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CMC / Denver Group


Technical Trip Leader

A Technical Trip, for the purposes of the Denver group, refers to any trip in which technical gear might be required. Technical Gear can refer to any gear beyond simple hands and feet. Technical Gear includes ropes, ice axes, crampons, ice tools, climbing pro, snow anchors, rock anchors. This site will focus on the technical aspects of the trip and will assume that the trip leader is familiar with the aspects of the trip common to all trips (e.g. first aid, leadership, etc).

The elements of safety, for the technical trip leader, are basically the same across all media. The application of those safety elements varies slightly as the terrain varies but the basic safety principles can be summed up in two words: Don't Fall. Trip members are responsible for safely attaching themselves to the earth and possibly for safely attaching themselves to another trip member with a rope.

That sounds simple but the Technical Trip Leader must be thinking about this principle well before the trip is even posted to the calendar. Plan for Don't Fall. What requirements/preparation must the trip members have? What equipment is the leader going to supply and what equipment are the members required to bring? Is there a possibility that the trip will venture into terrain that requires more advanced skills and equipment than the face value of the trip suggests? How does the trip leader intend to verify the skills of the trip members? Does there need to be a pre-trip meeting?

The Technical Trip Leader must be clear on all equipment required and whether or not trip members will need to show possession of said gear before the trip begins. For example, not a bad idea to have everyone show their helmet, harness, etc. in the parking lot before heading out to the rock climb. Also not a bad idea for the Technical Trip Leader to have an extra helmet, belay device, etc. in case a trip member forgets to bring. Not a bad idea to tell trip members they MUST show their gear in the parking lot, anyway, just to push them into being more careful about gathering all the required gear. Tell them not to wait until the morning of the trip to gather gear; have everything ready to go the night before, or earlier. Not just hardwear; check trip members for the right clothing for the trip. Especially mountaineering boots, if required.

After arriving at the trip destination but before engaging in any technical activity, the Technical Trip Leader should take steps to insure that the trip members are comfortable with all skills required. Prepare for Don't Fall. Have them demonstrate that they know how to put on their gear, tie in to ther rope, thread the belay device, etc. Not a bad idea to have them catch a climber on a 'hard sit' before jumping fully into the climb.

Then, throughout the trip, the Technical Trip Leader should be monitoring all trip members to be sure there is no weakness in the Don't Fall chain. Assign a backup belayer, if prudent.