Mountaineering: Organizing a climb

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’s 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.

The 0'dd TrEE (Group composed of mostly Trenders)

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 it’s meant for the climber’s safety and protection of the environment at the same time thus it’s importance never undermined.

The organizer should have mastered the basic skills at the least 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.

CLIMB COMPOSITION

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 go with 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 greatest 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.

Team Leader

Lead man (trailblazer, lead packer)
Sweeper (tail ender)
First- aiders

TEAM LEADER

The team leader is the last authority during the climb, and all participants are expect to support and comply with his decisions. Any negative evaluation of his conduct of the climb be brought out during the post-climb meeting. However, the team leader expected to consult with the participants before making major decisions that affect the itinerary or conduct of the climb.  He’s expected to exercise good judgement and to consider safety, comfort and fun. The team leader assigned for any climb preferably must have had earlier 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 must.

Duties of the Team Leader :

Preparatory activities

• 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.

Pre-climb

• Objective of the climb based on its nature (initiation, fun, training, induction or expedition)
• General information, historical significance, folklore, etc. climb site/venue.
• 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 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.
• Budget.
• 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)

Pre-departure

In case of any pre-departure change in itinerary or plans, the team leader shall immediately tell all participants. At the pre-departure assembly point, the team leader shall make sure that all present have actually complied with all mandatory requirements that apply to them and shall need 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 be left with a contact person at the point of departure in the event that a rescue becomes necessary.

Climb Proper

• 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 change the itinerary due to weather, injury, unforeseen trail hazards, etc.
• After consultation, decide and tell 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 installed properly at critical places like forks and trail splits. At the campsite, make sure that camp protocol and proper practices are being observed as well as compliance with organization ethics, rules and regulations.
• Observe the conduct and comfort of participants.
• Observe and check 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.

Emergency Situation

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 personal safety into consideration.

In case of incapacitating injury to any member of the party, the team leader must call-off the climb. Steps be ordered or taken to protect and care for the victim/s. If a provisional camp where set up to stabilize the victim, a team of at least 2 experienced climbers 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 go ahead 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 keep up composure and keep all members calm but alert.

In case of prolonged lack of contact with tail-end, the team leader must decide on whether or not to send a search party to backtrack and help the tail- enders as needed. In this case, strong and experienced climbers will go first while the main body set up a temporary holding camp as needed.

The leadsman be notified to either hold their place or rejoin the main body.

Post Climb Briefing

As soon as possible, preferably within a week after completing the climb, the team leader shall take up the following:

Review and assessment of the climb:

General conduct, trail, pointers for next climbs, etc.
Comments, admonitions, congratulations on conduct of each participant.

LEADMAN

As much as possible, the assigned lead man is not the team leaders themselves. Exceptions 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 earlier experience on the particular trail unless accompanied by local guides.
• He’s 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 are assign.
• He has the duty to put in place the proper trail markers for guide the following groups. When in doubt, or when  possibility of doubt exists, the trail be marked in such a way that no confusion could arise in its interpretation.
• He must stop and wait for re-assembly at designated major rest stops, and they must stay within whistle-hearing distance of the next group.
• He should not deviate from the planned route without waiting for the team leader’s decision.
• He shall carry out the pacing as instructed by the Team Leader.

SWEEPERS

As much as possible, the assigned sweepers is not the team leaders themselves. Exceptions 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 earlier experience on the particular trail unless accompanied by a local guide.
• They are self-contained as completely as practicable.
• The sweepers 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 are assign.
• The sweeper must stay at the tail-end of the climbing party. He was ready to aid lagging climber/s who may need help, and must keep up 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-up a temporary camp at his direction. Other members of the group, who are capable of going on, he’s sent ahead to let know 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 assigns to remove trail markers put up by the lead group.

FIRST AIDER

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 attempt to keep up a pool of trained members.

At least one is assign per climb. For large parties, more than one will be name be the first aider. If more than one are assign they divided over more than one team.

If an injury occur, the first aider is responsible for applying the necessary aid, prescribing medication, and recommending corrective action or help. If necessary to deviate from the itinerary, he shall make his recommendation known to the team leader for the lather’s decision.

If a designated first-aider exist, no other member shall intervene with treating a victim unless he/she needs  by the first aider to help.

This mountaineering know-how was a re-blogged from Dahong Palay Moutaineers. I met this group when we climbed and joined the Tabang Asog Project held in Iriga City, Bicol.

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~ by Kalongkong Hiker on 04/14/2011.

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