Climbing Partner Expectations

Revised 10 Oct 1998
by Steve Eckert


On a 1998 climbing trip we had a good mix of "old hands" and "new 
folks"... who did a pretty good job of talking through all their 
differences in expectations about how a trip should go. It was clear that 
we all had different ideas about different aspects of the trip. Near the 
end of the trip we talked about putting together a checklist for finding 
out whether the people on your trip do things the way you expect. This 
document is the result.

Most of the items below have been the cause of disagreements on trips I've 
been part of, and it wasn't always pleasant. Other items were sent to me 
by people who read this document on an email list. I've been on both PCS 
and SPS trips where a driver decided to go home early, stranding a 
passenger. I've been on trips where people agreed to share gear, but 
refused to EVER carry it. I've been in carpools where someone OTHER than 
the owner hit an animal and caused damage to the car. My car sustained 
$400 of marmot damage and almost did not start. Once a bear peeled a car 
door back a bit just to verify that we had removed all the food. People 
show up with inadequate food because they thought the leader provided it.

Get the picture?

The idea below is that a leader/driver/owner/participant could check the 
appropriate line below and let others know what to expect. If you go with 
the same people all the time, you may not need to do this. Have you 
discussed all of these things with them? Is it worth risking a friendship 
to discuss them only AFTER there is a problem?

People responding to my email query also gave me these general comments:
- This survey ... will help to make unspoken assumptions explicit. It will 
also make people uncomfortable to talk about it but better uncomfortable 
than angry and upset when a misunderstanding of expectations occurs.
- I come self-sufficient. I will very rarely share any gear with anyone, 
except perhaps a rope. That way I don't get forced into abandoning a trip 
when the person I share with wants to leave.
- I am sure that the old pros have it all figured out but us beginners, 
and I suspect there are a lot of us, appreciate some guidelines coming 
from those with more experienced. I recently climbed Mt. Shasta and one of 
the climbers was in a hurry to get back causing me some extreme fatigue 
and some real anger and providing him with only a minor convenience.
- The set of misunderstood expectations is one of the reasons I stay away 
from group outings where I will have to deal with `unknown persons'.
- We all have cars and know the costs.  ...  The car donation is supposed 
to cover repairs as well as tires/oil.
- I'm a hiker/packpacker, not a climber.  If a list like this is really 
needed, that's another reason I'm not a climber.
- Very few of these issues have much to do with climbing. [meaning they 
are universal to all groups, not specific to climbing groups]
- If somebody else has strong opinions I'll do it their way rather than 
argue.  If it isn't fun enough I won't go with them again.
- If we would be careful of who handles our belay, why should we be less 
careful with carpool decisions?

SRE

* * * * * * * * * * * Climbing Partner Expectations * * * * * * * * * * *

The owner of the carpool vehicle
  __ gets reimbursed for _____% of the gas actually used
  __ charges ______ cents per mile per rider
  __ charges ______ cents per mile split between the riders
  __ charges a flat rate of $______ for the trip
(responses included: from 2.5 to 31 cents/mile split between riders, from 
50 to 75% of the gas actually used, from $30 to $50 flat rate per rider)

If carpool participants are charged by the mile the per-rider rate
  __ should be independant of the number of riders
  __ should be lower with more riders
(no concensus here: some felt that drivers should be encouraged to find 
more riders by getting more money, others felt that more riders meant less 
comfort and therefore a cheaper rate: I wonder if the split is between 
habitual drivers with large cars and habitual riders with old cars?)

When carpooling, you should expect to eat dinner
  __ before you meet
  __ in the car after stopping for fast food
  __ at a sit-down restaurant along the way
(since so much depends on the departure time and the length of the drive, 
there is no concensus - even those who expect fast food don't agree on 
whether to eat in the car or in the restaurant: be sure to ask the driver 
if it's OK before eating in the car because food is often spilled, 
staining the fabric and possibly attracting bears at the trailhead)

When carpooling, you should expect to be able to
  __ eat snacks in the car
  __ drink from a bottle with a screw top in the car
  __ drink from a fast food cup or pop-top can in the car
  __ smoke in the car
  __ none of the above unless the driver says OK
(not just about cleanliness, crumbs/drips/trash can provoke bear attacks)

When carpooling, you should expect to sleep
  __ at the trailhead even if there is no camping allowed
  __ at a campground along the way where you have to pay
  __ part way to the trailhead, with an early morning drive
(most felt sleeping at the trailhead is expected, even if it is illegal!)

