Be­come a leader

Trail (UK) - - CONTENTS - Mark Ash­ton, Southamp­ton

QI’m due to climb Scafell Pike soon with a group of friends. None of them are reg­u­lar walk­ers and they will be re­ly­ing on me for nav­i­ga­tion, but they have vary­ing lev­els of abil­ity and fit­ness. Should we all try to stick to­gether or should ev­ery­one go at their own pace?

Rob says When lead­ing a group of walk­ers many dif­fer­ent skills and tal­ents must come into play. There are the ob­vi­ous tech­ni­cal skills, such as nav­i­ga­tion, route find­ing, scram­bling over steep ground and gear and equip­ment knowl­edge. There are also softer skills, which are much harder to teach and take ex­pe­ri­ence to de­velop. These skills in­clude hav­ing em­pa­thy for your group, and un­der­stand­ing and manag­ing vary­ing ex­pec­ta­tions, fit­ness lev­els, abil­i­ties, wants and needs.

These softer skills sep­a­rate a leader from a good leader, and you will rely on them for the sce­nario in ques­tion. Most prob­lems can be avoided by good plan­ning and prepa­ra­tion, so make sure the cho­sen route is suit­able for the whole group and ap­pro­pri­ate for the weather and con­di­tions – don’t be too rigid with your plans pre-walk.

Try to get ev­ery­one in­volved in the plan­ning and route find­ing, and agree on stop­ping points along the way. On the day, make it clear the group will be walk­ing as a team, and part of the fun will be in shar­ing the route and all that’s seen along the way! High­light the fact that peo­ple will inevitably peak and trough, emo­tion­ally and phys­i­cally, at dif­fer­ent times in the day – but work col­lec­tively and the ex­pe­ri­ence should be greater for all in­volved.

Stress that weather changes can hap­pen quickly and a group that stays to­gether will avoid los­ing any­one off the back or the front if vis­i­bil­ity drops. A slow and steady pace will ul­ti­mately be most ef­fi­cient. If ev­ery­one is able to keep mov­ing rather than hav­ing lots of stop-starts then the sum­mit will be reached in no time!

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