For Leaders

The New Mexico Mountain Club (NMMC) Outings Leaders are outdoor enthusiasts who enjoy leading others in the outdoors. It is important to understand they are volunteers and are not compensated in any way for organizing and leading activities.  Volunteer leaders are not trained in wilderness first aid, survival or other skills. 

To maintain a basic level of consistency in leadership, the NMMC assists in developing and vetting Outings Leaders who must meet the following criteria:

  1. You are a member in good standing and have attended a minimum of three outings.
  2. You demonstrate a familiarity and agreement with the guidelines of the NMMC Outings Leader Handbook.
  3. You have acted as an “Event Host” on at least two (2) Class 2 or lower outings pre-approved by the Outings Chair. 
  4. Your outings as Event Host result in feedback from participants and Outings Leaders indicating a demonstrated spirit of inclusivity and sensitivity to group welfare as well as adherence to club standards outlined in this handbook.

With the above criteria met, a Member/Event Host may be upgraded to Event Organizer status at the discretion of the Outings Chair.

Becoming a leader is not difficult…many seasoned leaders are eager to assist you as a mentor. Contact the Outings Chair today to learn how to connect with a mentor.
 

Leading Fun, Safe Outings

There is something special about being an Outings Leader for the New Mexico Mountain Club. You choose when and where you want to go. And, you have the opportunity to share your experiences with others who really appreciate it. Ultimately, your leadership style is your own. This handbook is intended to help you be successful. As a recognized outings leader, the board and Outings committee expects you will appreciate the information here and conduct outings in the spirit it conveys. 

But what does it take to be an Outings Leader? Is it difficult? How do you learn the "tricks of the trade?" Will others accept you as a leader? This following will help you be successful.

In a nutshell: You are the boss. Participants are expecting you to make decisions. With that comes the need to prepare well and ensure the details of your outing are fully communicated to all participants, including last-minute changes. In situations involving health or safety, the best advice is to be conservative. Know your participants’ capabilities. If you don’t have personal knowledge and confidence of any participant’s abilities, including their fitness, equipment, or compatibility with your outing choice (i.e. exposure, long distance, difficult conditions), you must contact them in advance of the outing to make sure they are prepared on every level. Not doing so can very likely compromise an outing as it progresses, causing other participants disappointment and/or grave circumstances.

Before the outing:

  • Determine where to go.
  • Know how to get there.
  • Rate/classify your outing. Write an accurate, detailed trip description. Never use the word “easy” in the description.
  • Vet your participants. If you don’t know their ability, you must contact them in advance.
  • Although not required, it’s a good idea to have a “Plan B” alternative destination during months when the weather is known to be less predictable.

At the meeting place:

  • Arrive early.
  • Have all participants sign the Trip Sign-In Waiver form.
  • Review with participants the destination, difficulty, trail condition, length of outing, elevation gain, length of drive, weather prediction, estimated time of return and any other special details of the trip such as whether you are going to stop for dinner after the hike. Never understate the difficulty of the outing.
  • Make sure participants have the proper equipment and enough food and water.
  • Organize drivers and equip them with the route, stopping places, and a map, if needed.
  • Make sure riders know driver reimbursement policy.
  • If you determine a participant is not prepared, equipped or otherwise qualified for the outing, you should deny him/her permission to go on the trip. This can be difficult and should be handled as diplomatically as possible. Other qualified leaders should back up the outing leader on this issue.

At the trailhead and on the route:

  • Make sure all participants are ready to go including before you travel to the trailhead or starting point, after every break, and at the trailhead.
  • Designate sweep to bring up the rear and/or divide group with co-leader; last check of equipment; persons in carpool keep track of each other, etc.
  • Lead the hike at the pace you announced to the group (start slower than your normal pace so people can warm up).
  • Ensure sufficient rest, food/snack and bio-breaks are taken.

Return to the trailhead:

  • Ensure everyone has returned to trailhead and that all carpoolers are with their driver.
  • Leave only when all vehicles have started.
  • If the road is bad, consider one of these alternatives: 1) have the best 4x4 vehicle bring up the rear at least as far as the main highway, or 2) lead the way, keeping other vehicles in sight.
  • Return to meeting place.


