Outdoor Leadership Skills?
Q: I'm involved in putting together some leadership and skills training
for a volunteer outdoor organization. Different groups have different
standards, but I'd like to think "out of the box" here as far as what
is needed, rather than what Club X requires. However, if you have an
idea of what various volunteer led clubs require, that would also be
I'd like to get a sense of what people in this group feel is an
appropriate set of skills and training for the following:
A volunteer leading an organized group of adults on a day hike, or
Any special skills for certain seasons, or specialized types of trips.
I am specifically excluding professional guide standards from this, as
there is a greater responsibility there. Likewise with leading groups
As volunteers have limited time for training, we would like to steer
them towards what is most appropriate in the minimum time needed.
A:-The Sierra Club has both a Wilderness Travel Course for beginners and a Leadership Training Course for potential leaders: http://www.angeleschapter.org/angeles/sections.htm Other organizations, for instance The Mountaineers in Seattle, have their own courses. Maybe you could take one of these courses and copy the best parts of it, or at least contact them for help on creating your own course. I recently took the WTC, and I had had no real backcountry experience before that (see http://lonewacko.com for examples of my prior experience.) I learned a lot, but I think it could have been much better. I was particularly unimpressed with the anachronistic teaching methods: filmstrips, slideshows, handouts, etc. Whatever you do, I'd suggest you use more modern methods, like an online discussion forum, a web site, video handouts, etc. If you have specific questions, contact me via email. -At a bare minimum, std first aid and CPR. I would then supplement that with additional training specific for your area, such as plants, insects, and other biting creatures. As for training, I've found that the more I know about dealing with emergencies, the more aware I am of my surroundings and therefore the less likely I'll be in an emergency. Once you become aware that hypothermia can happen when it is 60 degrees out, you think about rain and rain protection a lot more. Out here in Oregon/Washington we always operate under the assumption that things can get very very bad very quickly. The other overlooked skill is map reading and orientation. I have a terrible feeling that GPS is going to cause more problems than it solves, simply by giving undertrained people a false sense of security. Ditto with cell phones. There is no substitute for knowledge and proper resources in the wilderness. When I do a trip, in addition to the standard map, I also photocopy the relevant pages from hiking books. Look at this site under education. To me the biggest factor is just how remote are you going to be. Mountaineering first-aid is probably overkill if 911 is always within a half-hour, but essential when you go places it takes 911 a few days to get to. FWIW, this site is a volunteer outdoor organization. -a couple suggestions: keep to general principles, and go down to the level of small print only where necessary (e.g. safety, and legal liability, in that order)... three or four central guidelines that have survived the explosion in outdoor leadership(OL) over the years, in my opinion, are - go through the woods/mountains/desert etc.like a soft wind, disturbing briefly but leaving no trace; this takes skill and effort... only a few can do it well, but we should all aspire anyway... - build on past experience (especially where saftey is concerned) but acknowledge novelty and excitement in radically new information available to each explorer/pilgrim as they set out into what is for them new territory... understanding this is rare in OL programs, but golden when you find it... - seek to go beyond the hollywood: auto-addiction to adrenalin is as potentially lifethreatening as any other addiction, and can drive instructors(guides/leaders) and students(participants/clients or whatever) to silliness that exceeds enjoyment, but looks much like it; so helping folks sort out the difference can be highly rewarding, and the natural world is a perfect venue for learning this; - finally, if I can be permitted, there is a grace in the `outdoors' which can be communicable... Im not sure I can even begin to communicate it.. but I have seen it a few times, among indigenous people, a few really skilled climbers, a boatbuilder/fisherman on the Queen Charlotte Sound in New Zealand, anyway ...a quiet assurance and comfort-in-place which is extraordinary... my personal interpretation of this is the graceful achievement of a high level of balance between the human condition and the natural world, but the difference for me in these specific examples was, one could learn from them without being openly taught...