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Group Size For Mountain Walks?

Discussion in 'Out and About' started by bearbait, Jan 9, 2016.

  1. bearbait

    bearbait Full Member

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    I've been asked to lead a summer hike or two in mountains I know well
    (Brecon Beacons NP). I'm an experienced - mainly solo - hiker but not a
    qualified Mountain Leader. I'm aware I'll have to do a Risk Assessment
    and a Route Plan and so on.

    It's been suggested that the group may be up to 16 people. This seems to
    me a large group for a single leader. I would have thought something
    around 8 people or so in the group be more suitable, unless a secondary
    or backup leader is present.

    The walking/hiking experience of the members of the group won't be known by me until they all turn up, although the "severity" of the hike will be made available to them beforehand.

    What does the team think?
     
  2. NarzaCyst

    NarzaCyst Tenderfoot

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    Maxloud on here is a good guy to contact. He has done a course on the Brecon Beacons about leading groups. Not sure what course though, but he is always trying to get me up there more often!
     
  3. Brynglas

    Brynglas Full Member

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    I'm a Summer and Winter ML and I was a member of a Mountain Rescue team in the Brecon Beacons for a number of years. I also worked in the area as a police officer. I would suggest that a group of that size is not one that you should be happy to take responsibility for, particularly if you don't know the level of experience etc. Navigation and weather can always turn out to be a bigger challenge than expected in the area.

    Whilst I'm sure it's flattering to have been asked to do this, the potential for problems is significant and not necessarily mitigated by either a route plan or a risk assessment. The army use this area to train for good reason.

    If you're committed to doing this, there are plenty of safe low level routes you can do without taking any unnecessary risks. Which bit of the Np are you considering?

    Pm me if I can assist further.
     
    #3 Brynglas, Jan 9, 2016
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2016
  4. wales1

    wales1 Full Member

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    16 is a lot. From a risk assessment point of view, the mere fact it's a 16 to 1 number would suggest that any unplanned event could lead to danger very quiickly, especially so with you not being fully aware of their skill level prior to the hike (bear in mind If it's self assessed skill they will all be ace, whereas reality will be completely different). A very responsible role leading a group of any size, and one that bears great responsibility.... one that's only truly realised when it really matters.

    Steve
     
  5. Quixoticgeek

    Quixoticgeek Full Member

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    In theory a disciplined group of 16 with one leader can work. But you can easily end up with the group spread halfway across the mountain, which if the visibility drop is not a good way of spending your day.

    I have lead a walk over Pen-y-fan, which was 13 people + 2 dogs. But I knew that well over half the group were very experienced, and in the end we split into a group of 6 and a group of 7. A slow group and a fast group.

    I was on a hike today with a local walking group, 29 people turned up (of the planned 44). We ended spread out over about 400m. Fortunately people did wait at junctions, and stiles/kissing gates were a good opportunity to bunch up the group.

    I think 8 is a nice upper limit.

    J
     
  6. tsitenha

    tsitenha Nomad

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    Always have a second with you, preferably drag position. Something happens to you and you have tumult. We do this on canoe treks, we have a set (as much as possible) route, an easy time line that all can keep to. People almost always exaggerate their ability (whatever the reason). If you are thinking of doing this have some experience and can reasonably handle first aid. I have seen people fall apart with just a blister.
     
  7. MarkN

    MarkN Full Member

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    I'm not a Mountain Leader but I do a lot of walking in groups and will share my experience.

    First of all, reading the posts above, there are a lot of wise words from everyone.

    When we go out there is a leader and normally a minimum of 2 deputies. All three of these people are first aiders and carry a comprehensive first aid kit including spare food, water, space blankets and two way radios etc. They are also fully briefed on the route etc. One of the deputies acts as a sweeper/tail end charlie. We also try and make sure that as many people in the group have mobile numbers of the leaders etc and also know the route, this route plan will show starting and finishing grid reference numbers and also grid references for lunch stops etc.

    IMO, 16 people sounds a lot if you're unsure of experience etc and you will have to remember that taking on the role of the leader, you also take on the duty-of-care for these people. It's sad to have to say this, but, cover yourself, get a couple of people to help you and build this into your RA.
     
    #7 MarkN, Jan 10, 2016
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2016
  8. bearbait

    bearbait Full Member

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    Many thanks to you all for your input. You have confirmed much of what I had thought.

    I particularly like the idea of a second (or more) guide in a group regardless of group size. Radios also a good idea. I have a couple of CB handhelds. And a satphone.

    This is a new avenue for the non-profit and it will be a learning curve for them. And for me. I have replied to them with my concerns.

    Many thanks once again.
     
  9. Brynglas

    Brynglas Full Member

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    It's good that you're taking it seriously. It's always a moment when someone sprains an ankle/ gets tired/ etc. and all eyes turn towards you to sort it out.

    If it's any use to you, in the Western end of the NP there's a good route from Llanddeusant up to Llyn Y Fan Fach which has good car parking and an easily followed track up to the lake, from there you can follow the path up to the escarpment without too much trouble, you can also get off and down easily and anyone who doesnt fancy it can have a rest at the edge of the lake.
     
    #9 Brynglas, Jan 10, 2016
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2016

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