It’s not all hiking.
Sometimes, Carolina Mountain Club hike leaders get together to talk about good hike leadership. This past week, 57 hike leaders – all day, half-day, occasional leaders – discussed principles of leading a good, enjoyable and safe hike. The CMC hiking committee hosted the dinner and the program. See the picture on the right.
Here are some obvious pointers we discussed.
* Know your sweep.
Sweep, tailender, trailend Charlie. That’s the hiker at the end of the line who makes sure that no one gets lost. He or she is a strong hiker. You don’t want to accept someone who says “Well, I’m slow. So I’ll be your sweep”. A sweep is really a co-leader.
* Stop at trail intersections.
Isn’t that obvious? Well, no, because Marcia Bromberg, above, had to emphasize this. Sometimes leaders get so gung-ho on socializing with others (good) or keeping a reasonable pace (also good) that they forget that the whole group isn’t behind them.
* Stop to rest.
Another obvious point. We are hikers, not racers. We keep moving but we need specific rest stops. I always schedule in a morning break at about 11 am, calling it elevenses, from the British custom of morning tea at 11 am. By 11 am, we’ve hiked a couple of miles. Just as important, most of us had breakfast hours ago. I have a lunch break and then, if it’s a long hike, an afternoon break.
When I lead, a rest break starts when the sweep sits down. So everyone has a scheduled break. The hikers in front just have a longer one.
* What happens if there’s a problem? The leader may have forgotten to lock her car or someone doesn’t feel well? However the leader deals with the problem, she or he has to remember all the other hikers in the group. A new leader should assigned, if needed. Better, the original leader should assign a strong hiker to help the person with a problem. The important thing is not to let the rest of the group flounder or just wait.
Lots more was discussed. But if you’re a leader, think about some of these principles. And think about volunteering to lead. That’s the way hiking clubs work.