Tag Archives: leader

Bushwalking Skills | Making a Bushwalking Aide-memoire

Do you lead bushwalks? Thought about carrying an aide-memoire  for emergencies? What resources will you need?

In the nineties, when I was actively upgrading my bushwalk leadership qualifications, I kept an aide-memoire to help me remember the key points of bushwalking for in-the-field examinations. This was initially kept in several “Granny’s brag books”,  4″ x 6″ photo albums with the cardboard stiffeners removed and with the individual plastic pockets sealed, then progressed to a Sharp Organiser, then to a Palm PDA and finally to my Nokia Smartphone, before being archived to a wiki (see link above). To keep the number of “album” pages to a minimum, the text was reduced to 7 pt.

The first aid was collated from Senior First Aid courses which I did with St John’s and the Red Cross, with additional information added from wilderness first aid courses and books I had read.

 Disclaimer: Although I culled information, which I knew was out-of-date, when I first set up this wiki, I have not updated the first aid information for the last few years, and as some things change every few years eg snake bite and EAR, the aide-memoire needs to be checked with an up-to-date first aid manual.

For many years, I carried this information, in note form, as a resource for emergencies, especially when leading bushwalks to remote areas of Australia. You might find such a concept useful, and perhaps be able to use the topic outline as  a worthwhile starting point.

If I was making one today, I would add it as a pdf to my Smartphone, which I usually carry with me. You could of course use your camera-equipped smartphone to copy relevant pages from books and save as a photo album. If you carry a Kindle with you, for your light reading, you have another alternative. However, in a pinch, I think “Granny’s brag book” would prove to be the most reliable of them all!

Recently I have added some excellent  leadership articles by Rick Curtis (Director, Outdoor Action Program), which no longer seem to be online at his website. This material is the Group Development and Leadership Chapter from his Outdoor Action Program Leader’s Manual. You can find some of the more useful articles in the sidebar to the right, under Bushwalking Resources, and the rest in my wiki. The text may be freely distributed for nonprofit educational use. However, if included in publications, written or electronic, attributions must be made to the author. Commercial use of this material is prohibited without express written permission from the author. Copyright © 1995 Rick Curtis, Outdoor Action Program, Princeton University.

Discussion: 
I’d love to know if you carry an “aide-memoire”, what type and what it contains.

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Bushwalk Leadership Training | Accredited Courses for South Australians

Some Accredited Courses for South Australian Bushwalkers

Bushwalking Leadership SA

Bushwalking Leadership SA (BLSA) offers two programs

1. Day Walk Leadership Program.

“The Day Walk Leadership program is similar to the Bushwalking Leadership Program but differs in that it prepares leaders for Day walks only. It does not cover camp site management, extended navigation and , of course, overnight management. It does assume some experience of day walking but also can taken as an introduction to bushwalking leadership.The day walking leader program has four components, is flexible and designed to meet the needs of particular groups such as walking clubs and community groups. As such it is usually run on an ‘as needed’ basis.”

  1. Theory component which can be run either as short evening sessions or as a full day session.
  2. Weekend field instruction and experience trip where navigation, search and rescue, group management and extended, overnight care is covered.
  3. Completion of a number experience walks where another leader is observed in varying conditions
  4. Finally an assessment is completed which comprises a theory test and a group management assessment walk.

2.  The Bushwalking Leadership Program leading to the Advanced Bushwalk Leader’s Certificate (see below)

The Bushwalking Leadership Program is open to any walker who has had experience and or training in overnight bushwalking. It is primarily a LEADERSHIP course for leading groups on overnight walks and assumes that applicants are already competent bushwalkers.

1. Assistant Bushwalking Leader Certificate (BLSA)

This 7 day residential course provides instruction in navigation and map reading, addresses issues of group management, leadership, trip planning and emergency procedures including search and rescue techniques. The last 3 days of this course put theory into practice with a self reliant bush walk.

2. Interim training:

Candidates are required to complete a range of walks in different environmental conditions and with different groups. An Adviser is allocated to each candidate to provide assistance and guidance as required. The interim training period comprises:-14 days practical experience, completing 2 and 3 day walks.

  • as a participant
  • as a leader
  • in a variety of weather conditions including cold and wet
  • in a variety of venues including the Flinders Ranges north of Wilmington and in the Grampians or equivalent with a variety of groups: including juvenile or school group and an adult group.

A Record Book is issued and used to record experience during the interim training period.

