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Thread: Leading Groups

  1. #1
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    Default Leading Groups

    In July I will be leading a group of adult day-hikers for four days on the Maryland Section of the A T.
    It is a club of experienced hikers I am interested in any experiences or suggestions
    from forum members with any thoughts or ideas. Though experienced and quite able, they do have
    different paces which I think might be a problem on a ten-mile trek.

    Thoughts?

    Paul

  2. #2

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    Set break times and have everyone regroup at junctions. Maintain a comfortable pace, insure there is a good sweep.

  3. #3

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    My standard warning is "we hike as a group and stay as a group, if you have problems with that this may not be the hike for you".

    The group hikes to the slowest members ability. If you exceed that persons ability he/she will end up going slower. Be careful for FU breaks where the group waits for the slowest member and takes off when they arrive, this is a recipe for running the slowest person down. Ideally if possible put the slowest person up front and hike to their pace. Keep an eye out that everyone is drinking enough water.

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    hike/walk as fast as the slowest person. simple

  5. #5
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    10 mi on the maryland AT should be doable for experienced hikers. some thoughts:

    - start early to accomodate different paces
    - July is hot. Water sources are unpredictable. Ensure your group hydrates early and when at water sources..drink plenty, take plenty
    - July is hot. MD gets rocky. Blisters can be common for tender feet. Learn how to treat them and take the right stuff (duct tape is great!)
    - July is hot. if any hikers are prone to chafing, suggest they take their own body glide
    - review leave no trace principles before leaving
    - give uphill hikers the right of way
    - use campsites and leave shelters to individuals and smaller groups
    - be considerate of others and chip in around the campfire
    - thru hikers are happy to share funny stories...for food!!! take extra and prepare to laugh! also, level-up by asking them and other experienced AT'ers for hiking tips, etiquette, gear tips, etc.

    - donate to the ATC!

  6. #6

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    On club group hikes I participate in, we stop periodically and wait for the slower hikers to catch up. Then of course the faster ones immediately take off as they have been resting for a bit, once again leaving the slower ones in the dust. But at least we know everyone is still with us.
    (I should note that as a group, we have over 100 years of White mountain experience and maybe 200 if we have a good turn out. So, leaving the slower ones behind a bit isn't much of a concern. Being a small community, we know each others abilities pretty well and who might need some extra attention.)
    If there is a trail junction, we all stop until the group is whole again. (road crossing in your case) We typically climb to a scenic vista and eat lunch there, which is another place we all meet up. (You could use a mid point shelter for this) On the way down, one of the stronger hikers follows in the rear behind the slowest hiker. None of us are very young and some are getting to their limits of ability. These hikes are in the White mountains and can be pretty strenuous.
    Last edited by Slo-go'en; 11-17-2019 at 20:23.
    The AT - It has it's ups and downs...

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    Remember that the ATC has set guidelines for a max of 25 day hikers for a group and also a max of 10 backpackers for a group. Some sections have other guidelines, and some have enforceable regulations.

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    Our Scout Troop follows these guidelines when we backpack or day hike in a group.

    -Our youth trek leader gives an overview of the hike and reminds the troop of our hike guidelines before we ever leave the parking lot.
    -Everyone has a map and knows where we are going.
    -The Scouts have to follow the buddy system at all times.
    -We allow our group to spread out on the trail but they still have to follow the buddy system. Usually our older scouts take the point.
    -The scouts are required to stop and wait for the entire group at the top of a climb, road crossing, trail intersection, creek crossing, bridge, animal sighting (horse/snake/bear/etc.), hiker injury, or anything else that's out of the norm. This allows everyone to catch up and gives the older youth and adult leaders the opportunity to evaluate how everyone is doing (blisters, water, snacks, energy level, etc.). We also make sure the youth at the front understand what is coming up and what to look for when we resume. We rarely go longer than 20 to 30 minutes without one of these stops so we really don't get that spread out on the trail.
    -Before we begin hiking and after each break, the youth hike leader asks "is anyone not ready?" Once everyone indicates they are ready to hike, the youth says "hike on" and we start moving.
    -We have two adults at the end of the line who serve as "sweepers" to ensure members do not get left behind. Other adult leaders may spread out with the youth. However, like the youth, the adults have a buddy and we follow two-deep leadership requirements.
    -I think it is easier for approaching hikers to pass small groups/pairs of hikers rather than a large group.
    -I prefer to let the scouts spread out and walk at their natural pace. I find that when you put your slowest hiker in the lead or you require the leader to slow their pace for the slowest hiker, the followers tend to stay close together and walk on each other's heels or spend the day looking at the back of the person in front of them.
    -There are times when we do require everyone to stay together. This usually involves night hikes, trails that are more technical, areas where there are lots of unmarked trails, multiple use trails, urban hikes, road walks, etc.

