An example

Consider the following situation. You are leading a day-walk party comprised of experienced and inexperienced walkers, some individuals with hearing impairment and some with mobility difficulties. A navigator has been delegated and you are walking in the middle of the party. While conversing with a party member who had shown some anxiety prior to the walk you notice that the person with mobility difficulties (Jack) is struggling more than anticipated and that this person’s carer (Jill) seems to be absorbed in walking up the hill, trying to ‘catch her breath’.

You speak with Jill and discover that she has asthma, although she did not previously declare it, and luckily she has brought her asthma reliever. She apologises for not noticing Jack’s difficulties. You speak with Jack and discover that although he is struggling, he wants to continue on but just needs to go at a slower pace. A check with the whip confirms that although not complaining, some of the others also seem to have difficulties with the pace.

Though you have an escape route nearby, your assessment indicates that both Jack and Jill can safely continue with the walk provided that the pace slows down. Nevertheless, you decide to have an early lunch and to follow a slightly shorter route. After a brief rest, you catch up and communicate this to everyone. Fortunately, your preparation has included the provision of a party member conversant in AUSLAN (Australian Sign Language) and for good measure you also learnt some of the basic signs such as yes, no and thank you.

A chat with the navigator and other interested party members ensures that the changes in plan are clearly understood. At lunch you pull out a frisbee from your pack and initiate some puzzles. Despite the frequent stops and slow pace, the faster walkers have something to entertain themselves with and frustration is minimised. It takes a long time before you return to camp, but it doesn’t matter because you allowed ample time for this.

In this example, appropriate planning, preparation and facilitation ensured that the outdoor experience is not only safe, but rewarding to all. Consider the difficulties that could have arisen if you had concerned yourself solely with navigation, or in only assisting one or two particular individuals. Depending on the communication skills of the party, it may have been some time until you were completely aware of the situation. At that stage, you may already have committed the group to the longer route. The morale of both the slower and faster party members could have deteriorated rapidly.

Prior reconnaissance assisted in determining potential lunch spots, clear areas for activities and route choices. This, together with good monitoring of the group provided you with options that could be decided upon quickly at the time of the activity. Use of a party member’s signing skills provided adequate communication for all and permitted more time to spend with other party members. Utilisation of navigation skills present in the group allowed you to spend resources on managing the group in a responsive manner. Allowance for mobility limitations lead to provision of alternative activities and a realistic arrival time.