Splitting the group

Many leaders of outdoor groups have found themselves under pressure to split the party. It may be due to injury or illness of a party member, serious disagreement among the members, or simply slow progress by the total group. Often the arguments in favour of splitting will include a quicker exit from an area in order to obtain outside help. This may be valid, provided that it does not endanger either the fast exit group or the residual group. Both must have reliable leadership and sufficient resources of equipment and food.

A split may be acceptable if the distance is short and the track and weather are both good, but in remote situations or bad weather it is very risky. It is rarely possible to justify sending a solo person to go for help. The risk of misadventure is too great. The general recommendation for minimum group size is four—should one person become unable to complete the trip, one can stay with the incapacitated person, and two can go for help. Larger groups offer more options if splitting the group has to be contemplated.

Leaders faced with a decision on whether to split a group should consider what they would tell the judge if something goes wrong. A few notes on paper made at the time may assist in the choice and will probably improve the judge’s understanding of the predicament.