Member’s Handbook

Preamble

This document was created to outline how the ACC Calgary Section strives to run events. The goal was to create a document to describe the roles and responsibilities of active members, to promote the coherent operation of trips and detail strategies to minimize risk as a team. Alpine pursuits can be dangerous and safety is a primary concern. It is imperative that everyone on ACC trips knows who is responsible for what roles and how they can manage their safety.

What is the ACC?

The ACC is a not-for-profit volunteer group dedicated to self-propelled mountain activities. We strive to build and support a thriving mountain community and all associated activities. This includes facilitating mountain trips, related courses, and lobbying to preserve our mountains and maintain access to them in a responsible way. The word “Alpine” has been interpreted in a broad sense and is meant to include the entire mountain environment, from valley bottom to the top of the highest peak.

 

How is the ACC Organized?

The Alpine Club of Canada is a national organization comprised of 1 central organization termed “National” and 22 independently run Sections of which the Calgary Section is the largest. National has taken on the role of managing all of the huts, the Canadian Alpine Journal (CAJ), competitions, insurance, membership dues and generally larger scale courses and trips. The Sections operate independently and are responsible for their own activities, budgets, governance and management. Each Section manages their own slate of trips, as they see fit within the broader National insurance policy (sign the waiver!). This document outlines how the Calgary Section wishes to manage their club events and may differ to policies set-out by any of the other sections, including National. 

Member’s Roles and Responsibilities

Who are Section Members?

Anyone who signs up and pays their dues can be a Calgary Section Alpine Club of Canada member. However, the mountains are a serious place with significant safety challenges. Although anyone can become a member, some privileges are reserved until a basic due diligence of risk management has been observed. The Calgary Section has 4 main categories of members and 1 associated category. Members may play multiple roles at the same time.

  1. Trip Coordinator
  2. Trip Participant
  3. Amateur Leader
  4. Professional Guide (associated, but not always a member)
  5. Section Board

1
Trip

Coordinator

This is the designation given to a club member who organizes an event and posts it to the trip calendar. Calgary Section Trip Coordinators are responsible for the overall planning and organization of their posted trip. The Trip Coordinator is a restricted designation that requires vetting by the Board of the Calgary Section. The vetting process does not verify mountain skills, but rather that the individual understands the generally accepted framework of how the club wishes trips to run. To become a Trip Coordinator, please consult How to Become a Trip Coordinator

The Trip Coordinator is a volunteer who is expected to be a competent individual. However, it is the group’s combined effort that ultimately contributes to the overall success of the trip as well as keeping the group safe. There are inherent dangers involved in any mountaineering activity that can never be eliminated. The Trip Coordinator can take steps in the planning of the trip to help improve safety, but ultimately, risk assessment and subsequent judgement of acceptable levels of risk are up to each individual.

Pre-Trip Responsibilities

  1. Research the physical and technical demands of the trip by reading literature and talking to experienced skiers and climbers. Lookup current conditions including weather, avalanche conditions, trail restrictions, route condition, etc.. Include participants in the planning of the event.
  2. Prepare optional trip plans if conditions or group dynamics change. Posting a trip to the calendar does not mean the trip must go ahead exactly as posted (or at all if it’s not wise to continue). Be flexible as conditions are not forecast until a few days before and not known until the trip has begun.
  3. Have an emergency plan which may include a satellite phone and/or leaving a copy of the trip itinerary with a responsible person.
  4. Print, in colour if possible, the Release form from the National ACC Website at http://www.alpineclubofcanada.ca/activities/waivers.html.  Advise the trip participants that they’ll need to read & sign the waiver before the trip begins, and encourage them to read & understand it in advance.  Take this to your carpool location (pen, clipboard and headlamp are handy). There is a spot for each participant to list their emergency contact.
  5. Select a reasonable number of participants, ensuring that there are enough to both manage risk without creating an overly slow or hard to manage group.
  6. Take people with sufficient ability and equipment to completed the trip within acceptable safety margins for everyone on the trip. At a minimum, make sure that the group has enough skill such that if any one member of the group is injured (including the Leader), that the remaining group can provide first-aid, evacuation, and safely return home themselves.
  7. When required, organize hut space, campsites, transportation and ropes or delegate the task. Ropes can be borrowed free of charge from the Calgary section (ropes@acccalgary.ca).  The club has a satellite phone that can also be borrowed free of charge and is kept in the library (librarian@acccalgary.ca).

Trip Responsibilities

  1. Have all participants read and signed the Release of Liability/Waiver form (in the presence of a witness) prior to departing on the trip? NO EXCEPTIONS.
  2. Keep track of all participants from start to finish. You must return with as many people as you left with unless mutually agreed upon arrangements have been made.
  3. Ask a Trip Participant to write an article for the Forum.

