In 1961, Peter Fuhrmann, a German climber working in Banff, arranged to take his professional mountain guide’s exam with Walter Perren, the Swiss mountain guide heading Parks Canada’s public safety program.
At the appointed rendez-vous, Fuhrmann learned Perren was conducting a rescue. Driving to Castle Mountain, he scrambled to where he could see Perren climbing solo up south-facing cliffs.
“He yelled down, ‘come up, give me a hand and bring my pack,’” Fuhrmann, now 80, recalled. “So I put his pack on top of my pack and then I climbed up the right hand ridge of Eisenhower Tower.”
Reaching the summit, he found Perren with three climbers who, although uninjured, lacked the skills to descend. Perren suggested that Fuhrmann descend with one of the climbers as an examination exercise. That task completed, the following day Fuhrmann climbed Mount Victoria, backdrop to Lake Louise, with Perren, who declared him certified.
Today, candidates hoping to earn professional certification follow a more structured and rigorous program through the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides (ACMG). Extensive outdoor experience is required to gain acceptance; on average the multiple exams take seven years to complete. This year, now 850 members strong, the association formed by Fuhrmann and eight other guides in 1963 celebrates its 50th anniversary.