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Thread: Hiking with a partner.

  1. #1
    Senior Member Puck's Avatar
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    Hiking with a partner.

    I read the Gonzales piece "Lost" a few weeks back and something has bothered me. The story uses the example of Ken Killip. Ken was hiking with a friend. This friend was a stronger hiker and Ken was not feeling weel. This friend hiked on leaving Ken far far behind so that when bad weather approached Ken found himself in a survival situation. Panic set in and Ken injured himself.

    My concern is, when hiking with somebody, don't you look out for each other? It sounds like they were on coinciding solo hikes. Do some hike "every man for himself" and "if you are not out when I reach the car I will send help." When you are with somebody you can watch each other. Remind each other of the turn around time. Watch for signs of panic, hypothermia etc...

    Any thoughts on this?

  2. #2
    Senior Member sli74's Avatar
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    I think it depends . . . during the winter people tend to stick together and in "groups" of 2-4, people tend to stick together but in larger groups you do tend to spread out and maybe lose track of the slower ones.

    When someone doesn't feel well, people do wait up and take care of each other. But, during summertime and extended backpacking trips, I have been on trips where we have decided to see each other at camp at the end of the day. I read the "lost" story as well and have to agree that in that particular situation with 2 people, bad weather and illness, I would've stuck with someone.

    sli74
    LIFE, I shall persevere! Everytime you knock me down, I will get up stronger.

  3. #3
    Member CaptainJim's Avatar
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    The Buddy System....

    Kinda reminds me of the way some scuba divers practice the "Buddy System" of diving... that is the "Same Day Same Ocean" approach.

    In diving (as with backpacking) some dive solo, but most dive with buddies. Both have their pros and cons and both are acceptable depending on circumstances and as lon as it is PLANNED that way in ADVANCE... not just happened that way at the spur of the moment.
    Capt.Jim
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  4. #4
    Senior Member TCD's Avatar
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    I agree with you, sli. I think Summer or Winter, a "group" should stick together, or have a defined plan if they separate.

    Any of the Outdoor Leadership schools will tell you this. When I'm the "leader," I usually walk "sweep" in the rear, as long as it's clear where we're going. On bushwacks, if the leader is also the one with the land navigation skills, it pays to deputize someone to sweep.

    If the group is splitting, there needs to be a defined location and timeframe for regrouping or at least for communication (as in cell phone call "we made it out to the car").

    The majority of hiking accidents or searches I've been involved in or read about resulted from groups being separated without a plan. The death about ten years ago on Snowy (adks) was a classic example: The school group was strung out without a sweeper, and did not wait at trail junction. Separated individual in the back, takes wrong turn on sidetrail to lookout, running to catch up, runs off 200' cliff. You can suggest a lot of things here, but the root cause was allowing the group to be separated.

    TCD

  5. #5
    Senior Member MadRiver's Avatar
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    Good question. Most of the time I hike with my wife and a friend so if one of us cannot continue, we all turn back. If, on the other hand, Iím hiking with a new group, Iím not certain of the protocol if someone cannot continue. I have only been presented with this situation once before and the person who could not continue was led down the mountain by one of our group.

    I prefer not to let any one person fall too far behind so that if he/she turns around, the rest of the group is not notified.

    When I hike with my wife and friend, I am the fastest hiker. This coming Friday, however, I will probably be the slowest hiker, so it will be interesting to see how it all plays out.
    What do you mean he don't eat no meat? Ok, I'll do lamb.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Pucknuts61's Avatar
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    I always try to check on the entire group, whether it's a group of 2 or 20, summer or winter, and it seems that everyone I have hiked with looks after each other.
    I read the article too and several questions pop up, but the bottom line is that none of us know what the mental condition of each hiker was at the time of the incident or what caused his partner to take off without looking back. Obviously we need to make sure we never hike with that guy.

    Remember "Touching the Void"?.....would you cut the rope?
    (OK, maybe Ken's situation wasn't as extreme, but I like asking this question )
    Last edited by Pucknuts61; 02-22-2005 at 03:34 PM. Reason: can't spel
    I was going to buy a copy of The Power of Positive Thinking, and then I thought: What the hell good would that do?

  7. #7
    Sherpa John
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    Its Simple IMHO. Hikesafe states... "Start as a group, End as a group."

    When I hike, regardless of how fast I PERSONALLY want to go... the slow hiker always leads so that we go at their pace and we all stay together. The ONE time in my entire life I strayed from this belief, Panama Jack ended up face down in the snow wondering if I had died. The proofs in the puddin baby!

    SJ

  8. #8
    Senior Member sli74's Avatar
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    I am also careful in judging groups or hiking buddies that hike ahead because I am almost always the slowest hiker so I am usually the one "getting left behind" . . . however, I come FULLY prepared as though I am solo even when I am in a large group and always want my hiking partners to feel comfortable hiking ahead and knowing I will be okay. Anyone that I hike with knows my pace and knows when to worry and when it is just me being my slow self.

    The few times I am the stronger hiker I still hike behind everyone because if there is actually someone slower than me, they would probably be happy to have someone watch out for them.

    So, the sticking together also depends on each person's experience, ability and comfort being solo . . .

    All these thoughts seem jumbled but I cannot seem to get my thoughts in order today . . . sorry !

    sli74
    LIFE, I shall persevere! Everytime you knock me down, I will get up stronger.

  9. #9
    Senior Member jjmcgo's Avatar
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    Read trip reports

    This website is rife with trip reports in which the group marches on while an obviously sick person turns back and tries to make it out to the trailhead. At least two in just the last week alone.
    I'm glad someone brought this up. Your obligation is to make sure your partner gets out of the woods alive.
    Clearly, this is a result of goal-hiking and this is a goal-hiking website.
    Think people first.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Halite's Avatar
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    I will guiltily admit to having left a much slower hiker behind some years ago when putting in 20+ mile days on the AT in Shenandoah. He always caught up to us, but the last day he didn't make it in until just about dark. I rationalized that it was a busy trail no further than about a mile at any given point from a road. So if something happened, he'd probably be ok. After finding out that he needed bypass surgery the next year, I realized one of the unconsidered risks of leaving him behind.