When carpooling, you should expect the driving to be
  __ done entirely by the driver
  __ split between the owner and those who are approved by the owner
(most expected the riders to help drive if the owner asks: make sure 
people can drive a manual transmission if you have one!)

The permit cost (generally $3 per person reserved) should be
  __ split among those who ACTUALLY go on the trip
  __ split among those who SIGN UP for the trip even if they cancel
  __ paid for by the leader

You should get to the trailhead
  __ when the leader plans to meet so you can eat and pack
  __ when the leader said to be ready, with your pack, ready to walk
(most expect the meeting time to be a departure time, not a time to start 
packing, but personal experience indicates people are seldom ready to go 
and this often causes conflict: know if your riders need to repack!)

You should expect to start hiking after a night on the trail
  __ at a pre-arranged time of day, no matter how long it takes to get up
  __ at a pre-arranged number of minutes after the leader wakes you up
  __ after you have had enough sleep to be comfortable
(not actually being ready at the agreed "leave time" because it takes
longer for some people to wake up and eat is a serious source of conflict)

You should expect to get back to your car
  __ when your driver wants to, even if the trip is cut short
  __ when the entire group returns to the trailhead
  __ after climbing the last scheduled peak, even if it's late
  __ in time to drive home befor dinner on the last day of the trip
  __ before ______ AM/PM on the last day of the trip
(most expect to return to the cars as a group, even if it's very late: 
many said those with schedule limitations are obligated to mention their 
needs before the trip and should not expect others to cut the trip short 
or hurry out unless a specific return time has been pre-arranged, some 
think the driver is king and can tell riders to abort the trip early)

When leaving the group, participants are expected to
  __ leave at any time they wish, going ahead or staying behind
  __ notify the leader and sign out before leaving
  __ get concensus from all participants before leaving
(by far most expect people to sign out before leaving and most expect the 
leader to exercise good judgement about safety: few think concensus is 
needed, and most think this item should be pre-specified by the leader)

If someone can't keep up, they should
  __ stay behind and/or climb alone
  __ set the pace for the entire group
  __ split the group into different speed sub-groups
  __ turn around and go back to the trailhead
(most expect the slow person to turn back alone, some think the group 
should match the slowest pace, but none the fast should pull away from the 
slow unless that was the original plan or all are willing to split into 
sub-groups: if you split, be sure to specify meeting time/place or make it 
clear that no search will be started even if people are lost or hurt!)

If someone has a water filter, it should
  __ be used by that person alone
  __ becomes group gear in an emergency
  __ be shared by everyone who wants it
  __ be shared by those who agree to carry it in advance
(most agree water filters are assumed to be group gear in an emergency, 
but several pointed out that purification tablets should be carried by 
everyone and that drinking bad water will not keep you from hiking out: 
this definition makes a true water emergency unlikely, but don't assume 
people will be willing to risk getting sick just because they did not 
carry the filter - personal experience indicates that people sometimes get 
angry when you refuse to let them use a filter even in non-emergencies)
(NOTE: one person said it always happens that others will presume they can 
use a filter, so just count on that and solicit people to carry it!)

If someone has a good (or heavy) first aid kit, others should
  __ carry their own and use only what they bring
  __ assume they can use anyone's kit, unless they will use up supplies
  __ assume they can use anyone's kit, even if they use up supplies
  __ take turns carrying the heavy one as group gear
(most expect each person to carry and use their own first aid kit, many 
agree that a group kit is a good idea if it is agreed to in advance, but 
some expect to use supplies regardless of who purchased or carried them)
(personal experience indicates that revealing how good your first aid or 
repair kit is may mean your supplies are used up before you need them: 
holding supplies in reserve for your own use makes people angry, and some 
people intentionally leave their first aid kits behind if you have one)

If someone has a GPS, HAM radio, or cell phone, it is
  __ a bad thing to take into the wilderness, and should be left at home
  __ personal gear like a camera and the owner carries it
  __ group gear (like a rope), and group weight is shared
  __ group gear only if it is needed, and weight is not shared
(almost all expect a GPS to be personal gear, no one said what happens if 
the group is lost: does the GPS owner ditch the group, or does the GPS 
become group gear that the group did not have to carry? see water filters, 
and consider whether you would want a HAM radio if you broke your leg)

