Keeping the party together

A critical responsibility of leadership is keeping the party together in order to concentrate strength and maintain communication. It's easy to divide up in the course of the trip, drifting into weak splinter groups. Some parties are large enough to divide into self-sufficient subgroups, but each subgroup must have adequate strength and leadership to meet its goals.

In small parties of equally proficient climbers, it's fairly simple to keep people together; if one lags, the others usually recognize the problem and slow their pace. In larger parties, the leader and assistants must work together to keep their group from splitting into independent fragments. This situation arises most often within organized club outings and climbing courses. Leaders of these groups may need to exert considerable control to keep the lead rope team from charging ahead, losing contact with climbers on the last rope.

It's even harder to keep a party together on the descent than it is on the way up. The leader, normally the last person off the mountain, must lay out crystal-clear instructions for where and when the party will meet in case of a separation. Glissading often results in breaking up parties. The fast, experienced glissaders are off the bottom of the run and on their way long before the last members of the group can overtake them. The leader should require a rendezvous of the entire party reasonably

406 ♦ SAFETY AND LEADERSHIP

near the end of any major glissade. If the leader can hold the group to a pace everyone can maintain, there's little danger the party will be weakened by fragmentation or by having to search for a missing climber.

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