This week, a group of sixty Hungarian hikers got stranded in the Austrian Alps when their drunken guide wandered off. It took twelve rescuers to get the group down safely, especially when the weather took a turn for the worse.
Being a hiking guide is a huge responsibility. Not only do you have to take care of others, you also have to make sure that you’re healthy and energetic enough to lead the rest of the group. Seems like no-brainer, right? Well, despite the fact that a hiking guide is a human just like me and you, getting drunk is just one of the few things you shouldn’t do if you’re in this position.
1. Be Under the Influence
Having a shot or a beer while in the backcountry isn’t a crime. Though as a group leader, you shouldn’t really encourage this kind of thing, especially when it can just cause your hikers to become dehydrated quicker in the heat. If you want to lead a celebratory drink at the end of a hike, that’s one thing, but by no means should you be like this Hungarian tour guide. Be a good influence, not under the influence. (This goes for drugs as well.)
Being a hiking guide is hard, especially during the hot months of summer. We get it. We feel your pain. But, there’s no reason you should have to express that pain so much to your group members. If the hiking gets difficult for you, try to use that to fuel your energy. If you’re feeling stressed, imagine how everyone else is feeling. Keep it to yourself.
3. Get Lost
No one’s perfect, and it’s not unheard of to take a wrong turn here and there. But, as a hiking guide, you should probably have more than a general idea of where you’re leading your group to, as well as a few other routes in mind in case something unexpected comes up. Study your map before you go, please. You definitely don’t want to have to ask one of your hikers which way to go!
4. Forget Gear
While most hiking trips involved the participants bringing their own gear, there are a few things you should have in surplus in case someone is without. Jerry cans, first-aid kits, an emergency blanket, flares, fire starters, etc. After all, you will be in charge of helping a distressed hiker as well as making sure your entire group is safe.
5. Lack First-Aid Skills
Even if your company doesn’t require you to be certified in first-aid (which would be ridiculous), you should probably be more than familiar with CPR or safety, anyway. A hiking guide should know how to take care of his or her group if someone gets injured or falls ill. He or she should know how to evaluate someone’s situation if it’s too serious too handle, thus calling in extra help.
6. Be Unapproachable
You’re the hiking guide! You should welcome your fellow hikers with open arms. If they have questions to ask you about the trail or anything to do with the outdoors, or even about what you did last weekend, you should be able to hold a conversation. Nobody wants their hiking guide to be unapproachable or unfriendly. Be nice, and it will totally make for a positive atmosphere. Also, talking helps as a distraction so people can push through when it becomes too hot.
7. Look Confused or Worried
People are trusting you. Like, a lot. You’re pretty much the flight attendant of the outdoors. If something goes wrong, you are the one that needs to remain calm for everyone else. We know it’s hard, but the more you stay calm, the more your group will follow suit. If you happen to find yourself in danger, as confused or worried as you might feel, don’t show it on your face.
8. Fall Behind
Not for nothing, without trying to criticize anyone who hasn’t hit the gym in a while, a hiking guide should lead the way for the rest of the group. This means you should probably be in decent shape, or at least have enough intrinsic motivation to push through ahead of everyone. Would you want a personal trainer who’s yawning all the time? Probably not.
9. Look Unprofessional
This should apply to all seasons of the year. However, in the summer, it’s especially hard to wear attire that’s fit for the trail but also makes you look like you know what you’re doing. Get yourself a nice hiking wardrobe, and try to invest a little more than your normally would in your clothes and personal gear. While you’re not quite modeling for an outdoor magazine, it wouldn’t hurt to look the part.
10. Forget to Smile!
Being a hiking guide can have its moments, there’s no doubt about that. But, any job that works with serving people requires a personality that shines, even in the dullest moments. You might have people in your group who are first-timers, that aren’t so quick to meet others. Maybe they’re just having a bad day. Whatever it is, your job is to make them love hiking. Wearing a smile on your face can really make a world of difference.
If you are a hiking guide or you’re thinking about becoming one this season, make sure you never do any of these.