If someone runs out of sunscreen, bug juice, fuel, etc, they should
  __ tough it out or go home early
  __ beg or borrow only in an emergency
  __ ask nicely but don't demand that others make up the shortage
  __ expect others to happily make up the shortage
  __ pay for what they need at ____ times the retail price
(most expect an accidental shortage will be covered by the group, most 
think habitual scrounges should be excluded from future trips, few expect 
a prepared person to help a lazy person unless there is truly a surplus,
but it's easier to get supplies if you offer a backcountry premium price!)

Dinners other than while driving should be
  __ provided by the leader (group comisary)
  __ shared by those sharing a stove
  __ packed and prepared by each person
(most expect individual food, unless pre-arranged with stove partner)

The person who provides a shared stove should
  __ bring a pot for heating water only
  __ bring a pot for cooking food in
  __ assume the pot(s) will be provided by someone else
(most assume the stove provider is also a pot provider, but pots and stoves
sometimes need to match carefully to avoid waste: be sure yours will fit)

If you plan to cook food in a pot (vs. just heating water) you should
  __ plan on using the group pot, even if others just want hot water
  __ bring your own pot even if there is a group pot
(many expect the group pot to be used only for heating water, some feel the
pot owner has more of a right to mess it up than anyone else, others expect
that anyone needing to do more than heat water will bring a personal pot)
(NOTE: many people do not carry soap in the backcountry, even when simmering)

If the car breaks down
  __ everyone splits the cost
  __ the owner (or their insurance) pays the cost
  __ the person driving (or their insurance) pays the cost
  __ the person driving pays the cost if the driver is at fault
(most expect the owner to cover the cost and average that cost into the 
carpool fees: some said negligent drivers should pay for things like 
running the engine too fast or burning up the brakes downhill)

If the car is damaged (pothole, animal, accident) while driving
  __ everyone splits the cost
  __ the owner (or their insurance) pays the cost 
  __ the person driving (or their insurance) pays the cost
(most expect the owner to cover the cost: some said negligence on the part 
of a driver may obligate the driver to pay assuming it can be proven, 
others think the insurance deductible should be split, many distinguish 
between true accidents and avoidable damage such as rear-ending someone)

If the car is damaged (while parked) by an animal
  __ everyone splits the cost
  __ the owner (or their insurance) pays the cost
  __ the person(s) who left food in the car pay(s) the cost
(no concensus: a majority expect the owner to cover the cost, others think 
the damage should be split, others think the insurance deductible should 
be split: how much do you know about a specific car's insurance coverage?)

If the driver gets a speeding ticket
  __ the owner pays even not driving
  __ the driver pays even if told to drive faster
  __ the driver gets a record, everyone else pays
  __ everyone splits the cost
(most expect the driver to take responsibility, some assume the owner is 
liable for the choice of drivers: many pointed out is it inappropriate to 
tell a driver to break the law)

If the car is driven or parked illegally and gets a ticket
  __ the person who drove pays even if told where to go
  __ those who decided where to go pay, those who disagreed do not
  __ the owner pays
  __ everyone splits the cost
(most expect the driver to take responsibility, but there is less of a 
concensus than with speeding because parking tickets may be accidental and 
because the owner has ultimate responsibility for the car)

If shared gear (stove, rope, filter, tent) is damaged or lost
  __ the owner has to live with(out) it or replace/repair it
  __ the person(s) using at the time pay full cost to replace/repair
  __ the person(s) using buy the item at depreciated value
(a slim majority expect that the person(s) damaging it pay(s) to replace, 
many think the owner pays, some think the cost should be shared: there was 
no agreement on using full or depreciated cost to replace or repair)

If shared gear wears out from "natural causes" and not damage
  __ the owner has to replace
  __ the person(s) using at the time pay full cost to replace
  __ the person(s) using buy damaged item at depreciated value
(most expect wear and tear is the responsibility of the owner)

Expensive shared gear like expedition tents and should be
  __ used at no charge (just take turns)
  __ paid for based on estimated life (200 nights --> $4/night, etc.)
(most expect no charge to use gear, which is why I seldom provide a tent 
or other expensive item except to those who have similar gear that I can use)