    At a minimum, if groups are going to split up, then this plan should be understood up front by all members and each should be prepared and equipped for a solo venture.

  11. #11
    Senior Member sli74's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jjmcgo
    Clearly, this is a result of goal-hiking and this is a goal-hiking website.
    Think people first.
    Quite a generalization about some 1700+ people, don't you think?

    I do believe one can be goal-oriented and still think people first.

    sli74
    Last edited by sli74; 02-22-2005 at 02:40 PM.
    LIFE, I shall persevere! Everytime you knock me down, I will get up stronger.

  12. #12
    Senior Member Neil's Avatar
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    A couple of weeks ago we hiked Allen and one of us who is usually a very strong and fast hiker dragged his ass big time on the way out. The group cruised then waited at a key point (the sand pit) but I stopped and hung back for a good 15 mins. before my suffering hiking buddy caught up to me. He said, "you don't have to wait". That, of course, was crazy. In fact, I had already turned around and was slowly going back along the trail when he came over the height of land. Suppose he had become disoriented or was suffering from hypoglycemia or something. I had no knowledge of his medical history.
    Imagine cruising then waiting for a long, long time for someone. Finally, someone goes back to find that person incoherant, hours from the TH. All that time wasted...

    The group that leaves together stays close together. And there aint no more to say!

    P.S. My friend rallyed and finished the day just fine.

  13. #13
    Senior Member Pucknuts61's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jjmcgo
    Clearly, this is a result of goal-hiking and this is a goal-hiking website.
    Think people first.
    Kinda harsh generalization JJMcgo. If you look hard enough, you can always find a couple bad apples. I have found that most people on this site care about their fellow hiker and most of the threads are here to help and to give advice through experience (good or bad) in order to make things safer for the next person. Information sharing is the key to this sites success. From newbie to Denali climber, everyone can get something useful here. Not goals, but qualified information from those that stick out their hand in generosity.

    Our recent Isolation trip is a great example....11 people in together....11 people out together, no summit, so no "goal" was acheived. Why? If we all didn't or couldn't make it together, we weren't going. 10+ hours later, we were back at the trailhead....together. But we'll try again....together, and hopefully make it this time.
    I was going to buy a copy of The Power of Positive Thinking, and then I thought: What the hell good would that do?

  14. #14
    Senior Member Warren's Avatar
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    This is another situation depends thing. A story:

    Last October I joined Sli74 on a pemi outer/inner loop backpack. I told her I may need to jet a day early back to NYC since it such a damn long ride. There were 5 people on this trip. 2 were at a generally slower pace, two fast one hovered in between ish. The fast groups lunch stop everyday was about 2 hours, allowing for the rear to catch up and some time for us to chill together. Towards the end of the trip, the day we went over the Bonds there was that cool-cold vertical fine rain. The fast group went faster and didn't really take any breaks. By the time we got to the days destination, Fraconica Brook Campsites I was so close to my car that doing the inner loop didn't have as much appeal to me as say, Woodstock brewery did. This idea was contagious. We waited for the rear guard, but the wait itself in the cool rain was becoming it's own problem, it could be several hours.

    So, the quicker three, left a note at the campground registration and abandoned our rear guard to the elements and the fates. I was a bit worried, but more that they wouldn't get the message than there would be a crisis. We weren't tightly integrated gear wise, so that wasn't a concern and our rear guard having one just off the AT, the other off the Long Trail were capable.

    Anyway folks, yes, I abandoned Sli on a hike she invited me on to eat a whole lotta food and drink beer and then sent the remainder of the fast group back in as I drove home.

    Now if the rear guard said they were sick, or had never backpacked, or was tightly sharing gear, or we were traversing technical terrain the story would have been different.

  15. #15
    Senior Member Rick's Avatar
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    I have always made it a hard & fast rule on any ADK or AMC trips I've led that fastest folks have to stop at at trail intersections, trail turns, vistas, summits, water crossings... and wait for the group to catch up.

    I beleive hiking and participating in a group is just that. If you want to be on your own, then go for it, but please don't come to the group prepared to go do your own thing and use us as a car shuttle - that isn't cool.

    I also tend to stay in the back of the group if leading, although I find that when following slower folks, sometimes it is very tiring to hike slow (no offense to slow hikers, as I hike slow uphill). But, I also look at everyone on a trip and try to silenty evaluate their strong points if we were ever to get in trouble.

    I wouldn't consider leaving someone behind and not going back to check on them in any circumstance. I also believe that if someone needs to turn around and I cannot find someone responsible to go back with that person, the group should turn around. I also usually outline this and make sure folks understand in the trip sign-up process.

    Reminds me of a fellow that hiked with the ADK in Rochester NY. He was somewhat unfriendly and ornery to the point where some tripleaders would put him on the waiting list, rather than deal with his desires to change leader plans, trip itineraries, start times, camping spot and the like.
    He also had a tendency to walk by us silently when we took breaks and take his own further down the trail, as well as not camp with us, preferring to go on 1/8 mile or so and set up camp. I asked him after one trip why he signs up but does not participate - He said since he was an old guy, he was worried that if something happened to him he would need help gettng out of the woods - otherwise he didn't like groups. I told him if he didn't start being a little less ornery to folks and a lot more friendly, he could probably count on folks doing nothing more than dragging him 100 feet off the trail if something did happen to him. He hasn't spoken to me since
    Rick

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