Mountaineering proficiency

The strongest party consists of several climbers with a high degree of mountaineering proficiency—experienced, well-equipped, in good physical condition, with every skill for the climb at hand. What constitutes a weak party is not so easy to define. In some cases, a party is strong enough if it has only two strong climbers in addition to many weak members. In other situations, a group of ten strong climbers and one ineffective climber is too weak a party. A group with no experienced members is a weak party in any case.

The leader should be familiar with the climbers' abilities in order to know how to assign them. The leader may need a patient, reliable climber to encourage slow members at the rear of the group, or a pair of sharp routefinders to scout out the way ahead. If the leader is traveling near one end of a large party, an assistant should be assigned to help near the other end.

The leader also uses knowledge of the climbers' skills in setting up rope teams. In small parties, rope teams are usually formed by tacit agreement among members of the group. But in larger parties or in groups where the people are relative strangers, the leader may set up teams based on the climbers' experience, speed, and personality. Each team of experienced climbers should have enough strength to rotate the lead, sharing the work and giving less proficient climbers a chance to expand their experience.

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