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The Truth About Gear For The AMGA SPI Assessment

The entire rack used for the AMGA SPI Exam.

Let’s gear up and find the truth about gear for the AMGA SPI Assessment (and here’s how to pass the SPI Exam on your first try) The American Mountain Guide Association Single Pitch Instructor Assessment is a two day (16-hour) exam. The exam is the follow-up to a three-day (24 hours) course. The course and exam provide a great environment to improve your technical skills and your soft and teaching skills.

But what gear do we need for the exam? Are we going to need a brand new shiny rack? Do I need to be decked out in Arcteryx and Patagonia from head to toe? Look good… guide good?

The rack I used for the AMGA SPI assessment is a culmination of my entire climbing career. When I first started climbing, I never envisioned moving past the gym bouldering wall. The very first carabiner I ever bought was used during this examination! Some items listed here were bought specifically for the course, and exam. While others were bought because I didn’t know any better.

I first took the course in September 2019. And over a year later, I finally got around to taking the exam. We’re going to investigate all the gear used during the course and exam. Single pitch climbing can encompass anything from traditional climbing to building top ropes from natural anchors. If a single day can involve sport climbing, trad climbing, and building natural top rope anchors, we’re gonna need a big rack!

If you’re taking the exam or course soon, use this guide to compare to what you currently have now. We’ll point out when a piece of gear gets used for a specific SPI procedure. If you don’t have that item, dig through your gear bin and see if you have something else that might work.

Let’s gear up!

My AMGA SPI Assessment Rack!

SPI Exam Candidate Personal Goods

Personal goods laid out on the floor for the AMGA SPI Exam. Petzl Sama harness, Black Diamond mojo chalk bag, petzl belay gloves, Black Diamond Vector helmet, blue unparallel sports UP Lace shoes, La Sportiva TX2 approach shoes, and a black osprey talon backpack.

Petzl Sama
My second Petzl harness after the Petzl Corax. I bought the Sama because I wanted more gear loops, but didn’t want to spend a lot of money. Very happy with the Sama, but the leg loops are non-adjustable. It takes a lot of scrunching to put the harness on.

Black Diamond Mojo Chalk Bag
Bought this because it’s cheap and has a pocket that could fit a phone (~5.5 inches) as well as a cliff bar. But recently, I got a new phone that is a bit bigger and may have to check out some of the multi-pitch chalk bag options.

First Aid Kit
A few bandages, nitrile gloves, ibuprofen, and emergency snacks.

Black Diamond Vector Helmet
Very comfortable helmet. Buy a comfortable helmet, you’ll be more likely to wear it.

Petzl Cordex Lightweight Belay Gloves
Received them as a Christmas gift one year. Before using them, I thought they were gimmicky. But now, I use them whenever I am out climbing. Over the course of the five days working on the SPI, these gloves saved a lot of skin between belaying, lowering, rappeling, flaking, and coiling.

La Sportiva TX2 Approach Shoes
Hiking to crags, wearing for top managed sites, and easy climbs. Great grip for hiking on boulders and for climbing routes.

Unparallel Up Lace
Comfortable shoes, Toes lay flat. Similar build to Anasazi Pinks

Osprey Talon 22 Backpack
Not a climbing-specific backpack, but it does the job. And it has waist straps to keep weight off the shoulders.

Ropes

Two climbing ropes are laid out on the floor. A blue multi patterned sterling climbing rope. And a black Sterling static rope for building top rope anchors. The climbing rope is butterfly coiled and the static rope is not.

Dynamic Rope 60m Sterling Marathon 10.1 Rope
This was my first climbing rope. Originally bought for setting up top ropes outside and transitioning to lead climbing. Has held up well for top rope, sport, and multi-pitch trad climbing. Would buy again.

Static Rope 120 ft Sterling 9mm static rope
120 feet might be about 15-20 extra than necessary. But I wanted to have the extra rope to make even the longest instructor tethers possible. The extra rope gives me breathing room when constructing the three in one (Fox system) anchor.

Belay & Rappeling

Belay and rappeling equipment shown on the floor. The rappeling kit consits of an orange Petzl Attache, a black ATC Guide, a blue four foot nylon sling, and a 19 inch sterling hollowblock. The belay kit consists of a matching blue petzl grigri and petzl attache.

Rappel Kit:
BD ATC Guide, BD Four Foot Nylong Sling, 19 Inch Sterling HollowBlock, Petzl Attache, DMM Phantom Screwgate, BD Positron Screwgate
The four-foot nylon sling is used to extend rappels and as a personal tether. I love the 19-inch HollowBlock. 19 inches provides enough material for friction hitches on single and double-strand ropes. The HollowBlock also gets used when performing a 3:1 assisted raise and during a pickoff.

