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How many is too many?

Postby Mindy » Tue Dec 11, 2012 7:39 am

Would appreciate opinions and suggestions re: the size of a group hiking together. For example, I have two adventures coming up that have over 15 people signed up – and more on a “wait list”. Obviously anyone can show up, regardless of wait list. Any suggestion re: group dynamics in winter conditions?

Mindy

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Re: How many is too many?

Postby Dex » Tue Dec 11, 2012 7:45 am

Mindy wrote:Would appreciate opinions and suggestions re: the size of a group hiking together. For example, I have two adventures coming up that have over 15 people signed up – and more on a “wait list”. Obviously anyone can show up, regardless of wait list. Any suggestion re: group dynamics in winter conditions?

Mindy


Are they organized tours that you are paying for,

or are they paying you,

or are you leading it for friends for free?

What is the hiking level of the other people and do they know each other?
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Re: How many is too many?

Postby Mindy » Tue Dec 11, 2012 7:53 am

Money - no :lol: - I am a beginner winter hiker. Organized through "meetup" groups and from a couple other sites. This is a part of what I post when I put something out there:

"About Me: I am not a guide, nor do I see myself as being a “leader” on the hikes/climbs I post. I am simply looking for partners around my same skill level (beginner to border-line intermediate) to hike with. OR, maybe someone who is more advanced, but wants to hike/climb the peak scheduled. My estimated times are based off Roach’s “Roach Point System” (when available). I have found this to be right on for me. My goal is to eventually hit 1,000 ft. per hour, and I do try to push it an hour at a time before rest stops."

I should also add that I do not schedule anything over Class II.

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Re: How many is too many?

Postby ameristrat » Tue Dec 11, 2012 8:08 am

Mindy, I'm one of the guys on your wait list for this weekend.

It will be hit or miss with any group over 3-4 if you don't know them all well / their hiking tendencies. For example, I consider myself a moderate paced hiker. If I hike with y friends from work I'm very fast. If I hike with someone on this site, I'm probably moderate at best - it all depends on the group. With 15 you just don't know, especially in winter, but it will be tough to avoid breaking into smaller groups.

All that said, I won't be offended or anything if you decide to keep the group at fifteen or smaller! Just stay safe!

Teddy

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Re: How many is too many?

Postby KentonB » Tue Dec 11, 2012 8:10 am

My friends and I have developed a pretty accurate formula: Add 30 additional minutes of hiking time for every additional party member! LOL It ends up being pretty true! Everyone's on a different "schedule" for bathroom breaks, taking off layers, re-tying their boots, etc. Overall though, I think it's a matter of personal preference. I really like smaller groups (2 to 4), but I have been on hikes with 10+ that were enjoyable.

One of the biggest questions is, "How experienced are the group members?" A large group can work well if most of the members are experienced and responsible. It allows smaller groups to pair up so everyone goes at their own pace. However, I've been in large groups with several inexperienced people where I felt responsible for them... which made my trip kinda miserable.

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Re: How many is too many?

Postby Gabriel » Tue Dec 11, 2012 8:15 am

Two are too many if you want solitude.

G

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Re: How many is too many?

Postby nkan02 » Tue Dec 11, 2012 9:10 am

I know some of the people signed up Mindy's hike, but not all. Although 16 people is a lot, you can always split in subgroups depending on speed. Just make sure to communicate BEFORE you split (see Princeton hike thread). You will have several people in the group who.can take leadership roles and help you.manage the group.size.

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Re: How many is too many?

Postby SurfNTurf » Tue Dec 11, 2012 9:29 am

nkan02 wrote:I know some of the people signed up Mindy's hike, but not all. Although 16 people is a lot, you can always split in subgroups depending on speed. Just make sure to communicate BEFORE you split (see Princeton hike thread). You will have several people in the group who.can take leadership roles and help you.manage the group.size.


Agreed.

Big groups tend to split up naturally, especially in winter. The lead dogs just can't afford to stand still waiting around for more than a few minutes at a time, even if they have the patience. Being cold isn't all that comfortable.

It's part of my career so I'm a bit more intense about it than most, but in all cases -- whether it's a party of two or a party of 16 or a party of three watching Party of Five -- communication is crucial. TALK to each other. Voice your intentions and potential concerns, and have most of that ironed out before lacing up your boots at the parking lot.

Subgroups are the way to go, and I agree with Fletch regarding ideal maximum size. My smoothest-functioning winter groups comprise three or four members. Appoint some trusted co-leaders and break down the larger group as well as you can based on speed, with the caveat that almost no one will have the self-awareness to admit where they actually fall on the hiking speed scale. It will be difficult to determine good groupings until you've hiked with most of the people before. As I said, big groups will split up naturally, so if you communicate well during the first hour it's possible to migrate into subgroups during the actual hike.

Finally, every attendee should be self-reliant. If someone is depending on the group and gets separated, well, that's a bad situation. All members should know the route and have the necessary gear for a solo winter hike.
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Re: How many is too many?

Postby wildlobo71 » Tue Dec 11, 2012 9:53 am

I agree with Natalie, Jeff and Fletch... In addition, if you end up being in the slower group and the slower person - be willing, able, and comfortable with the idea that you may not be able to summit and make it down in a time-frame suitable to your comfort level. Just because the faster groups may, you have an obligation of sorts to know that if the go/no-go time has passed or is getting close, it's a sacrifice to your pride, your checklist, whatever... you may have to make.

