Whenever you decide to embark on a trip of this magnitude, it pays to have a few buddies that are eager to come along. Being selective when choosing your hiking partners, however, is one of the most important lessons I took away from my experience on the JMT.
Our group was seven strong when we set forth from Yosemite Valley. As you might expect, seven strong male egos didn't necessarily agree on every decision that the group made. In some cases, this brought unnecessary drama to our group dynamic.
Decisions on the trail basically boil down as follows: when to stop, when to go, and where to camp. Pumping water happens when it's necessary. Making food happens when it's necessary. Getting rid of yesterday's food happens when it's necessary.
While there are really very few important decisions that need to be made on a daily basis while hiking the JMT, small disagreements can easily blossom into larger issues, if unchecked.
In a larger group, attempts at a democratic decision making process are inevitable. Regardless of the decisions that are eventually made, it's important that individual members do not become overly attached to these decisions, regardless of whether they go your way or not.
Nobody likes losing a group vote, but enjoying your time on the JMT is about much more than winning or losing. If you choose to hike in a large group, you should be aware that you must be willing to make compromises from time to time. Maintaining your group's chemistry will depend upon it.
When selecting your hiking partners, it's important to consider if you'd had prior experience with each potential group member in pressure situations. It's also relevant to consider processes you might use to facilitate group decisions that everyone can live with.
In my opinion, a solid group of no more than four or five would be optimal. It also pays to have previous experience with your hiking partners and knowledge of how they prefer to hike.
When it comes to covering long distances, every person has a preferred pace. Respecting "personal pace", as well as establishing protocols for the maintenance of everyone's safety, are two of the most important facets of hiking cohesively in a larger group.
- Choose your 'Team' Wisely
- Experiment with Food Before You Go
- Pack Light
- Break in your Boots
- Expect the Unexpected
- Concluding Thoughts
# WORDS: 2160
# PHOTOS: 14