Types of Outings/Classification/Liability/Waivers/Driver Reimbursement

Outings Classification:
All leaders must be familiar with the ratings system and designate an outing accordingly. You should be familiar with the trail, or know the area well before you lead a hike in order to classify it appropriately; alternatively, you may list the hike as “exploratory” (see note). While most participants will clearly understand the NMMC hike classification system and make their choices accordingly, you should not assume all do.

  • CLASS 1: Slow pace, usually on trail, 1-1.5 miles/hour; less than 1,000 feet elevation gain
     
  • CLASS 1+: Moderate pace, 2 miles/hour or less; less than 1,000 feet elevation gain
     
  • CLASS 2: Moderate pace, 2 miles/hour or less; 1,000-2,000 feet elevation gain
     
  • CLASS 2+: Brisk pace, 2-3 miles/hour; 2,000-3,000 feet elevation gain
     
  • CLASS 3: Brisk pace or faster, 2-3 miles/hour; greater than 3,000 feet elevation gain; Leaders may choose this designation at their discretion if trip has unusual difficulties.
     
  • CLASS 3+: Arduous day hikes and backpacks, requiring excellent physical condition, i.e. a 12-hour day climbing peaks over 14,000 feet above sea level.
     
  • CLASS 4: Mountaineering trip requiring use of ice axe and crampons or roping up for protection. Leaders must have a club technical climb rating. Leaders may require participants to also be rated for technical climbing or have comparable experience.
     
  • EXPLORATORY: In addition to a class rating, a trip may be designated with an “E” for exploratory. This is a trip that the leader has not done before, or not done within the last five years, or for which the leader is uncertain about some aspect of the proposed route. Participants should be experienced, expect that plans may go awry, and be prepared to use emergency gear.

Backpacking:
You carry your own eating, sleeping, and shelter gear to the campsite, as well as your share of group items. The leader may impose any appropriate limitations. Difficulty may range from Class I to technical climbs. Contact the leader for details.

Snowshoeing:
You provide your own snowshoes affixed to your hiking boots. High gaiters are strongly encouraged. Ice traction is also recommended for sections of trail where snowshoes are not adequate, such as MicroSpikes or YakTrax. There are several beginners' snowshoe trips each winter for those new to the sport.

Car Camping:
You can drive to where you sleep. Bring your own sleeping gear, shelter, and eating utensils. The leader may choose to arrange some group meals. The leader may limit the size of the party or limit it to only NMMC members, or impose other limitations based on his/her own best judgment.

Note: The club reserves the right to deny a member to lead any outing for which he/she is deemed sufficiently unprepared.

Liability:
The club accepts no liability for a participant’s well-being during an outing. Outings leaders are volunteers who are not trained to administer first aid or provide a first aid kit; neither are they required to allow anyone not properly prepared, equipped or experienced on an outing. All participants are responsible for their own well-being and providing their own gear. The success of an outing depends on teamwork between leaders and participants.

Waivers / Sign in Sheet:
Ensure all participants sign the waiver prior to beginning an outing (a parent or legal guardian must sign for minor children). Send completed waivers to the Outings Chair. We keep a file of these for our information should problems arise on an outing and also to survey the number of participants and membership status.

Driver Reimbursement:

The Club encourages carpooling to minimize impact on roadways, trail heads, and create community and safety in numbers. We recognize drivers take on significant responsibility to keep their vehicles safe, fueled and road ready. Besides the cost of gasoline, drivers may bear additional costs due to the increased probability of vehicle damage during an outing; in these situations there are also intangible costs of time, effort and inconvenience to repair a vehicle after an unexpected incident. Therefore the Club suggests each passenger pay the driver $0.15/mile plus a $0.05/mile surcharge for miles with “exceptional road conditions”. Leaders are encouraged to scout off-road conditions in advance, estimate the number of miles considered exceptional, and include that information in the outing announcement. If unexpected exceptional road conditions are discovered en route, drivers should measure those miles via odometer. Important: use of high clearance/SUV is NOT a sole factor for surcharge; only road condition is the determining factor (i.e. low clearance vehicle drivers may collect the surcharge rate for exceptional road condition miles they are willing to drive). Additionally, leaders may require high clearance vehicles at their discretion, but only miles with exceptional conditions qualify for the surcharge rate. Passengers should bring exact change to the meeting place. Under this policy an outing involving 120 paved miles plus 16 exceptional miles, regardless of the type of vehicle used, would cost each passenger approximately $21.00. 