  9. #9

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    I donít often hike with groups but have led a few. Itís very helpful to have a pre-hike meeting to discuss plans, gear, and peopleís abilities. I also distribute copies of our route to each hiker and some basic info about LNT and gear. We always know pre-hike who will be in which group (faster vs slower) and itís always worked out great.

    People have already said it but Iíll reiterate to be mindful of the slowest person. Not only that, be mindful that slower people may push themselves to keep up with the group because they donít want to admit or ďgive-inĒ to their slower abilities. This can make a trip miserable and even dangerous. So even if theyíre not saying anything, adjust your pace for those who seem to be struggling.

  10. #10

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    As a group leader you are in responsible charge for all those who come along. Regardless of the level of experience within the group, as the leader you should be prepared for several things, not the least of which is the turn back decision if weather or hiker condition become an issue and the safety of the group is compromised. Some of the issues that a Group Leader should be prepared for are:

    It is always a good idea to have a group meeting, email, or conference call for any group, especially if there are several overnights involved. A list of recommended things to bring should also be considered for each member to receive. Most hike leaders will check for basic gear at trailhead or earlier rendezvous.

    Water. Bring some extra water each day for those who don't have enough or heat forces them to consume their initial supply. This may require hiking with a spare liter of water for an event that never occurs, but can make a huge difference in someone staying hydrated enough to complete the hike without incident. Be prepared to filter water for others during the hike and provide copies of maps marked where water sources will likely be.

    Food: Hike leaders typically carry an extra meal or two when going out with a group for more than a night or two for obvious reasons. Another staple to have at trailhead is a supply of gorp or trail mix that can be issued to those who do not have any.

    First-aid. Prior to the group hike, be sure those who are allergic to insect bites or bee stings bring proper medicine to mitigate allergic reactions, like Eppi Pens or Antihistamine. Take a few minutes at the trail head to inquire again and if someone has an Eppi Pen and have them describe how to use the device. Have some bandaids and athletic tape with you to help those who develop blisters or other small injuries that can are common and can be easily treated.

    Know your route and places along the route that the full group can meet up for a snack or meal break and where camp will be made. To reduce mistakes at unmarked trail intersections some groups will use a signal of some sort like a pile of small rocks or a specific color of surveyors tape tied to a branch just past the intersection so the group remains together on the same trail even when separated by a mile or more.

    Appoint a Lead and a Sweep for the hike. The Lead is typically in the first group or at the head of a small group and will hold at marked break points until the full group has arrived, and will be the first into a camping area or site to secure places for the group if necessary. The Sweep is typically in the last group and moving at a pace in back of the slowest member of the group.

    Trail etiquette and other issues leadership can quickly mitigate:

    You didn't say how large the group was. If only 4 to 6 people, there is little issue with keeping the full group together. If the group is large in number however, limit hiking groups to four or five. Other hikers may find it difficult to move past or through your group if there are a large number of people. One of my pet peeves is moving past groups of 20 moving slowly on a trail and unable to pass them on sections of trail that are difficult to walk two abreast. Rule of thumb is to start each group 15-minutes after the previous group departs from any point.

    If waiting for people or a following group, avoid waiting on the trail itself. Find a place the group can stand comfortably off the trail and not be in the way of anyone moving past you, trying to access a water site, or trying to enjoy a view.

    Do not take a meal/snack break on the trail itself. I am amazed at the number of large groups I run across who have stopped for lunch or snack on the trail, the last one being a group of about 25 scouts that required passing or approaching hikers to thread their way through the group using care not to tip over small stoves set up in the tread way. <sigh>

    Avoid shouting conversations between people spread out along a section of trail. Few things are more annoying than people shouting between separated groups for the entire forest to hear. If there will be a need to communicate, get a couple of inexpensive hand held radios so groups can remain in contact and not disturb those nearby.

    If you know who the slower hikers are, it may be a good idea to divide them out with each group so each moves at approximately the same pace and don't bunch up frequently. This may not be popular with the faster hikers, however a plan for those individuals may include waiting to see the group arrive at the top of grades, trail intersections, or mapped features like water crossings or views before moving on would be wise.

    As mentioned in previous posts, all hikers should have the same amount of rest as hikers who were first to arrive have had. There can be a tendency in groups to presume slower hikers have plenty of gas in the tank and can continue without much of a break once they are spotted approaching. The faster hikers having had 10-minutes to rest will scamper off and likely cause the slower people to continue without a break or have one but at less than half the time. This can lead to more serious problems later as heat fatigue builds and missteps can cause trips or falls, muscles can start to cramp which will force a much slower pace, or heat exhaustion issues grow.

