We hope accidents don’t happen, but things can go wrong — conditions can turn hazardous, participants may get injured. A trip leader draws on their training and experience to devise an appropriate plan and carries it out as safely and effectively as conditions permit. The leader manages the situation, directing others to essential tasks while maintaining an overview and thinking ahead to the next steps. The party is guided by the four rules in managing a crisis:

  1. In case someone is injured, the safety of the rescuers comes first and 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 the group. It is sometimes necessary to scout around while route-finding, but everyone should always be within communication range, and preferably within shouting distance.

The best way to avoid trouble is to anticipate it. Leaders should always be thinking ahead, asking “What if…?”s. In camp, they think of the climb; during the ascent, of the descent; in success, of retreat. They look for early signs of fatigue in participants, mentally record potential shelters, keep watch on the time, and note changes in the weather. Trying to stay a step ahead, they hope to avoid problems or to catch burgeoning ones before they become a full-blown crisis. Get in the habit of anticipating trouble while planning a trip. For example, “On this ridge, what’s the best escape route?”

Accidents are unexpected, but one can be more prepared by taking courses, reading relevant materials, and mentally rehearsing. All trip leaders must have a valid First Aid certificate. ACCVI organizes first aid courses and provides subsidies.

One can also benefit from studying the experiences of other 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.

In the event of an accident on any ACC-sponsored activity, it is mandatory that the ACC National Office be notified. Use the following resources:

A collection of articles from various members’ experiences is available on the page Close Calls Collection.