Page last updated 17Aug11

Leading a Walk


I reckon it takes 20-30% additional effort to lead a walk – navigating, choosing and forcing the path, maintaining a cohesive group, setting party morale, etc.

Party Spread/Cohesiveness

This issue gives me the irrites. Even living legends, having an off day, will not keep in touch. I reckon it’s the responsibility of a member to keep in visual contact with the person IN FRONT. However, the usual advice is that it is the responsibility of each party member to keep in touch with the person behind.

CBC advice to leaders on this issue is:

‘In heavy scrub, bad weather or other difficult conditions, make sure the party keeps together and in contact. Inform participants that, as a general rule, each person is responsible for the person immediately behind and should inform you if contact is lost.’

Additional advice from the CBC Walks Secretary, Rob H is:

The bottom line is that the leader is responsible for keeping the party together.

• It would also be effective to have two-way checks: if the person in front is checking his rear as well as the person behind checking his front and this applies along the line of walkers you’d have a better chance of keeping tabs on everyone, particularly in difficult conditions.
• I usually have “caterpillar stops”: choose the next visual bound or an appropriate feature that you anticipate that all will get to shortly and do a quick check each time. As the last person arrives all begin walking again unless there is a request from someone for a few minutes. These bounds have to be short enough so that an immediate need for a search to recover a stray member is likely to be successful. The leader has to be vigilant about spots at which someone might lose the group. These bounds are also conducive to control considerations in the event of an accident.

• How one manages this will depend on conditions: weather and terrain, and the individuals in the party. If all are strong, competent hard-chargers you will still have your checks but the process will be more tacit with fewer delays. In the case where there are people in the party with significant differences in performance the “caterpillar bound” is stated explicitly and the understanding is that the faster people can charge ahead but must wait as specified. This helps avoid casualties: morale, exhaustion; people walk within their level of competence.
• A good briefing concerning the route with appropriate and suitably frequent up-dates plus an indication as to how the party needs to move in the given circumstances would also help.<
• And the 11th commandment for leadership is that after explaining/ delegating, etc, your own independent checks have to be sufficient in number and kind to ensure that the circus stays “on track”. People often don’t assimilate all the wonderful things one says to them.