Petzl GriGri + Blue Petzl Attache

Love the GriGri for its assisted braking capabilities. Belaying with it provides a quick transition to ascend the line in case the climber is in need of assistance.

Anchor Kits

One coiled four foot nylon sling is on the left hand side. In the middle is a purpple and green 21 foot cordelette that is coiled and organized. On the right hand side is a quadruple length Dyneema sling. Not a bad idea to have both cordelette and Dyneema sling on the SPI Exam.

Black Diamond Four Foot Nylon Sling
This four-foot nylon sling is racked on a Black Diamond Rocklock carabiner. The sling is reserved for elevating masterpoints on trees.

PMI 21 ft 7 mm Cordalette

Quadruple length dyneema sling

I carry both a cordelette and quadruple length Dyneema sling. Having two is useful in case there are multiple climbs being put up at once that have bolted anchors. And to have teaching material when instructing how to build anchors. The Dyneema is racked using a Petzl Williams for no particular reason. I needed another locking carabiner for building anchors and the Petzl Williams was on sale. It’s better suited for multi-pitch climbing.

Carabiners

Three rows of two carabiner. In the top row is an orange and blue Petzl Attache. In the middle row are two Black Diamond Rocklockers. And the last row is two Trango superflys. Can never have too many locking carabiners on the AMGA SPI Exam

Two Petzl Attaches (one orange, one blue)
I like the Attache because of the locking indicator. When the carabiner is unlocked there is red paint visible on the gate (shown in the photo above). The carabiner is lightweight and most importantly… I really like the orange and blue colors. I use a separate blue Attache with my blue Petzl GriGri. The blue Attache shown above is for my personal clove hitches. Using this color system, I always know that blue Attaches correspond to my belay device or to my tether. The extra orange attache above is used for munter hitches (belayed rappel).

Three Black Diamond Rock Lock
The very first carabiner I ever bought. These two are now used for holding the rope in top rope anchors.

Two Trango SuperFly Screw Locks
I bought these when I first started trad climbing and needed extra lockers. They were on sale and they do the job. I use these lockers if someone needs to be anchored to the ground or during belayed rappels. When building the anchor for the belayed rappel, I can attach the two SuperFlys together to lower the belayed end (munter hitch) away from the rappel side. This trick keeps the system clean and organized.

Climbing Protection

All of the climbing protection used in the exam. The top row consists of a rack of DMM Wallnuts and CAMP Tricams. The second row contains camming devices from .2 inches to 3 inches. The cams consist of Black Diamond X4's, Black Diamond C3s, Black Diamond C4s, DMM Dragon 2's, and one Wild Country Friend.

DMM Wallnuts #1 – 11
Purchased when first beginning trad climbing. The grooved design seats these in irregular rock types. Would buy these again.

DMM Offset Nuts #7 – 11
Got these as a birthday present after using them a few times on a friend’s rack. Love the contoured offset design.

Camp Tricams .5 – 2
Purchased mainly for multi-pitch trad climbing. But I brought them along for the AMGA SPI Assessment so I could have extra gear when building anchors. I primarily use tricams when I’m building anchors and have a secure stance. Save the cams for the hard climbing!

Cams (all sizes listed in Black Diamond equivalent)

Black Diamond C3 2 and .2 X4
Purchased these at a local used gear exchange. The C3 and DMM Dragon 00 (#.3 BD) overlap in range.

DMM Dragon 2 .3, .5 – 2
I really like the DMM offset nuts and DMM Dragon’s were on sale when I was first buying cams. I purchased these a few at a time and really liked them at first. As I’ve climbed more, the slings on these can be a nuisance to clip. The extendable sling is handy and I don’t regret buying, but I will not be doubling up the Dragons.

Black Diamond C4 .4
Bought this because the DMM equivalent was out of stock when first building a trad rack.

Wild Country Friend 3
The extendable sling and thumb loop make this cam a combination of a C4 and a DMM Dragon. I purchased this because it was on sale and have been very happy.

Nine Alpine Draws
Might be overkill with all the extendable slings built into most of my cams, but the east coast has non-direct climbs. The draws are lightweight and I’m not upset if I have extras at the end of a pitch. The carabiners are a mix of DMM Spectres, Metolius Bravo Keylocks, Wild Country Wildwire, and Black Diamond Litewires.

Nine alpine draws displayed with their racking carabiners.

Did this rack pass the AMGA SPI Assessment?

It did! This rack has everything used to help get me certified as an AMGA SPI! The course and exam was a great experience. I learned a ton and elevated my craft to new heights.

Do you see any improvements I could make in my AMGA SPI rack? If you’ve done the exam, what did your rack look like? Drop a comment below!

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