I always say if I am the slow one and they are on their way down, I will turn and join them if I am further away from my destination than I feel comfortable going a)by myself, b)in the time allotted to the hike, and c)when I know the group will be waiting for me for any extended period of time... waiting for slow people in the cold must suck more than we slow people are ever told.
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Re: How many is too many?

Postby geojed » Tue Dec 11, 2012 9:55 am

Fletch wrote:You are only as fast as your slowest person. In a group of 15 that you (presumably) have not hiked with before --- that's too many. Start small and work your way up to a big group. I applaud you for taking the initiative to start a Meetup group, but be careful you don't bite off more than you can chew. I'd stick with a max of 6 in the winter. Speed is safety, especially in the winter. And 15 strangers sounds unsafe to me... Just my 2 centavos...


Fletch speaks the truth. I learned through painful experience on Yale (10 people) and Spread Eagle Peak (12? people) last winter that more is not always merrier. I get nervous 8-[ if the group gets above 3 or 4 people (incl me) now. I'm usually doing more ambitious stuff now so that prevents the group from getting too big and I try to stick with people I've hiked with before or I can do research on their TR's to see what kind of hiker they are.

It's just so hard with a group that big to coordinate with the differences in everyone's abilities, speed, preparedness, expectations, goals. I think open, honest communication regarding abilities and expectations, goals is critical. But it is VERY difficult to have that open and honest communication in a group of relative "strangers" because no one wants to look weaker and more dependent than others; not to mention that it would have to happen in the dark at 6AM when everyone is freezing cold and wanting to get going on the trail.

Things that might help you are: Class 1 VERY established and easy (steepness-wise) trail, the trail up is the exact trail that everyone will be taking down, have someone who is the antithesis of me and isn't really determined on summiting, and is willing to stay at the back with any stragglers.

One thing that I've thought of getting is a set of walkie-talkies that I can give to everyone that hikes with me because it's the "not knowing" or not being able to communicate while spread out on the mountain that is the killer. :-k

Please read these threads and learn from my mistakes
Spread Eagle Peak aftermath (just keep scrolling):http://www.14ers.com/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=33983&start=24#p406721

Mount Yale East Ridge aftermath (just keep scrolling):http://www.14ers.com/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=33502&start=36#p400024
Last edited by geojed on Tue Dec 11, 2012 9:59 am, edited 2 times in total.
• It's by getting away from life that we can see it most clearly... It's by depriving ourselves of the myriad of everyday experiences that we renew our appreciation for them...I've learned from my experiences in the mountains that I love life. — Dave Johnston
• Mountains are not climbed merely to reach a geographical location — but as personal and spiritual challenges to the participants. — David Stein
• The best climber in the world is the one who’s having the most fun.— Alex Lowe
• Why do I climb the mountain? Because I'm in love! — The Captain

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Re: How many is too many?

Postby DaveSwink » Tue Dec 11, 2012 9:56 am

Mindy, there were two incidents last winter where a slower or less experienced winter hiker got separated from the group and had some rough experiences that could have been worse except they were assisted by hikers from a different group. There followed some long and exhaustive threads that highlighted some of the very different perceptions and expectations hikers bring to these informal group hikes. The extent of faster hikers' commitment to staying with the group varied widely and it became apparent that group dynamics should be stated ahead of time, not assumed.

One of the threads involved a very fit lady (ultrarunner) who was overwhelmed by the unexpected challenges of winter climbing and wrote a very frank blog posting of the adventure. Does anyone remember the thread, so we can share with Mindy? I will search for the threads when I have time this morning, but maybe someone else can help. Sorry, but I remember GeoJed was featured in one of the threads.

BTW, very good question, Mindy! :-D

Edit: Wow, way to step up and share rough experiences, Jed!

Edit: I remember thinking that the new winter hikers were contribuiting to the situation by not knowing what they do not know. Definitely a situation that calls for a thoughtful approach.

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Re: How many is too many?

Postby geojed » Tue Dec 11, 2012 10:18 am

There was another trip on 2/11/12 (18+ people! I lost count on the way down) on La Plata that ended up being more successful because it wasn't so much of a "group" hike, it was a bunch of smaller self-organized groups starting at different times in the morning that in a sense, sort of ended up being on the peak on the same day. http://www.14ers.com/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=33874

No one was really the "organizer/leader" so each group felt responsible for themeselves. That seems like the recipe for success.

Here's the TR: http://14ers.com/php14ers/tripreport.php?trip=11465

I don't want to scare you, just want to be "real", but it just takes one person to get separated from the group and lost/cold/injured and it goes from a best trip ever trip to a stressful nightmare. The odds of that happening seem to go up exponentially as the group grows and balloons in size. So smaller self-organized/self-sufficient groups seems like the way to go.
• It's by getting away from life that we can see it most clearly... It's by depriving ourselves of the myriad of everyday experiences that we renew our appreciation for them...I've learned from my experiences in the mountains that I love life. — Dave Johnston
• Mountains are not climbed merely to reach a geographical location — but as personal and spiritual challenges to the participants. — David Stein
• The best climber in the world is the one who’s having the most fun.— Alex Lowe
• Why do I climb the mountain? Because I'm in love! — The Captain

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