What to Bring (Leaders and Participants)

Footwear:
Hiking boots for rugged conditions (with firm ankle support and lug soles). Running, cross training, or walking shoes (except as a change of footwear when crossing streams) are discouraged. Additionally, proper hiking socks. Cotton should be avoided. Wearing a sock liner is advisable. Not having proper footwear is grounds for the leader to turn away a participant at the meeting place.

Day pack:
Ensure all your gear fits in a sturdy 1,500 -2,500 cubic inch (25-41 liters) pack.

Ten Essentials:
Extra water and food; Extra clothing appropriate for the season (rain gear, dry socks, gloves or mittens, warm layer, warm hat); Sunglasses and sunscreen; First Aid Kit; Pocket knife; Matches/lighter/fire starter; Whistle; Headlamp or flashlight and extra batteries. In addition Leaders must have (and participants are encouraged to have) a Map of the area to be hiked and a Compass, which you know how to use.  Remember: even if you are not the cause of an emergency situation, you may still be involved in one.

First Aid Kit:
First aid manual, personal medication, antiseptic, gauze roll and pad, razor blades and needle, Band-Aids, tweezers, adhesive tape, aspirin or other pain medicine, ace bandage, soap, safety pins, burn ointment, antacid tablets and diarrhea medicine.

Water:
This is outing dependent, but generally two quarts, and at least three quarts in the summer months or for desert hiking; electrolyte replacement recommended.

Food:
i.e. lunch and snacks, including quick energy foods

Toilet kit: in plastic bag

Water purification: tablets or filter device

Gaiters:
For snowy, wet conditions, water crossings, or off-trail debris

Blister protection


Handling Emergencies or Unexpected Events

Injured, Ill, or Incapacitated Participant: S.T.O.P.
(Sit, Think, Observe, Plan). Everyone must remain calm. The leader must assess the situation and determine what the problem is. It may be the person just needs a short rest, some medication, or equipment adjustment. If the situation is serious, alternatives include assisting the person in returning to the trailhead, or, if necessary, sending a volunteer for assistance. It is the leader’s responsibility to tell the person that he/she can’t go on, or end the hike and assist the injured/ill person back to the trailhead. Many times people won’t want to cooperate. It is up to the leader to make the decision. If rescue is necessary, call the New Mexico State Police; they are responsible for rescue coordination. If calling 911, let them know you have a search and rescue situation and need to be transferred the state police. Have the strongest/fastest hikers return to the trailhead to seek assistance. They should stay at the trailhead to lead rescuers to the location of the injured/ill person. If possible, the advance party should have the trip sign-in sheet and call the families of those on the hike to let them know there will be a late return. Keep the injured/ill person warm, comfortable and provided with water and food if they can eat. Build a fire if necessary. Keep several people with the person until help arrives.

Unexpected Conditions:
If the weather turns bad, or the trail is in worse condition that anticipated, or the road to the trailhead is bad, or participants are becoming overly tired or stressed…the leader must make a conscientious decision whether or not to end the trip. Carefully listen to what participants have to say about a situation. Many NMMC members are experienced leaders and have faced similar situations. It is better turn back than to become stranded or have someone get hurt or sick. Watch for and address foot problems early. Apply moleskin (leader should always have a supply) on the affected area. If you encounter other hikers or hunters who are exhibiting combative behavior, avoid a confrontation at all costs. If accommodation cannot be made reasonably, then turn back. Hunters have the right of way during hunting season; it is against state law to spook game, so make every effort not as to. NMMC prohibits any participant from carrying a gun on outings.