Post-Trip Responsibilities

  1. Send copies of the signed waivers to the Librarian for filing. It is important that The Alpine Club of Canada retain these forms for a minimum of six years.
  2. Return any equipment borrowed from the Calgary Section (ropes, helmets, etc.) in a timely fashion. Be sure to dry out ropes before you return them. Report any problems with or damage to equipment, or any damage that may have occurred on your trip (you will not be charged, but we need to know for safety reasons).
  3. Report any accident or negative incident incurred on your activity to the Calgary Section Chairperson and/or the Executive Director of the National Office

2
Trip

Participants

Trip participants are club members who sign-up for a posted event.  Participants must be aware of what they are signing up for and have the knowledge to understand the consequences of participating on the event. Everyone on a trip is responsible in the twin tasks of moving the group safely toward its goal and of building group cohesion. In effect, each individual must share leadership responsibilities. Individual leadership means, for example, being aware of the group and its progress: Is someone lagging behind? Offer encouragement, and look for ways to help. Thinking about the party, its welfare, how you can contribute is in itself preparation-the very best preparation-for leadership.

 

 

Trip Participant Responsibilities

  1. Participants should find out the requirements and demands of the trip before signing up by researching literature and by discussing the trip with the Trip Coordinator and other participants. Sign up for trips that will challenge you, but are not beyond your abilities. Gain experience by starting with easier trips and incrementally building experience until you have the skill set to engage in more difficult trips.
  2. Be prepared to contribute to group decision making and risk assessment. All participants are expected to keep a watchful eye for any hazards, and communicate any concerns to the group.
  3. Take part in route finding. Use the map, route description, gps and/or compass frequently so you are always oriented and know where the party is.
  4. Assume responsibility for your own knowledge, skill and preparedness. Ensure that you have the right equipment and that it is in good repair. Personal gear is left up to the participants including food, clothing, sunscreen, personal climbing gear (i.e. harness, belay device), etc. The coordinator will do their best to organize group gear, but helping the coordinator in this task will be appreciated including carrying part of the group gear. Always bring a working headlamp and a helmet where appropriate. In avalanche terrain, all participants are required to have a multi-antenna beacon, probe, shovel/hoe and know how to use them.
  5. Read, in advance, the release of liability/waiver and be prepared to sign it. Understand the consequences of releasing the ACC and anyone on the trip of negligence where their actions may result in harm to yourself.
  6. Don’t be flakey. If you sign-up for a trip, do your best to go. If your plans change, let the trip coordinator know as soon as possible.
  7. Share expenses. At a minimum, each carpool passenger should pay the driver for gas. For example, for a 100km journey, with three people in the car, consider using a formula like this: (100 km / 3 people) * reasonable per-kilometre allowance = $ your share of gas. For example, (100/3) x $.54=$18

 

3
Amateur

Leader

A Leader is a participant or coordinator who takes on the responsibility of facilitating group decisions and to be the person in charge when required (i.e. avalanche rescue). Usually, the most experienced person becomes the Leader, but often, the best communicator makes the best Leader. Under different scenarios, the group could use different leaders. For example, if the group contained a doctor who had little mountain experience, it would make sense that the doctor would be in charge for medical emergencies, but someone else would be in charge for route finding and group management. It is important that the group is a strong team and leverages all of the skills available to them.

In no case does a Leader make risk related decisions for participants without the participants knowledge and input. Leader’s on club events are not certified in the same way as a Mountain Guide and should not be treated as a Mountain Guide, unless they are infact, a certified Mountain Guide. While many club members are highly skilled and are excellent leaders, some have only a very basic level of skill (we all start somewhere), so adjust your expectations accordingly.

 

Leadership Behaviors

  • Review your list of required personal and group gear with participants before you leave the carpool location (shovel, probe, beacon, rope, harness, headlamp, etc.).
  • For any trip in avalanche terrain, test everyone’s transceiver at the start of each day. Consider doing a range check at the beginning of multi-day trips.
  • Keep track of all participants. You must return with as many people as you left with unless mutually agreed upon arrangements have been made between all parties. Group spacing requirements vary significantly by hazards and conditions, but please try and promote the safest group spacing.
  • Encourage participants to engage in the safe management of the group. Is everyone keeping an eye out for everyone else? Is everyone keeping an eye out for hazards? Does everyone understand which hazards are present and the group spacing required to manage those hazards? Do participants feel comfortable vocalizing to the group any hazards they see?
  • Facilitate group decisions such that everyone is aware of the known hazards and has a chance to assess the risk according to their own risk tolerance.

