calico Basin in Red Rock Canyon at 7:30 in the morning on the first day of the course or exam. The road to Red Springs may be found just a short distance west of the campground, between the campground road and the entrance to the Red Rock Scenic Drive. Take the first right-hand turn past Moenkopi Road and drive a short distance through a semi-residential area to the Red Springs Parking Lot.

Leavenworth, Washington: On the first day of the course, participants will meet their instructor at Eightmile Campground. This campground is located approximately 7 miles up the Icicle River Road. Please arrive here at 7:30 in the morning on the first day of the course or exam.

Mt. Erie, Washington: On the first day of an exam we will meet at the Mt. Erie Summit Parking Lot at 7:30am.

For all other course locations, please contact the AAI office for meeting times and places.

AAI Guide Jason Martin instructing a group of SPI Candidates on rock rescue techniques in Red Rock, Nevada.

AAI Guide Jason Martin instructing a group of SPI Candidates on rock rescue techniques in Red Rock, Nevada. Mary Harlan


Unlike other AAI courses, the SPI program requires that participants bring their own equipment. Download a pdf of our SPI Equipment List under 'Course Downloads' to the right.

Required Text:

  • The AMGA Single Pitch Manual by Bob Gaines and Jason D. Martin


Top-Rope Site Manager Program

The AMGA Single Pitch Instructor program was formerly known as the Top-Rope Site Manager (TRSM) Program. American Mountain Guides Association program coordinators worked on the design and the implementation of the SPI program over a period of years. They replaced the TRSM curriculum with this new program for two reasons. First, the new curriculum was designed to raise the standard of skill in the single pitch instructor. And second, they wanted this American program to correspond more closely with the similar programs of other member countries in the International Federation of Mountain Guides Associations.


American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA)

For more information about the American Mountain Guides Association and AMGA education and certification standards, visit

AMGA Single-Pitch Instructor Course and Exam

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