Getting Lost or Confused:
Again, S.T.O.P. Check your map. Use you compass. Check where you have been. Listen to others who may be familiar with the trail. Remember Jackson’s rule of staying found: “You are not lost if you can find your car.”

The bottom line is that a leader is expected to lead. You don’t have to be first on the trail, but you must be prepared to make decisions along the way; decisions that will determine the success of the trip, and future trips. It’s called “trail sense” and will become easier as you gain experience as a leader. Remember, if you enjoyed the trip the others probably did too. And that’s what it’s all about.


Trail Ethics

Hiking as a Single Group:
The leader should make clear at the trailhead whether or not they will allow participants to go ahead of the group. It is the leader’s prerogative to allow or deny anyone to go ahead of the group. If you allow faster hikers to go ahead, they must stop and wait for the group at the place(s) you designate. Slower hikers pose another challenge. The rule of thumb is: no one should hike alone. If the designated sweep is unwilling to monitor a slower hiker, you might pair the hiker with another participant and designate a meeting place ahead on the trail for them to “catch up”. Otherwise, consider changing the overall pace (or anything else for that matter) to accommodate the hiker. The last resort is to allow the hiker to return to the trailhead and wait; however, he/she must not hike out alone. Finally, anyone who is not willing to play by your rules must be “signed out” of the trip. Announce the departure to the group so you have public acknowledgment. Note: If this person is a driver, they must accept their responsibility and wait for all other riders to return in their car.

Leave No Trace:
Tread lightly! A good rule is to take only photographs and leave only footprints. A major part of the outdoor experience is to share the trail with others, even if it is a bit of an aggravation. There are also common courtesies that we should observe. Many NMMC groups are large -- more than 10 hikers. We can take up quite a bit of trail, and there are other outdoor enthusiasts who feel a group this large detracts from the wilderness experience. Potential problems may include wildlife, cattle, dogs and their owners, horses, mountain bikers and other slow or fast hikers. Wildlife should be left alone. This includes deer, elk, antelope, rabbits, squirrels, birds, and even rattlesnakes. Where we hike is their home, so don’t bother them and they won't bother you. Don't get between a mother bear and her cub. Never approach baby critter (mom is usually nearby).

Participants’ Dogs:
Members who want to take their dog(s) on an outing should ask advance permission and expect to be a driver. Many dogs are good pets and are experienced on the trail. Others, sadly, are not. Some interfere with hikers’ footing and some are not capable of resisting the urge to pursue wildlife. Allowing dogs is the leader's choice. Keep in mind dogs are generally not allowed in national parks, national preserves and national monuments and must be on a 6 foot or less leash in national forests when at “developed recreational areas and on interpretive trails”. Some dog owners choose to go ahead of the main group so their dog will not bother anyone. Never confront a dog on the trail if it looks the least bit hostile. Masters can also be hostile if they think their animal is in danger.

Horses:
Horses have the right of way on the trail. Some spook easily. If so, they may be hard to control, could throw a rider, run over a hiker, or bolt and run away. Yes, they make a mess of the trail under certain conditions. But according to the U.S. Forest Service (and the Code of the West) horses have a right to be on the trail. Give them all of the room thy need. Step off the trail downhill of the horses and have dogs under physical control.

Cyclists:
Persons riding mountain bikes don’t always respect the right of way of hikers and horses. Cyclists looking for thrills can come downhill very fast, too fast to stop or avoid hitting a hiker. Best to let them have the right of way and avoid a confrontation. If you see cyclists in the wilderness where it is illegal for them to be, take their photograph and turn them in to the Forest Service.

Other Hikers:
Hikers going uphill have the right of way. It is much easier for a downhill hiker to get out of the way, than for an uphill hiker to pause, particularly if it is a steep section of trail. Always give families with children or groups of children the right of way. On the trail, hike single file and on the center line of the trail. Resist the urge to cut across a meadow or switchback. If you are off trail, take the least invasive route. Keep a decent space between you and the next hiker.

