Glenwalk Leaders Guidelines Compass

(Updated May 2017)

The purpose of these Guidelines is to provide Club Leaders with a list of recommendations to assist them with leading and in particular ensuring that a standard of reasonable care is discharged including watchfulness, caution and prudence when leading Club walks.


1.         GENERAL

1.1     All members of the Club who participate in Club activities do so at their own risk. As set out in the Membership Terms and Conditions of Glenwalk Hillwalking Club (the “Club”) – mountaineering (including hillwalking, climbing, rambling and road walking) is an activity with a danger of personal injury or death.

1.2     The Club is managed by a voluntary committee and all Leaders are members of the Club and are also volunteers.

1.3     A Leader must be a member of the Club – this includes coverage by Mountaineering Ireland insurance


2.1     A Leader must create a “Route Card” when leading a Club walk and should follow the Club guidelines in relation to time/distance/ascent as shown below.


Average Distance

Average Height Gain

Average Duration


6 -12 km

500 metres

4 – 5 hours


8 – 15 km

700 metres

4.5 – 5 hours


10 – 16 km

900 metres

4.5 – 5 hours


13 – 19 km

1,100 metres

4.5 – 6 hours


15 – 24 km

1, 300 metres

5 – 6 hours


Note: Parameters should only be exceeded where the Leader is confident that the Naismith Rule does not apply, e.g. while walking on a road or track rather than rough hill or mountain terrain.

2.2        The purchase of a GPS is strongly recommended, however it does not substitute the requirement for a Leader to have a map, compass and route plan.

2.3        All Leaders must present a copy of their route cards or an outline of their route to the Walks co-ordinator detailing: time, distance, height and overview of route.

Note 1: The Walks Coordinator will generally request all routes in advance of the scheduled walk and it is the responsibility of the Leader to notify the Walks Coordinator of any changes to the planned route submitted.

Note 2: On Club Weekends away the Walks Notices should be provided in advance to the Walks Co-Ordinator. Posting up Walk Notices is the responsibility of the Walks Co-Ordinator for that weekend.

2.4        To the extent possible, Leaders should be familiar with the route they are guiding, especially their entry and exit points.  Identification of early exit points or alternative return routes is strongly recommended, especially in preparation for situations involving deterioration of weather.  

Note: It is strongly recommended that for “local” Sunday/Saturday walks in Wicklow, a Leader should undertake a recce in advance of the walk.  It is accepted that a recce may not be possible on a weekend away in an area unfamiliar to the Leader.

2.5        To the extent possible, when planning a route for the slower walks, Leaders should try to plan the easier section of the route towards the end of the walk.  A good rule of thumb in relation to slopes is:  “up steep, down gentle”.

2.6        A Leader should only lead a walk that is within their fitness level.

2.7        It is recommended that the Leader gets a weather forecast on the day of the walk.

2.8        For weekends away, Leaders should keep in mind when planning a route in locations such as Kerry or Connemara that the terrain is much steeper than in Wicklow and as such will slow the group down considerably. Leaders are advised to plan their walks in these areas accordingly.

2.9        A Leader may extend or curtail a walk as they see fit however they should aim to return to the start point / cars before darkness.

3          WALK START

3.1    All Leaders should be properly equipped when leading, including: map, compass, watch, torch (with back up battery and bulb), whistle, first aid kit , bivvy bag and a mobile phone.  A GPS and the ability to use it is strongly recommended.

3.2     In situations where a Leader believes there are too many people in the group at the start of a walk, then the Leader may take measures they deem necessary to manage the walk.  Options may include:

  • Split the walk if there is another Leader available on the day; or
  • Request that people join another walk in order to reduce the size of the group.

Note 1: Itis important to note that either option will have to be done at the walk start before the other groups leave and ensure the Walks co-ordinator is also engaged in the decision.

Note 2:  There may also be situations whereby the Leaders may propose to a walker(s) they undertake an easier walk if the Leader, in his/her experience with the route and with the walker(s), deems that it may jeopardise the safety or enjoyment of the group as a whole.

3.3     A Leader should appoint a “Backmarker” at the start of the walk and:

  • Identify the Backmarker to the group
  • Ensure the Backmarker has a whistle
  • Communicate regularly throughout the walk with the Backmarker and
  • Consider changing the Backmarker during the walk and ensure the group has been advised of the change
  • It is up to the Leader (not the Back Market) to ensure that the distance between him/herself and the end of the group does not become too great

Important note: The Backmarker does not bear ANY leadership responsibility and they are simply a walker who identifies the end of the group.

3.4     Leaders should inform walkers that they must tell the Leader (or the Backmarker who then must inform the Leader) if they wish to make a stop.

Note: When making a “comfort” stop it is important that it is organised in such a way that thegroup is not left hanging around for too long.  Such a break should take place where the walker does not have to go too far to seek privacy.

3.5     A Leader may elect to check a walker’s equipment before the start of the walk to ensure the walker has suitable attire and necessary equipment (e.g. hill walking boots, rucksack, whistle rain jacket, etc.)   People incorrectly attired (i.e. wearing denims, no hill walking boots, etc.) should be advised that they are not permitted to join the walk.

3.6     A Leader should count the number of walkers in the group at the start.


4.1     Leaders should endeavour to create an atmosphere of calm and control on their walks, bearing in mind that people are out to enjoy themselves.

4.2     The Leader should endeavour to set a pace that is reasonable for the walk level.

REMEMBER – You can only go as fast as your slowest walker!

