How to behave and organize technical support for group mountaineering

"During group mountaineering, it is important to have consideration and respect for all members of the group, because almost never all members will move at the same pace, so it is recommended to adjust the pace to the slowest participant in the group."

When we go mountaineering alone, all the parameters that characterize mountaineering as an activity (movement, pace, technique, equipment, breaks, choice of trails, etc.) we determine ourselves as we think we should and as it suits us, while not endangering anyone with our choices. 

However, mountaineering in a group is completely different and as a member of that group, we must behave according to some universal written and unwritten rules. In the following post, I will try to explain exactly those rules of group behavior and the correct choice of mountaineering equipment in a group, according to my many years of experience.

  • Mountaineering within a well-known group, such as a mountaineering club, friends, relatives, or members of the group whom we previously knew and have experience in joint mountaineering. 

  • Mountaineering with completely unknown members of the group, ie hiking, for which we have probably paid for the services of a mountain guide, or we are part of an expedition with mixed composition.

In any situation, there are favorable circumstances but the challenge is almost always the same. In general, you should take care at the beginning of mountaineering by talking to the group and the group guide to get all relevant information about the upcoming mountaineering, such as length, duration, planned vacations, how much water you need to carry for the tour, terrain challenges and dangers,  exchange of personal mobile numbers, etc.

When that is done, everyone should visually check the personal and common technical equipment, and often this is done when the guide (or if there is no guide then the group should nominate one of the group to take over that role) will arrange the whole group in one line and personally one by one check everyone’s equipment. 

It is recommended to have a conversation at that time to find out if anyone in the group is allergic to any substance (food allergy, bee stings, sunburn, etc.) and if so, find out if that person carries the appropriate anti-allergy therapy.

During group mountaineering, it is important to have consideration and respect for all members of the group, because almost never all members will move at the same pace, so it is recommended to adjust the pace to the slowest participant in the group. Take care to maintain a distance between members, not to change the place in the group given to you by the guide, and not to leave the group for no apparent reason and without prior notice to the guide.

If there is a need for help for an individual or the entire group, you should unselfishly help, whether it is counseling, warning, or handling equipment. It is also important that in the case of accidents or crossing dangerous areas you remain careful, calm, give advantage to the weaker participants. In case of an accident, you should not panic and do your best to help in the situation.
Often in mountaineering in groups, we are using common technical equipment such as ropes, carabiners, wedges, etc. It is advisable to communicate with the group leader sometime before starting the tour to make a list of equipment and procure it on time. Communication is important because it will only prevent everyone from coming with excessive equipment or eventually everyone thinks that someone else will take equipment for them so that in the end there is not enough equipment for everyone.

It is also necessary to exchange experiences on who is capable of working with technical equipment, for example, whether everyone knows how to tie knots, work with ropes, make anchors, etc. If the group is moving with connected ropes, it is necessary to maintain a distance from each other as well as carefully manipulating the rope between members.

When checking your personal equipment (backpack, belt, helmet, shoes, clothing, etc.) it is important that it will be used in accordance with the rules prescribed by the manufacturer of the equipment and if you think that someone from the group is doing something wrong or does not know how to use part of it, then you need to help them in the most discreet way.

Important: You should not be part of a mountaineering group that you think will be uncomfortable in or you think that the group could not cope with the challenge.
You should not feel bad about the money for paying the guide who will guarantee you some security for a successfully completed tour. But also you should not expect that the guide you paid must carry you on his back and at all costs get you up and down the mountain. 
If you think that you are not up for a specific tour or do not know how to manage the technical equipment, then it is better to postpone the tour until you feel more confident. 

Written by: Petar Nolev, mountain guide, and rescue service

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