3. Bushwalking Leadership Certificate (BLSA )

 Upon successful completion of the interim training period, candidates must successfully complete the following assessment components:

  • Theory Exam
  • Seminar weekend or equivalent
  • Personal Skills Assessment (2 days)
  • Group Management Assessment (2 days)

4. Advanced Bushwalk Leader Interim Training
   

Following successful completion of the Bushwalking Leader Certificate, candidates may wish to continue to the advanced phase. 14 days practical experience is required, completing 3 and 4 day walks:

  • as a participant
  • as a leader
  • in the Central or Northern Flinders Ranges
  • in the highland areas of Eastern Australia, New Zealand or Tasmania
  • in hot and dry conditions

In addition candidates must complete training in steep terrain group management and complete General Mountain Training or its equivalent.

5. Advanced Bushwalking Leader Assessment
   
Upon successful completion of the advanced interim period candidates must complete the following assessment components:

  • Theory Exam
  • Advanced Group Management Assessment

View other relevant posts in this Bushwalk Leadership Series

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Bushwalk Leadership Training | The Need for a Change in Club Culture

Which skills do Club bushwalk leaders sometimes lack? Why is there often a Club “anti-training” culture?

Over the years I have walked with many different bushwalk leaders and from each I have learnt new bushwalking skills. Sometimes I have noticed contradictions, but there is rarely the opportunity to question and if there is, it is sometimes difficult not to offend, appear to challenge the status quo or appear critical.

Formal bushwalk training, undertaken through organisations such as Bushwalking Leadership SA, actually encourages and expects participants to ask questions. The presenters welcome people challenging their ideas and because of their active involvement in leadership training are aware of differences in techniques and are able to offer alternatives, based on their own experience and that of others.

In my experience, many Club leaders sometimes have limited skills in group management and don’t see there is any need to develop them. They often believe that they are leading a group of peers who are able to look after themselves. They fail to recognise that most Club walks have new members who need to be made welcome and integrated into the group if they are to remain Club members. They fail to recognise that often walks have “dependents”, who despite their maturity, are inexperienced in terms of bushwalking skills and need to be actively “supported”. They often fail to accept, that as the “leader”, their personal needs become subservient to the group as a whole.

Have you ever walked in a group where the leader is at the front, sometimes a long way in front, and is oblivious to the needs of the unfit “newbies” struggling at the back, with their overweight packs? If they are aware, have they offered to redistribute equipment so the group as a whole can make more rapid progress? Have you often worried, as “tail-end-charlie”, which way the group has gone at the intersection and wondered why the leader didn’t wait until everyone had arrived before moving off. Have you ever arrived last at a group break and found that instead of the 10 minutes everyone else got, that you got just 3 mins?

Have you ever watched an inexperienced or unskilled leader waiting for the group to assemble at the predetermined start time? How do they treat the “new member” who has failed to allocate sufficient time in the morning to get gear packed, have breakfast and attend to personal hygiene? Do they offer to help personally, assign someone who is already packed to help or do they stand there impatiently and then make comments about the “regrettable” late start?

Risk management skills are often intuitive among bushwalk leaders. They have often learnt over many years, usually by trial-and-error, what dangers there are in particular locations and at particular times of the year. This works fine provided they don’t venture outside of their “known world”, but do they have the knowledge and skills to cope if the circumstances fall outside their personal experience?

Some Club bushwalk leaders would see any attempt to encourage them to attend training courses as a criticism of their leadership credentials and therefore a personal attack. Some are blissfully unaware of the potential risks of their leadership style while others would see their attendance at a training course as an admission that they have something still to learn and a reflection on their status as a “Club elder”.

Fortunately, there are many others who see their bushwalking “careers” as a continual learning experience, who are open to new ideas and are aware of their role and obligations as bushwalk leaders.

The task is to convince the less enthusiastic  leaders that there are still things to learn which will make Club walks more enjoyable for everyone.

Visit other relevant posts in this Bushwalk Leadership Series

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Bushwalk Leadership Training | Is it necessary?

Do bushwalk leaders need training from qualified instructors? Can you learn on-the-job?  Will formal leadership training spoil the informality of Club walks?

First of all, I have to admit that I need no convincing of the benefits of skill training for the outdoors.  I have always believed that training from qualified and experienced practitioners is the best and quickest way to develop skills and confidence in the outdoors. Whenever I have wanted to broaden my outdoor skills,  seeking qualified instructors has always been my first step, and I have then applied this training in my own environment and refined it to suit my personality and goals.

The argument about whether young adults should be taught to drive by their parents or by a qualified driving instructor is similar in my view to how you should learn a new outdoor skill? When I decided to get a small  bus licence a few years ago, my employer paid for some lessons and this taught me that parents are not the best instructors for a learner-driver to have. I soon found that I had developed lots of bad habits over the many years since I first sat for my own driving test, some of which would have been sufficiently serious to fail me in my bus driving test, if not corrected. What if I had tried to teach my own children to drive? Would I have passed on my bad habits to them?

