DISCLAIMER: The Alpine Club of Canada (including the Vancouver Island Section of the Alpine Club of Canada) assumes no responsibility for the interpretation, use and application of the information in this Resource Paper for Leaders.



 Vancouver Island Section, Alpine Club of Canada


The following could be considered a motto of our section:

Come back alive
Come back friends
Respect the land
Have fun
Get to the top
(in that order)



Leading in a crisis


Trips with significant costs

Resources for leaders


Pre-trip planning

As a trip leader you are entitled to set the conditions for your trip. The following suggestions may be helpful:

Choose trips that are within your personal limitations/comfort zone. Leading a trip that you have already done is recommended for new leaders.

Learn all you can about the area, routes (including avalanche conditions) and weather. In addition to online resources, maps, books and Bushwhacker articles, contact experienced mountaineers, wardens or guides to obtain information on the physical and technical demands of the trips. Be aware of the conditions, especially avalanche hazards, at the time of the trip, check online avi bulletins and weather forecasts..

Describe the proposed trip as accurately as possible to prospective participants. There is the option of designating the trip for experienced mountaineers or skiers only, or requiring some minimum level of qualification (e.g., ice axe workshop).

Take the time to inquire thoroughly as to the experience, training, fitness and personal equipment of prospective participants who are unfamiliar to you in order to ensure their suitability for the proposed. For example, you could ask, “What have you climbed/skied?” Do not accept participants whose lack of experience, equipment, or fitness might endanger themselves or others. If someone asks to bring a friend/partner etc. whom you do not know, ask that this person phone you so you can assess the situation.

Set group-size limits for reasons of safety, environmental impact, logistics, and your own comfort level. It is a goal of the club to encourage participation by those who are newcomers to mountaineering and climbing. Therefore some club outings will be larger groups with varied levels of experience. In such mixed groups you will be a leader, and you must actively give direction to the group’s actions. Novices depend on your mountaineering and climbing judgement. However, in general this only applies to the easier trips. If you are more comfortable leading a smaller, more difficult trips of experienced people, that is fine, since there is room for many styles of trips.

If more novices than you are comfortable leading express interest in your trip, you could start a waiting list until experienced members phone, or you might ask someone to assist you. Then you can team up the less experienced with the more experienced participants.

If you have a pre-arranged assistant, communicate all relevant information to the assistant before the trip begins.

You could alternatively choose to be the contact person for the trip and have someone else in charge of the mountaineering side, or vice versa.

Ensure that a responsible person in town knows exactly where the group is going and when you expect to be back.

Optional but highly recommended take at least one form of communication device - take a cell phone, a VHF radio, a SPOT device (or PLB) or a satellite phone, or ask one of the participants to bring one.

Ensure that all participants are members of the Vancouver Island Section of the Alpine Club of Canada, guests are welcome on one or two trips to get a feel for the club but members should have priority.

Make sure the participants understand what is their responsibility and what you will be arranging. Arrangements for transportation, tenting, ropes and other technical equipment (hut space and keys, overnight registration, etc., where relevant) will need to be made. Personal gear (e.g., rental of club equipment) is the responsibility of the participant.

Unless it is explicitly stated in the trip description, dogs are not welcome on club trips (with the exception of guide dogs).

If you have questions, you can contact the leadership committee at leadership@accvi.ca.

Waivers and Liability

All participants must sign the waiver form if they wish to participate. Participants are to have read it before they go. You may need to tell newcomers that a sample waiver is on our website. For participants aged 13-18, both the participant and a parent must sign the waiver form, while for children aged 12 or less, the parent must sign.

Read the covering letter for the waiver (go to the ACC National site and click on the “Waiver Admin Policy” link). It has a section on what to do in the event of an incident.

The ACC liability insurance policy covers situations where alleged negligence on the part of an ACC volunteer or member results in personal injury or certain types of property damage ($2M maximum). The group is not covered for any travel or approach involving white-water, nor for third-party liability. The basic legal test that would be applied to any incident on a climb is that an individual acted reasonably and with the skill of a person of similar background and experience in a given situation. The test simply measures the reasonableness of a particular act in a given set of circumstances.

During the trip

It is normal and preferred that groups remain together. Consideration of group size or experience may suggest the advisability of appointing a willing experienced assistant leader. This approach has been found to work well if the party must separate for any reason, including pace, route choice, injury or illness, (or in extreme cases of punning or spoonerisms!).

Communication is important. Outline to the group your idea of the day’s activities and, during the trip, give reasons for your decisions. Be open to input from the group.

