CHERRYFIELD, Maine — Silas Rossi has his head in the clouds.
As a mountain guide, the Cherryfield native spends much of his time atop — and getting to the top of — some of the highest peaks in the country and around the world. He’s the climber roped into the side of a mountain in a recent Camden National Bank advertisement and he recently earned the highest professional award for mountaineering and skiing when he became certified through the International Federation of Mountain Guides Associations, the first Maine native to achieve that distinction.
On Saturday in a private pinning ceremony, Rossi received his IFMGA pin from his first climbing instructor and mentor, Jon Tierney.
“This is not an easy achievement,” said Tierney, the owner of Acadia Mountain Guides in Bar Harbor and Alpenglow Adventure Sports in Orono, himself an IFMGA-certified guide. “This is considered the Ph.D. for guides.”
And it takes just about as long to achieve. Although there were just two formal courses and a two-week, in-the-field exam for the final certification, Rossi said he worked for about six years amassing the knowledge and experience needed in order to qualify to take the exam.
The certification covers three mountaineering areas, rock, alpine — high altitude and ice climbing — and ski, and allows those certified to guide on any climbing or skiing terrain without limitation, even if they have not been in an area before.
That kind of privilege and responsibility is part of the training, Rossi said.
“A lot of what we do in the certification applies in all situations,” he said. “It’s about assessing the situation and recognizing the dangers. You see something and you have to deal with it.”
The U.S. has been a member country of the IFMGA for only 14 years after the training and assessment programs were deemed to be of the highest standard. According to Tierney, there are only 80 IFMGA-certified guides in the country.
Rossi’s road to the certification began at the University of Maine where he began climbing as a student. He admits that the adrenaline rush of being in the mountains was part of the attraction, but said there was more to it than that.
“In the mountains, it’s simple: You need to keep yourself warm and fed, and not kill yourself,” he said. “You need to focus on what you’re doing. There are stresses that are real and have consequences. I find that really freeing.”
An apprenticeship with Tierney at Acadia Mountain Guides got him started on the road to guiding and, Rossi said, gave him an early vision of where he wanted to go in climbing.
“There are good ways to do things and great ways to [do] them,” Tierney said. “Silas has done it in a great way. He’s become a well-rounded guide and wilderness leader.”
That early climbing experience has led Rossi to his career in the mountains. Through his business, Alpine Logic, he now leads climbing and ski trips on some of the premier peaks in Maine, New England and the U.S.
The IFMGA certification, he said, is both a personal achievement as well as a practical one, in terms of is business. Those credentials, he said, will open areas in Europe, Canada and other spots around the world to him, areas where the certification is required.
In addition to guiding trips on Katahdin and Mount Washington, in the Tetons and the Rockies, Rossi said he now will be able to lead his own trips in areas such as Switzerland, Italy and France.
“It opens up all of Europe for guiding there,” he said. “I’ll be able to bring in my own clients.”
With certification in hand, he’s already planning to offer ski trips and ice climbing trips in Italy and Spain later this year and also has plans to guide an ascent of Aconcoqua in the Argentine Andes, one of the Seven Summits and the highest point in South America.
For more information about Rossi’s guiding business, Alpine Logic, visit online: www.alpine-logic.com.