Mountaineering is one sport that one can enjoy either with a team, a group of friends, with a partner or even by his lonesome. It is good to experience each one of them once in a while but before one should venture out into the wilderness on his own, it is advised that he first join an organized climb and learn the basic mountaineering skills for his safety and enjoyment. It is advisable for an individual to join some mountaineering group where he could learn and experience the basics extensively through the courses they offer. Just be sure that the organization one will join offers such services.
This blog deals with the details of organizing a climb. Although most mountaineers love the idea of freedom and spontaneity than rules and organization, these structures were meant for the climber’s safety and the protection of the environment at the same time thus it’s importance never undermined.
The organizer should have mastered the basic skills at the minimum and have a good record of experiences before he leads a group. This is due to the fact that still, mountaineering has dangerous aspects.
PLANNING A CLIMB
Points to consider in planning a climb:
• Decide where to go.
• Choose your companion or target participants.
• Collect route information and other useful information on the destination considered. It is advisable to contact any LGUs or local mountaineering group to get current information on the status of the trails, costs, permits, etc.
• Assess the physical fitness of the group.
• Arrange for food and equipment distribution.
• Check weather forecast.
• Acquire permits in advance if necessary.
• Assign climb officials.
• Conduct pre-climb meeting or briefings.
Although there are no rules on the number of person to join an expedition, three is the suggested least number of people in an expedition. This is because if an emergency occurs, one can accompany the victim while the other goes out for help considering the injured is only one of the participants; or even two if one has only minor injuries. With regards with the number of maximum participants, these should depend on the carrying capacity of the place although no such studies still exist in the Philippines as of this date. Too many climbers make the team slow and stressful to the environment. Eight is the ideal number based on the principles of a military squad.
As a practice here in the Philippines, here is a list of basic climb officials and their duties and responsibilities.
Lead man (trailblazer, lead packer)
Sweeper (tail ender)
The team leader is the final authority during the climb, and all participants are expected to support and comply with his decisions. Any negative evaluation of his conduct of the climb should be brought out during the post-climb meeting. However, the team leader is expected to consult with the participants before making major decisions that affect the itinerary or conduct of the climb. He is expected to exercise good judgement and to consider safety, comfort and fun. The team leader assigned for any climb preferably must have had prior climb experience on the same route unless it is an expedition climb, or when a local guide is available. In any event general familiarity with the route is required.
Duties of the Team Leader :
• Consult those who are familiar with the terrain and locality particularly the security situation, trail conditions, campsite limitations and travel restrictions.
• Conduct a survey of the route when possible or when advisable.
• Prepare the climb itinerary.
• Conduct physical diagnostics.
• Objective of the climb based on its nature (initiation, fun, training, induction or expedition)
• General information, historical significance, folklore, etc. of the location of the climb.
• Itinerary and highlights of the climb.
• Route condition and trail hazards.
• Water sources and its condition.
• Main and alternative campsites.
• General weather conditions.
• Local weather conditions or peculiarities.
• Cultural peculiarities of the locale (beliefs, taboos, etc.)
• Contact persons in the locality and residence.
• Special medical precautions on malaria, typhoid, dengue, etc.
• Purchase opportunities in the locale.
• Special equipment checklist and assignments (for overall group equipment such as ropes, harness, etc.)
• Transportation arrangements.
• Review of ethics, policies and Basic Mountaineering Course when necessary.
• Assignments of groupings and climb officers. (it is important to remind all the participants of the functions, responsibilities and authorities of these key climb officers)
• Review of the itinerary. (It is best to distribute copies of the itinerary to all participants. If copies are unavailable, remind them to copy the itinerary as presented)
In case of any pre-departure change in itinerary or plans, the team leader shall immediately notify all participants. At the pre-departure assembly point, the team leader shall ensure that all present have actually complied with all mandatory requirements that apply to them and shall require compliance with those that are not yet complied with. The team leader must prepare a list of participants before departure. It shall be the basis for periodic head counts and allocation of common expenses. If possible, a copy of the list should be left with a contact person at the point of departure in the event that a rescue becomes necessary.
• Before the start of the trek and at every major rest stop.
• Check the head count and general physical conditions of all participants.
• As needed, consult with the other climb officers or participants any need to modify the itinerary due to weather, injury, unforeseen trail hazards, etc.
• After consultation, make the decision and notify all the participants. Control the overall pacing of the climb so as not to unduly delay the trek without sacrificing safety of any participant.
