Become a Hike Leader
By Mike Boisvert.
Hiking is a healthful, social and pleasant activity, and hikers enjoy meeting and conversing with their fellow hikers. Hike leaders will enjoy the opportunity to interact with the other hikers and to lead an activity where everyone is up-beat, friendly and enjoying their day in the woods. These guidelines will help the hike leader to make the hike a successful experience for all.
First of all we would like to thank you for volunteering to lead a hiking club trip! Our club is run by and for its members. Without people like you there is no Hiking Club. Club hikes take place because some members are willing to organize them and other members are willing to attend. We want to make leading a trip an easy and positive experience.
1. Decide Where You Want to Lead a Hike
Organize what you like to do or would like to try! Do you have a favorite place you would like to share? Maybe there is a place you would like to explore? There are some members in the group who would appreciate a light, easy-going event. There are many online resources. Usually you can find information to plan a trip our trip reports, from a guidebook, or from talking with other members. Post a hike that you'd be comfortable doing - don't drive yourself crazy! AND WE HAVE A NEW FEATURE FOR YOU TO SKIP THE RESEARCH...SEARCH OUR PAST HIKES AND REPOST IT!!! The first hike you lead should be one that you have done before. Think about how many miles you want to go, how much climbing, what time you should be at the trailhead, etc.
You control the hike. You control the horizontal, you control the vertical. You decide the maximum number of participants you'd like along, and you can establish a minimum.
But it'll be too "lame"... There are some people in the group who would appreciate a light, easy-going activity. Light hikes not far from your town are great for beginners and for people who are trying to get fit. In winter, put together a easy day of snowshoeing or cross-country skiing at a Nordic Center where the guys can rent equipment.
2. Fill Out Our Post A Hike Form
a) Set a Zip Code.
The zip code triggers which members receive the email notfication once your hike is approved. Members, by default, have selected to be notified within 150 miles of the zip code while others selected 300 miles or ALL.
b) Set Maximum # people.
The more people you allow, the more difficult it will be for you to keep everyone together, the more likely someone will slow the group down and the more likely there could be an injury. Also keep in mind how disruptive a large group will be to other hikers. It's best to limit your your hike between 10-15 people.
c) Set a Date.
Check our Hikes/Events Listing for open dates. Most of our hikes are on weekends, usually on Saturday.
d) Set a Start Time.
We like to plan on getting to the summit for lunch so figure out how long it will take to get there. In practice, we hike at a pace of 45 minutes per mile on the ascent.
e) Upload Photos.
Uploading a couple of photos really helps promote your hike.
f) Choose or compose a hike description.
For examples see our Hikes/Events Listing. If it’s a hike the club has already done, there may be an existing hike description which you can simply update by reviewing our trip reports. The webmaster knows, and can usually help you fill in the missing details.
g) Describe in Detail Carpooling or Trailhead Location.
Keep in mind that this may be someone's first hike so provide good details on how to drive to the carpooling or trailhead location. Be sure to mention the color and make of your vehicle so they can spot you in the parking lot.
h) Post a Hike.
Once you post a hike, it's first reviewed by one of a member of Events Approval Committee...this could take a few hours. If it's missing some details, they will contact you. Otherwise, it will be approved and you'll be notified a such. Once it approved, members will be notified of your hike via email.
3. When Members Sign Up.
Our website will keep track of who signed up and you'll also receive an email notification.
4. Email Reminder.
Our system automatically reminds everyone about the hike a week before by sending them an email. This is good if members forgot to sign up or if a member signed up and then finds out they can no longer make it.
5 Communicate with Participants.
You can use POST A COMMENT on the trip page to communicate with participants.
Communicate with the guys signed up on your outing. Another option is using the "Email All Participants" button on the trip page. People ask questions and you should answer them timely! [Note that guest members cannot send out emails to other members including the trip leaders.] If there is some issue (such as weather uncertainty), that may cause the trip to be cancelled, it is better to get the issue out there. Some may cancel because of the uncertainty, but everyone usually feels better that you are paying attention to the details.
Use the "Email All Participants" button 4 days before to share weather conditions, gear tips, etc. If you have a waiting list, our system will move them to the 'active' list as hikers cancel and send them an email. If a hiker is moved from the waiting list to the 'active' list the night before or morning of, there is a good chance s/he won't make it due to the last minute notification.
