Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Pilot Error

There is a plan, not a good one, among a group I am a member in, to ski/snowshoe in to a backcountry area, spend a survivalist night out (i.e. no tent); then, the next day, continue on and ski/snowshoe out via a broad, relatively gentle ridge to reach an old road that leads down to the valley. This is a trip I have done twice. In the grand scheme of things, it is not a hard trip involving about 13 km distance and (depending on exact route) about 600 metres of elevation gain. The two times I've done it, we've actually extended the day by doing a few runs first, but we are used to traveling good distances and navigating through the mountains.

The group planning this trip is, overall, lacking in both hard mountain skills - like navigation, route-finding, and route planning skills - and soft mountain skills - like group management - and, I suspect, will be severely challenged by this trip. In fact, the trip is much further (twice as far), through much less obvious terrain in terms of navigation, than this group has gone before. Half the people on the trip will be carrying full packs after spending an uncomfortable night out in the mountains, some will be on faster skis and some on slower snowshoes. In the absence of solid leadership there will inevitably be problems with navigating and group management will be non-existent. I feel confident making these last two assertions as I've been out with this group before in simpler terrain on a shorter trip, and the group was barely able to navigate and demonstrated a complete absence of group management.

Of course, this trip is really not that difficult. With a competent leader, it could easily be accomplished - I know, I've done it twice as a club trip with no problems (it was in fact, an easy day). But, when the leaders don't know what they are doing, won't admit they don't know what they are doing, and refuse to relinquish control to someone who does not know what they are doing, an easy trip can quickly become an epic.

Most accidents/epics are caused by "pilot error" where bad planning precedes bad decisions in the field which leads to errors in process without timely error correction. Incidents, accidents, epics and clusterfucks follow. The "plan" and I use the term loosely has started down that bumpy road.

First, have a good plan

No comments:

Post a Comment