    Keep in mind as the group gets larger they can get noisy and disturb others. Be on guard for this circumstance and respond quickly to shouting, playing music, and other annoyances that can be avoided. If on the AT and the backpacking group is larger than 10, the group will need to be broken up into two camping groups, which may require two different camping areas be utilized. Be ready for this potential complication.

    Avoid bringing a dog who is not used to trail life and will bark during the night in camping areas shared by other people.

    It's really a lot of common sense when observing trail etiquette, however being in responsible charge of even a small group carries some responsibilities regardless of the experience level within the group itself. The best way to mitigate problems before they materialize is being prepared for them.

    Good luck!
    Last edited by Traveler; 11-18-2019 at 09:40.

  11. #11

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    It sounds like the OP is planning a 4 day slack pack, not an overnight camping hike.

    Still, it's a good idea to keep the group a manageable size.
    The AT - It has it's ups and downs...

  12. #12

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    Question to the OP just for my education: Why not pull a four day backpacking trip instead of four days of dayhikes???? Really want to know.

  13. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tipi Walter View Post
    Question to the OP just for my education: Why not pull a four day backpacking trip instead of four days of dayhikes???? Really want to know.
    Look at the OP's age - 77. If that is any indication of the average age of this group, I can see why they would want to slack pack. Plus, some or most may not have overnight gear.
    The AT - It has it's ups and downs...

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Slo-go'en View Post
    Look at the OP's age - 77. If that is any indication of the average age of this group, I can see why they would want to slack pack. Plus, some or most may not have overnight gear.
    Now just a minute you young whippersnapper! (Or are you, Slo-go'n?) I have backpacked most of the 270 miles of the A T hiked so far the past three summers. Though slack packing is easier.
    Actually the average age is probably about 20 + years younger than I.

    It simply is a day-hike hiking group. HYOH. And I respect that. They are mostly a very fit experienced group and a group of about 10 just got back from a trek up to Base Camp at Mt. Everest a few weeks ago. It has been organized since 1993 and has 3-6 hikes scheduled per week, with attendance of 25-30 or more on nice days, typically 5 miles (or more) in N E Ohio. My A T hike is one of maybe three or so trips for 2020. This is a chance for day hikers to an entire state section of the AT. This part has nice trailheads at about 10 miles intervals and interesting history sites as well and convenient to Ohio.

    In June they are going to Durango for a week. I will be backpacking with my sons that week.

    Again thanks for any insight or suggestions.

    I do appreciate all the suggestions and insight presented by the responses to my query, health issues, insects bites, first aid etc. I will probably print out various rules, suggestions and we will have a meeting and implement much of the information presented. Determine if anyone has medical training.

    One thought I have is to divide the group into car-pool size groups (3-5 people?) since that will be the means getting to trailheads. They would be a group with similar hiking paces, styles, expectations. So a faster groups could do just that. The group leader would have the AWOL guide for the segment and will have examined the map, road view, water, privies, etc. of the trail and trail heads with the hike leader. The group leader would need only to keep track of a few people and would be less obtrusive to other hikers. This can be decided at the meeting and could be changed at the discretion of the group. I think that would keep more folks happy; not having to wait so often and not catching up and then have to move on already. Any thoughts on this tactic?

    Trailheads will be Harpers Ferry, Gathland Park, Washington Monument Park, Wolfsville Road and PenMar Park.

    I suppose the groups could meet up at a lunch spot (Garvey Shelter for example) check out how each is doing (especially day 1) and then the faster group could go on.

  15. #15

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    Nothing wrong with slackpacks. Adding backpacking increases the equipment required and the load carried. One thing to consider is do key swaps. One group heads north and one heads south. They meet halfway for lunch and swap keys. Saves time in the morning and the afternoon.

  16. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by PGH1NC View Post
    Now just a minute you young whippersnapper! (Or are you, Slo-go'n?) I have backpacked most of the 270 miles of the A T hiked so far the past three summers. Though slack packing is easier.
    Your only 11 years older then me

    Since it sounds like these are all experienced day hikers, I'm sure they have honed a system they like. If there are any relative newbies, you'd have enough experienced people to hold their hand. Mostly it will be a matter of the logistics of where to stay and how to get to and from trial heads.

    And whether they all want to hike in one group or are open to splitting the group up. I guess that would depend on how many sign up for the adventure. The split the group in two, hike opposite directions and do a key swap would make the end of the day logistics much easier.
    The AT - It has it's ups and downs...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lone Wolf View Post
    hike/walk as fast as the slowest person. simple
    or in griz country - just don't be the slowest person

  18. #18
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    We are having our planning meeting in a couple weeks and I have again reviewed the topics mentioned
    in many of the responses above.
    And again, thank you for your experience.
    I will start another thread inquiring about shuttles in the MD are which might be useful for the group.

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