Learning-on-the-job is often the best way to learn, but only if the mentor has kept up-to-date with recent advances and has broad experience outside the Club. Many Clubs have a leadership structure where “leaders-in-training” are assessed and coached by experience Club members, almost all of whom have had no formal training and most of whom, have learnt from other “senior” Club members, who in turn have learnt from other “senior” Club members. There is a real risk that bad habits are passed from one generation of Club members to the next and that this “in-breeding” becomes a Club tradition.

Some Clubs are openly antagonistic to ideas from outside which threaten the status quo and challenge the Club’s way of doing things. Sadly I can recall many years ago, when I was about to attend my first Club walk, being warned never to mention I had any formal bushwalking training.

In many Clubs things have not changed.

Formal leadership and skills training should not spoil the informality of Club walks, rather it should improve the enjoyment and safety of all.

Visit other relevant posts in this Bushwalk Leadership Series

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Risk Management on a Bushwalk

The biggest risk on a bushwalk is a mismatch between the leader’s skill level, the participant’s past experience and the difficulty of the walk.

The leader’s skill level must match closely the terrain, degree of isolation and the weather expected. That is why most leadership courses are tiered:

  • Day walk leader
  • Bushwalk leader
  • Advanced bushwalk leader

The Adventure Activity Standards [AAS] has a good outline of the differences in skill level required at each tier and distinguishes three levels of difficulty

1. Bushwalking Leader on Tracked or Easy Untracked (Easy)

Tracked or easy untracked areas are reliably marked on maps and are obvious on the
ground. Tracks are inspected on a regular basis and road or other safe catching features
are easily reached within 2 hours by applying elementary navigation principles.

2. Bushwalking Leader on Difficult and Trackless (Intermediate)

Difficult or trackless areas are where there are limited modifications to the natural
surface so that track alignment is indistinct in places; there is minimal clearance along
the track; signage is minimal and only for management purposes; there are terrain and
man-made hazards (such as cliff lines or dense forests); the possibility for changes in
weather and visibility exists.

3. Bushwalking Leader on Unmodified landscapes (Advanced)

Unmodified landscapes are those which are totally natural where there are no
modifications to the natural surface so that track alignment is indistinct and no clearance
along the track; there is no signage; the track is not managed for public risk and where
the onset of extreme environmental conditions has a significant adverse impact upon the
bushwalk.

Few Clubs have a formal structure to match the difficulty of the walk with the skills of the leader. Often this “approval” is an ad hoc process which involves the Club’s Walk’s Secretary, but without a formal structure it can fail eg when a there is a changeover of personnel or when the Walks Secretary has not actually walked the area himself/herself. There is a vast difference in being able to lead a walk along the Heysen trail and leading one into untracked and isolated areas such as the Mawson Plateau in SA or the Western Arthurs in Tasmania

Matching the experience of the participants with the difficulty of the walk is usually much better handled. Usually Club walks are coded according to difficulty, duration, and terrain so in theory the participants should self-select for the walks and there should be no problem.

Problems arise when the intended participant has no experience in the area to be walked and does not appreciate the difference between walking with a day pack in sunny weather along a well marked trail and carrying a 25 kg pack through mountainous terrain with a howling wind and sleet or snow. If the leader does not know the intended walker then there is the potential for this mismatch to be overlooked until it is too late, hence the need for a vetting system.

One way this problem can be overcome is for all walks to logged on the walker’s profile, along with the name of each leader, so that checks can easily be made of the walkers experience. Without a walker’s log, it is difficult to either locate relevant leaders, or to determine walker’s experience.

One alternative, is to take the group for a preparatory walk over some hilly terrain with a 25 kg bag of “lawn fertiliser” in each pack and satisfy yourself as leader that they are fit enough. Of course there is more than just physical fitness; mental fitness for a demanding walk is probably more important as is group compatibility.

Meet with your intended participants and chat about their past experience. Clubs which insist on face-to-face meeting between leaders and potential walkers as a pre-requisite for participation are “on the right track”.

See also:

Outdoor Recreation Industry Training Package

A Risk Management Framework (download pdf) (The Confederation of Bushwalking Clubs NSW, 2004)
RISK MANAGEMENT GUIDELINES for BUSHWALKING CLUBS  Federation of Victorian Walking Clubs (VicWalk 2004) Inc. (pdf format)
Guidelines for Leaders and Coordinators (pdf format) Canberra Bushwalking Club (June 2009)
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