Screening Participants and Leaders

Screening Participants and Leaders
May 26, 2015 Webmaster

The Trip Leader/Coordinator is given the responsibility of screening trip participants, when required. The trip calendar allows for trip rosters to be pre-screened or for a direct sign-up. Trips with any form of hazard should be screened to ensure that all participants are able to contribute to the safety of the group. Furthermore, a reasonably compatible group of people will maximize the chance of success.

Recommendations for Screening

Screening is trivial if participants who know each other from previous trips. If a Trip Leader does not know a participant, screening is best completed in person in a relatively safe environment such as a climbing gym, a rock rage or a ski training night (boot camp). In some cases, a phone call or an e-mail exchange may suffice. When screening, participants may not provide an objective assessment of themselves if they are trying to get onto the trip (Acceptance in FACETS). Although screening of participants by the Trip Leader is built into the system, it is important that trip participants also screen the Trip Coordinator and/or Leader for any trip they sign-up for. Trip participants will be relying on the group for their safety, and this decision should not be taken lightly.

When screening, you may want to collect the following:

  • Experience (is it the participant’s first club trip, how long ago was their last trip, hardest trip, etc.)
  • Outdoor Skill Courses Taken (soft skills, hard skills, First Aid, crevasse rescue, avalanche skills and transceiver search)
  • Health and Fitness (allergies, medications, fitness program)
  • Reputation (read trip reports and talk to members who have been trip partners. Note that people will seldom say bad things about another person, so getting a brutally honest opinion maybe hard).

Selection of Number of Participants for a Trip

The size of the party must be appropriate to the objective. Minimum/Maximum party size is determined by considerations of communication, speed, efficiency, enough people to complete a rescue, and by concerns about environmental impact, or by land-use regulations.

Sometimes speed is safety, and experienced alpinists know that a larger group is always slower. On certain routes, for example, climbers must often move quickly to finish before dark or to be past an exposed area before the afternoon sun starts dangerous rock fall. As a general rule, the more difficult the route, the smaller the group should be.

There are no hard rules in-terms of the number of participants, but please select the number of participants that best allow the mitigation of identified hazards.

What Level of Skill Should Participants Have?

Every member of a trip must be up to the challenge, both physically and technically. Some (sub)alpinists will go only with proven companions on anything but the safest routes. When considering climbing with someone you don’t know, be cautious. When dealing with inexperienced people, be aware that they may not realize they are unprepared for the route you have in mind. Often, the best way to vet a climber is in a safe environment such as a climbing gym where you can judge their climbing ability first hand. The club runs gym nights at least once a week with this purpose in mind.

A party that includes novices, or even experienced people who have never before attempted a route at this level of difficulty, will need veteran (sub)alpinists who are willing and able to coach. The route almost surely will take longer, and the chance of success will be reduced. Be sure everyone in the party understands this situation and accepts it.

For more involved trips such as an expedition, it is not unreasonable to only select members who you have recently been a trip partner with (i.e. training trips). Some leaders are willing to accept written resumes, or for weekend climbs a short survey designed to ascertain a person’s fitness. However, the mountains require a wide range of skills that are not easy communicated through a phone conversation or an e-mail, but expediency matters.

The ACC would like members to challenge themselves, but also to take an incremental approach. Start small and build to more difficult trips as your skills grow. With experience, come friends and trip partners who will make willing trip partners for future events. Jumping into a serious mountain adventure with strangers, regardless of how excellent their resume, may not always turn out as expected. However, if a trip needs more participants and time does not allow, a resume maybe the next best option.

Beginner Friendly Trips

Beginner friendly trips are a very important part of club life. All experienced Alpinists were once beginners themselves and often feel a debt of gratitude to the alpinists who took the time to show them the ropes. Mentoring beginners is encouraged, but so is exercising extra caution. Those new to the sport lack the knowledge to judge hazard for themselves and the skills to contribute to the safety of the group. The objective selected should be made with this in mind. Furthermore, requiring basic training such as a lead belay course for rock climbing and AST1 for ski trips can significantly improve the safety margin of the entire group including the Leader.