4.3     The Leader should stay at the front of the walk.

4.4     The Leader should consider stopping at regular intervals, make contact with the Backmarker and count the group numbers.

4.5     A Leader should aim to have lunch at about 1.30 pm, to the extent possible and practical for the route.  A Leader may also consider using the lunch break as an opportunity to organise a split of the group (e.g. if walkers are too slow, group is too large, etc.).

4.6     A Leader may elect to keep the lunch stop short or alternatively plan 2 short lunch stops when walking conditions are not favourable such as inclement, wet or cold weather (please refer to point 5.2)

4.7     It is recommended that a Leader stops regularly (depending on the walk level) and may wish to also consider informing the group of the progress of the walk, (e.g. how much has been covered, what distance/time is left, lunch stop etc.)

4.8     When there is a break or stop, it is recommended that the Leader does not restart the walk until everyone is wearing their rucksack. The best rule of thumb here is not to start walking if you see a rucksack on the ground.  A Leader may wish to remind walkers of this recommendation. It is also useful to try and identify why a rucksack is still on the ground.

4.9    Leaders should stop at the far side of obstacles such as fences, walls rivers etc. until the last person is over.    A Leader should organise people to aid in the crossing of rivers and only continue the walk when the last person has crossed.


5.1     Leaders may wish to keep stops, including the lunch break, short if conditions are cold and/or wet.

5.2    Leaders should keep the group together by stopping more frequently in  conditions of poor visibility, high winds, difficult terrain, etc.  A Leader may change the route if necessary.  The Leader may also elect to end the walk entirely and return the group back to the walk start/ car park.

5.3     Leaders should monitor any deterioration in weather conditions during the walks or any changes in walking conditions which may come about with an increase in altitude.  Some key points to consider include:

  • Temperature drops by 1 degree Celsius for every 150 metres of ascent
  • Factors affecting temperature may also include: slope aspect (e.g. North/South facing), wind speed, time of day, cloud cover (or lack of cloud cover)
  • It is suggested that the “rule of thumb” used is if the snow is too hard to kick in toe holds, then Leaders should seek, to the extent possible, bringing the group down to a lower altitude

6        EMERGENCY

6.1     Mountain Rescue telephone is 112.  Leaders should note that in an emergency a Text Message/SMS may get through where when a phone call won’t.

6.2     Whistle: 6 blasts per minute in rapid succession indicates distress, 3 per minute to respond.


7.1     Leaders must information the Walks Co-ordinator of any serious incident that occurs on a Club walk.

7.2     Minor Injury:  Where a minor injury occurs and a walker is unable to continue the planned walk route but is able to return to the walk start/cars then the Leader should appoint someone to return with them.  The Leader should ensure they are equipped with a map (and knows how to use it) and then continue with the walk as planned. The Leader should also inform the Walks Coordinator of such an occurrence.

7.3     Major Injury:  Where a serious injury occurs whereby a walker is unable to continue the Leader should first decide whether it is prudent to continue with the walk.  The Leader may elect to appoint another “Leader” to continue with the walk or to return to the walk start / cars with the main body of walkers and remain behind with suitably equipped volunteers.

7.4     Major Injury:  A Leader should deal with the injury as they see fit e.g. call-out Mountaint Rescue (Telephone: 112). Remember: the whole group is at risk when you are stopped for a lengthy period of time due to an injury to a walker. The Leader must also inform the Walks Coordinator of such an occurrence.


8.1    When a Leader is unhappy with a walker who refuses to follow instructions or undertakes actions which undermines the Leaders ability to manage the walk, then a Leader may inform the walker that they cannot accept responsibility for them and that they no longer consider them part of the walk.  A Leader is advised to ensure there is a witness to this conversation.  The Leader should also inform the Walks Coordinator of such an occurrence upon completion of the walk.

8.2     A walker leaving the group should inform the Leader of the walk.  The Leader should advise the walker that they are no longer considered part of the group. A Leader is advised to ensure there is a witness to this conversation.

8.3     When a Leader has a walker(s) in their group who is/are unreasonably slow and the Leader deems is/are jeopardising the safety of the group or the enjoyment of the walk, then it is recommended that the Leader either:

  • Shortens the walk
  • Elects to send the slow walker(s)  back to the walk start/ cars accompanied by one or more persons or
  • Split the walk, on the basis there is a second Leader is available

The incident should be discussed with the walker.  This should also be reported to the Walks Coordinator at the end of the walk.


  • Note that it can take a walker the first 10 to 20 minutes before they realise that they are unfit for that particular walk especially if the walk starts with a climb
  • On steep ground where a walker is unsure of themselves, a Leader may undertake measures to make them feel secure such as walking just below them. This is the same for whether you are going uphill or downhill. This technique is known as “spotting”
  • It helps to demonstrate correct footwork on descending steep ground. Do not rush people
  • Some walkers may get dehydrated as a result of overheating and therefore a Leader may elect to stop shortly after the beginning of a walk to allow walkers in the group to take off a layer
  • It is recommended that Leaders stop approximately five minutes after heading up the slope and suggest to walkers that it is a good time to remove a layer. Note that this also applies to any period during the walk where the group may have stopped for a while, e.g. waiting for slower walkers to catch up, after lunch etc., and may have put their warm gear back on
  • Not everyone has a platypus and therefore a Leader may wish to consider that stops are made to allow people to take a drink of water
  • It is important to remember that a whistle can only be heard over a short distance and therefore Leaders should endeavour not to allow the walk to stretch too much