If weather is a real issue for a go/no go decision, use the "Email All Participants" button to keep in touch with everyone. First send them an email that you are thinking of cancelling the outing and that you'll be sending a subsequent email at such a time/date for the final decision for them to check their email. You can also give your phone number for them to call you if they would be unable to get to their email.
6. Meet Your Hikers at the Trailhead.
Before leaving home, make a list of everyone who signed up. Check off everyone who signed up online as they arrive. We will wait up to 15 minutes for someone who is late [they could be a no-show] and have them catch up with us on trail.
Huddle the group together before you start and have them introduce themselves.
Take a head count of all members and recount during rest breaks. Other techniques to not lose anybody is assign each person to a "buddy" or have someone volunteer to remain the last person (sweep) at all times.
Instruct the group that if they get ahead of you to stop at all trail intersections, unmarked trails intersections or any turns that don't seem obvious. This prevents anyone from making the wrong turn.
7. On the trail.
Bring your camera or smartphone and take pictures for the trip report afterwards!
I like to be in the lead to set the pace of the group. The pace of your trip should be as fast as the slowest person. Nobody should be left behind.
Monitor the "fun" scale of your trip, especially during a strenuous trip or bad weather conditions. If the group is "too" quiet and appears not to be enjoying themselves, perhaps it's time to quit and turnaround. Nobody will argue with your decision.
To make sure everyone stays hydrated, make an effort to let other guys see you take a drink. To make sure everyone's energy levels remain high, make an effort to let the other guys see you nibble on something.
Take rest breaks as needed but don't overdo it. It's important to keep the hike moving!
Always keep a close watch on someone new as they are the ones who tend to be unprepared, take a wrong turn, or lack the stamina to complete the trip.
Carry a first-aid kit even if you're not an expert (other guys will help you out to treat injuries), a headlamp if you are forced to finish in the dark, and of course a map.
There may be hikes when the group is either slower or faster than your current ability. Please know that because this is a group hike, it’s hard to accommodate everyone’s pace perfectly. Our desire is not to leave anyone, however there have been times when it is in the best interest of all to split up. If you do split up, make sure you have someone who can safely lead that group.
8. Slow Person
You should know fairly quickly (within 30 minutes) when someone is falling so far behind that s/he probably won't have the stamina to complete the trip. Depending on the nature of the hike, s/he could put the entire group at risk so you should address this immediately! Pull him/her aside away from the group...don't embarass them...and discuss what's ahead. Once s/he knows that there is a lot more struggling ahead, s/he will decide to turn around. I usually offer him/her an easier hike to do upon returning to the car so s/he feels like s/he did not waste his/her day driving to meet us. It's easier to have him/her turn around alone earlier on than later when s/he may have difficulty finding his/her way back on their own.
A couple of times I had someone refuse to turn around. In that case I told him that he was no longer part of the group, that we would no longer wait for him/her and if s/he ran into any problems we won't be there to help him. Guess what? S/he turned around :-)
9. After the Hike.
When you get home, look up your hike in our Trip Reports section, and then write a trip report/ upload pictures.
Setting the example is probably the most important leadership skill. It is the most effective way to show others the proper way to conduct themselves, and is even more effective than verbal communication. Without this skill, all the other skills will be useless. One way to think about setting the example is to imagine yourself as a member of a group and think about how you would like your leader to act.
Be enthusiastic and be humble - share with others that you are tired and out of breath. Don't be an egomaniac. You don't always have to "lead" the hike...include the participants in decisions, ask their opinions and suggestions. Keep a sense of humor and have a sense of caring by regularly checking in with everyone to make sure they are doing ok. Some guys want to enjoy autonomy and independence so give these guys their space and freedom. I think it's important to find that balance. I would NOT want to feel as if I'm with a camp counselor....so I keep that in mind too. I don't think it's necessary to be controlling, and I personally, would be put off with that kind of behavior from a leader. We are all leaders.
Plot the route, keep track of fellow hikers with proper pace/sweeper, and make the decision to "go-no go" based on weather and trail conditions. Take a head count before you leave, keep the group together and monitor the condition of the group. Have a "First Aid Kit." Locate an alternate leader if you are unable to keep your commitment. Have fun! Be aware of weather conditions so as to advise participants on proper gear. Wait at all junctions to insure that all participants follow the leader.
There have been of course, some ups and downs; Cuts and sprains, hikers who strayed from the path, leaders who went too fast or too slow. Hiking in the Whites means one must be open and prepared for fast changing weather conditions.
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