What does PCGI stand for? Professional Climbing Guides Institute– a non-profit organization committed to developing, defining and improving the safety, technical and educational standards of guided rock climbing and instruction in grade III and under terrain. Basically, PCGI is an organization that trains the trainers, teaches those who will in turn be in charge of instructing and protecting others who want to experience the joys and freedom of outdoor climbing on “real” rock.
If you’re not a climber, this may not mean much to you–but keep reading and I bet that’ll change.
PCGI has agreed to sponsor Project 365 and that is obviously a significant achievement for us since they are our first major backer–but that fact alone really fails to convey the excitement that I am feeling about this development. To fully paint this picture, let me take you back to the fall of 2009…
Climbing had always been an escape from the reality of my diabetes and other people–sure I had to manage my sugar out on the rock, but I was usually alone or with Stef. I didn’t have to explain how my diet worked or the gadgetry I used to check my sugar or how many times a day I had to take injections. I climbed to get away from it all and the isolation, by default, made me feel normal. Now all that was about to change.
See, I had decided to begin the journey to becoming a climbing guide. I had opted to put my skill set under public assessment in order to make my passion pay for itself–and it seemed noble and worthwhile. What is better than getting paid to share what you love with people who want to learn? But before I could have the title I had to prove myself. I now had to tell people ‘in the interest of full disclosure, I want you to know that I’m diabetic’ and wince, while waiting for them to recoil in horror. I had been climbing for a couple of years and had learned to deal with the fear of heights–but I was totally afraid of talking about my condition with other people–but if I was going to be a guide, I had to be open about my condition and its limitations.
I sought out PCGI training because I was told that it was different. It was supposed to be more adaptive–I didnt quite know what that meant but it sounded suited to my needs so I signed up for a course with Zeke Federman, out in Bishop CA. I remember talking to him at one point and feeling a bit flustered, because instead of a traditional learning model where the instructor TELLS you what is up and that’s that, Zeke asked me what my goals were. What did I want to learn and why? I wasnt expecting to be heard.
Through out the actual process of the course Zeke kept steering the narrative back towards our motivations and what we wanted to get out of the course and to be able to do with it. He made clear that obtaining certification was more cut and dried but that the road to reaching proficiency was different for every person and he helped us individually explore our own paths.
I’ll never forget our conversation about my having diabetes. I was pretty concerned about it making me less fit of a candidate to be a guide or that I would become a liability to potential employers. I was blathering away in my usual self doubting fashion and when I finally came up for air, Zeke just looked at me kind of quizzically and asked, “Do you know what you need to do to take care of yourself and stay safe?”
“Well just make sure you keep doing that” he said.
It may sound overly simple to some, but the reality was profound–and empowering. I did know how to take care of myself. I had the power to make good choices about my food and insulin that would allow me to function at the same level as anyone else! This conversation shaped my view of myself and empowered me to begin taking a path that has frequently crossed and recrossed the folks at PCGI and now has led me to the point of undertaking an project to give back that same empowerment to others!
The PCGI organization as I have come to know them individually as fellow guides and mentors are representative of a new and “student centered” learning philosophy that is second to none. Instruction is a partnership, a sum total of everyone’s experience with the goal of helping people find their own path to excellence. They truly invest themselves in the success of their students–I am proof of that.
I have had to learn to manage risk in all areas of my life. The mentors at PCGI have helped me translate my life experience managing risk in dealing with my diabetes into climbing terms which has enabled so much freedom and growth in my life. That is exactly what I want to share with other people now–the reality that your experience as a diabetic can be a powerful tool if you approach it properly and from a position of power and confidence.
So yes, its awesome to have other people recognize your work and its awesome to have financial support–but to have it come from the people who helped you really learn to stand on your own two feet, well, that’s a whole different kind of special. So that is why we are psyched to welcome PCGI as a sponsor of Project 365–and you will be hearing more about their organization and getting to meet many of their mentors and guides, as we will be seeing them in various corners of North America and recording our time climbing and pursuing certification with them. We are really thankful to have you guys on board!
Last but not least I want to give a special shout out to Jewels Doskicz from the Northern AZ chapter of the JDRF who has been HUGELY helpful in connecting us with all the right people and helping us set up a climbing event for type 1 kids at her gym in Flagstaff.