• Check that proper trail signs are installed at critical places like forks and trail splits. At the campsite, ensure that camp protocol and proper practices are observed as well as compliance with organization ethics, rules and regulations.
• Observe the conduct and comfort of participants.
• Observe and monitor performance of climb officers.
• Ensure that the campsite is left clean before taking off.
• Establish/maintain contact with local community leaders and dwellers along the trail but more particularly at or near campsites.
In case of any situation requiring extreme deviation from the climb schedule, the team leader shall, in so far as practicable, consult with the participants.
In any event, the team leader must make the final decision taking overall and individual safety into consideration.
In case of incapacitating injury to any member of the party, the team leader must call-off the climb. Steps must be taken to protect and care for the victim/s. If a provisional camp is established to stabilize the victim, a team of at least 2 experienced climbers must be sent ahead to alert the base camp and contact rescue authorities as well as the contact person of the victim. The team leader may allow other members of the party to proceed down while ensuring that experienced and strong climbers are left to attend to the injured member/s until a rescue party reaches them. At all times, the team leader must maintain composure and keep all members calm but alert.
In case of prolonged lack of contact with tail-enders, the team leader must make the decision on whether or not to send a search party to backtrack and assist the tail- enders as needed. In this case, strong and experienced climbers must be sent while the main body set up a temporary holding camp as needed.
The leadsman should be notified to either hold their position or rejoin the main body.
Post Climb Briefing
As soon as possible, preferably within a week after the completion of the climb, the team leader shall take up the following:
Review and assessment of the climb:
General conduct, trail, pointers for subsequent climbs, etc.
Comments, admonitions, congratulations regarding conduct of individual participants.
As much as possible, the assigned lead man should not be team leaders themselves. Exceptions can be made in cases of small groups (12 or less) which are not likely to get separated, climb of short duration, or absence of qualified members.
• He must have prior experience on the particular trail unless accompanied by local guides.
• He should be selected among the stronger, healthier, experienced and patient members of the party. For a large climbing party or a long duration climb, more than one should be assigned.
• He has the duty to put in place the proper trail markers for the guidance of the following groups. When in doubt, or when the possibility of doubt exists, the trail must be marked in such a manner that no confusion could arise in its interpretation.
• He must stop and wait for re-assembly at designated major rest stops, and they must remain within whistle-hearing distance of the next group at all times.
• He should not deviate from the planned route without waiting for the team leader’s decision.
• He shall implement the pacing as instructed by the Team Leader.
As much as possible, the assigned sweepers should not be team leaders themselves. Exceptions may be made in cases of small parties , (12 or less) which are not likely to get separated; climbs of short duration; or absence of qualified members.
• They must have prior experience on the particular trail unless accompanied by a local guide.
• They must be self-contained as completely as practicable.
• The sweepers must be selected from among the stronger, healthier, experienced and patient members of the party. For a large climbing party or a long duration climb, more than two must be assigned.
• The sweeper must remain at the tail-end of the climbing party at all times.He must be ready to assist lagging climber/s who may need assistance, and must maintain the pace, and control the rest stops of the lagging participants, taking into consideration their physical situations, safety needs, and the climb schedule.
In case of incapacitating injury or illness, or danger brought about by unexpected weather, darkness or natural occurrence, the sweeper may decide to set-upa temporary camp at his direction. Other members of the group, who are capable of going on, must be sent ahead to notify the team leader of the actions taken, so that the latter may make the necessary decisions. Again, safety is first considered.
One of the sweepers must be assigned to remove trail markers put up by the lead group.
Expedition first-aiders should preferably be chosen from among those who had proper training under the auspices of the Philippine National Red Cross, or had professional medical training. In this connection, the organization shall endeavor to maintain a pool of trained members.
At least one should be assigned per climb. For large parties, more than one should be designated. If more than one is assigned they should be distributed over more than one team.
In the event of an injury, the first aider shall have the responsibility for applying the necessary aid, prescribing medication, and recommending corrective action or assistance. If necessary to deviate from the itinerary, he shall make his recommendation known to the team leader for the lather’s decision.
In the presence of a designated first-aider, no other member shall intervene with the treatment of a victim unless he/she is requested by the first aider to assist.
This mountaineering know-how was created by Dahong Palay Moutaineers. I meet this group when we summitted and joined the Tabang Asog Project held in Iriga City, Bicol.