Test everyone’s transceivers at the beginning of each ski day.

Stay in touch with the safety needs of the group. You decide when to rope up. Be sensitive to the comfort level of inexperienced participants.

Encourage participants to wear their helmets whenever it is logical.

In the event that a participant becomes ill or injured, or in case of unsafe conditions, it is better to change plans, or return to town, and forego the original objective.

Ask a participant to write a trip report for the Bushwhacker (or do one yourself), and be sure to include photos.

Have fun!

After the trip

Record the leader(s) name and any comments you deem relevant on the waiver form and send it to the section archivist at librarian@accvi.ca, who will keep it on file for 7 years.


Leading in a Crisis

We hope it never happens, but sometimes things go wrong: perhaps conditions turn dangerous or someone is injured. Then the group focus shifts from recreation to safety and survival. The coordinator's role also changes to a decisive style. When an accident occurs, there is no time for lengthy debate. Prompt, effective action is needed, and it should be directed by someone with training and experience. The coordinator should stay "hands off' as much as possible, directing others, maintaining an overview, and thinking ahead to the next steps. The party should be guided by the four rules of rescue in managing a crisis:


  1. The safety of the rescuers comes first, even before that of the victim.
  2. Act promptly, but deliberately and calmly.
  3. Use procedures you have learned and practiced; this is no time to experiment.>
  4. Stay with your group. It is sometimes necessary to scout around while route-finding, but you should always be within communication range, and preferably within shouting distance.


It is easy to think that all trip mishaps are life-threatening situations and that the outcome depends solely on what the rescuers do. In fact, neither is usually the case. First, most accidents result in cuts and bruises, sprains, sometimes broken bones, but only occasionally anything worse. Second, the outcome is usually determined by factors beyond the rescuers' control. All that can be reasonably expected is that the trip coordinator draws upon training and experience to devise an appropriate plan and then carry it out as safely and effectively as conditions permit.

The best way to avoid trouble is to anticipate it. Coordinators should always be thinking ahead, asking, "What if?" In camp, they think of the climb; on the ascent, of the descent; in success, of retreat. They look for early signs of fatigue in participants, mentally record bivouac sites, keep watch on the time, and note any changes in the weather. Everywhere on trips, coordinators mentally cross bridges before reaching them. Trying to stay a step ahead, they hope to avoid problems or to catch burgeoning ones before they become crisis. Get in the habit of anticipating trouble while you're planning your trip. For example, "On this ridge, what's my best escape route?" 

Accidents are unexpected, but you can prepare for them by taking courses, reading, and mentally rehearsing. All trip coordinators must have a valid First Aid certificate. Anyone participating in outdoor activities in the mountains should supplement their First Aid training. Check out our course schedule for more information.

Also, you can benefit from studying the experiences of others climbers. The American Alpine Club and The Alpine Club of Canada jointly publish Accidents in North American >Mountaineering (available on Amazon.ca) This annual publication contains detailed descriptions and analyses of mountaineering accidents and is instructive. 

Skills Checklist

The following are some ideas for skills that are useful for a leader to work toward attaining. However, our section is grateful that there has always been a ready supply of responsible leaders willing to volunteer.

  • climbing/mountaineering, including anchors, ropes, protection, etc.

  • avalanche danger assessment and avalanche rescue

  • ice axe skills, snow anchors, crevasse rescue

  • route finding, navigation, with map, compass, GPS

  • pre-trip assessment of terrain, routes, and conditions

  • wilderness first aid

  • accident response and wilderness rescue

  • understanding of group dynamics

  • understanding of legal and liability issues

  • weather interpretation


 Organizing Section Trips with Significant Costs


Trip leaders should request a cash advance from the Treasurer in advance of trips with high GST costs (e.g., private cabins, helicopters, etc.). Participants then reimburse the trip leader with cheques made out to Alpine Club of Canada - VI Section. This has benefits for leaders and all section members:

  • The leader is not out of pocket.
  • The Section can claim 50% of the GST cost (the ACC is a charitable organization).
  • Any profit on the trip accrues to the Section (a loss, of course, must be borne by the participants).



Resources for Leaders

  • Other trip leaders are a great resource. There is a large collective experience within the section.

  • The section organizes a variety of informal and professionally led workshops.

  • The section will generally subsidise trip leaders who wish to take appropriate training courses.

  • See the section website.


This paper is one of the results of a series of Leadership meetings over two years from 1996 to 2015 These suggestions come from experience. Members: Your comments and continuing input are welcomed.