4
Professional

Mountain Guide

Professional Mountain Guides are not necessarily members of the club (though some may be), and they are critical contributors to club activities. Mountain Guides are paid professionals and are hired to run the many courses the club organizes and often subsidizes. Courses provide an opportunity for members to gain a variety of mountain skills and make their future mountain activities safer.

No member may post a trip which they financially profit from. Therefore, no Trip Coordinator can also play the role of a Mountain Guide on paid course, as this would be a commercial activity. Members who are guides are free to post & participate on trips where they are not acting as a guide in a commercial capacity.  On professionally guided trips, the Trip Coordinator still maintains their job and needs to complete their roll as outlined above (group gear, waivers, etc).

Working with Guides

  • The Association of Canadian Mountain Guides (www.acmg.ca) is the governing body for  hiking, rock, alpine, ski, & mountain guides in Canada.  Most provincial & national parks require guides be certified & have a permit to guide in the park.

5
Club

Board

The Calgary Section’s Board plays a role in trip events in three main ways:

  • Screening of Trip Coordinators
  • Monitoring of Club Events
  • Coordinating Courses and Peer Learning 

Screening of Trip Coordinators

The Section Board screens Trip Coordinator applicants, typically delegating this responsibility to the Ski, Climbing, T&L and Section Chair positions. Please read Appendix A for the full policy on becoming a Trip Coordinator. The Section Board is a volunteer position, and there are no minimum outdoor skill or experience requirements to become a Chair. Therefore, the Board is not vetting for skill, but rather that the applicant knows how to  plan trips within a generally accepted framework.

 

Monitoring of Club Trips

The Chair positions monitor posted events and retain the right to remove any trip which contradicts section by-laws or is deemed too risky to be a club trip. Although trips are seldom removed from the calendar, it has happened. It is hoped that the removal of a trip from the calendar is done in a professional manner, the reasons clearly communicated and support is provided to rectify any concerns. 

Training and Leadership

The club provides a wide range of courses for trip participants, leaders and coordinators. Many of the trips are subsidized with a focus on providing financial support to members who are most likely to contribute back to the club by coordinating trips. However, it is recognized that Trip Coordinators started as inexperienced participants, and that training participants is an important part of creating new Trip Coordinators. Improving the training and skills of all trip participants will help improve the safety of events. Please read Appendix A on how to obtain club subsides for training purposes.

 

Mountain Sport Guiding Principles

The Tyrol Declaration on Best Practice in Mountain Sports passed by the conference on the Future of Mountain Sports in Innsbruck on September 8, 2002, contains a set of values and maxims to provide guidance on best practice in mountain sports. Seven of these guiding principles have been included to help individuals understand best standards of conduct and formulate the ethical criteria for decision-making in uncertain situations.

Article 1 – Individual Responsibility

Mountaineers and climbers practice their sport in situations where there is risk of accidents and outside help may not be available. With this in mind, they pursue this activity at their own responsibility and are accountable for their own safety. The individual’s actions should not endanger those around them nor the environment.

Article 2 – Team Spirit

Members of the team should be prepared to make compromises in order to balance the interests and abilities of all the group.

Article 3 – Climbing & Mountaineering Community

We owe every person we meet in the mountains or on the rocks an equal measure of respect. Even in isolated conditions and stressful situations, we should not forget to treat others as we want to be treated ourselves.

Article 4 – Responsibilities of Mountain Guides and other Leaders

Professional mountain guides, other leaders and group members should each understand their respective roles and respect the freedoms and rights of other groups and individuals. In order to be prepared guides, leaders and group members should understand the demands, hazards and risks of the objective, have the necessary skills, experience and correct equipment, and check the weather and conditions.

Article 5 – Emergencies, Dying and Death

To be prepared for emergencies and situations involving serious accidents and death all participants in mountain sports should clearly understand the risks and hazards and the need to have appropriate skills, knowledge and equipment. All participants need to be ready to help others in the event of an emergency or accident and also be ready to face the consequences of a tragedy.

Article 6 – Access and Conservation

We believe that freedom of access to mountains and cliffs in a responsible manner is a fundamental right. We should always practice our activities in an environmentally sensitive way and be proactive in preserving nature. We respect access restrictions and regulations agreed by climbers with nature conservation organizations and authorities.

Article 7 – First Ascents

The first ascent of a route or a mountain is a creative act. It should be done in at least as good a style as the traditions of the region and show responsibility toward the local climbing community and the needs of future climbers.