Bio Breaks:
Rest breaks should be taken where people can get at least 150 feet off the trail and away from water. All   human waste and paper should be buried at least eight inches deep. This can be difficult in rocky country, but do the best you can.  In winter, keep extra sealable bags with your toiletries so as to pack out any used toilet paper that cannot be covered with soil (not just snow).

Food Waste:
Carry out everything you carry in. It is OK to throw away an apple core (which will be promptly eaten), but not orange or banana peels (they do not biodegrade in our dry climate.) The NMMC practice is to clean the trail as we go, hauling trash to the trailhead or wherever it can be disposed. Don't wash or clean dishes in a water source. It will further pollute the water.

Water Sources:
Don't trust any water source. Filter or treat any water from a spring, stream or pond before drinking it.

Weather:
Watch out for lightning. It can be a killer. If a lightning storm starts, get off ridges, lay low on a slope, stay away from metal objects such as trekking poles and external frame packs. Avoid single trees and exposed points. Stay low until the storm has passed.  If possible, spread the group out but within visible sight of each other.

Noise Pollution:
Let nature's sounds prevail. This means no electronic devices except those used for safety, navigation, or taking photographs. Stand-alone Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) receivers are common and most hikers carry cell phones for emergency communication and/or for navigation with a GPS app. Cell phone conversations should be avoided as a courtesy to the group.


Final thoughts…

This Outings Leaders’ Guide is not meant to cover every issue that might arise during your tenure as a leader. Fortunately, there are many excellent resources online and in print to help you learn effective outdoor leadership. Check out the club’s library! And don’t forget the many seasoned NMMC outings leaders who are the backbone of our club. Their extensive experience makes them a perfect resource. We encourage you to discuss their methods and observe how they lead an outing.

Thanks for being a leader!

 

  

For Participants

Participation:
Participation in most New Mexico Mountain Club (NMMC) outings is open to all members, their guests, and non-members*. All participants are required to sign a liability waiver before going on an outing.  In all cases, participation is at the discretion of the Outings Leader.

*Non-members and guests are welcome on all non-exploratory outings with approval of outing leader, with the exception of Class 4 outings.  If you are not a member of the club and are interested in an outing, please contact the Outings Chair who will put you in touch with the outing leader.

Preparation:
Participants are responsible for their own well-being while on NMMC outings and responsible for bringing their own gear (see What to Bring), including emergency gear. Participants should carefully read the outings listings, information about choosing an outing, and outing ratings. Some outings require RSVP but most do not. The outing description will indicate if RSVP is required. NMMC cannot ensure non-hazardous conditions during outings. Participants are personally responsible to be appropriately physically fit and properly equipped for the outing.

Conduct:
All Participants are expected to abide by the Outings Leader’s instructions, stay with the group, and be courteous and supportive of other Participants.

Outing RSVP:
Not all outings require an RSVP; however, it’s recommended you RSVP either via the Meetup site or directly with the leader to ensure you can receive updates. Keep your RSVP current so those wait-listed can be added to the outing as soon as possible. Waiting until the night before or morning of an outing to change your RSVP is strongly discouraged. If you must change your RSVP at the last minute, please be courteous and contact the leader directly.

Driver Reimbursement:

The Club encourages carpooling to minimize impact on roadways, trail heads, and create community and safety in numbers. We recognize drivers take on significant responsibility to keep their vehicles safe, fueled and road ready. Besides the cost of gasoline, drivers may bear additional costs due to the increased probability of vehicle damage during an outing; in these situations there are also intangible costs of time, effort and inconvenience to repair a vehicle after an unexpected incident. Therefore the Club suggests each passenger pay the driver $0.15/mile plus a $0.05/mile surcharge for miles with “exceptional road conditions”. Leaders are encouraged to scout off-road conditions in advance, estimate the number of miles considered exceptional, and include that information in the outing announcement. If unexpected exceptional road conditions are discovered en route, drivers should measure those miles via odometer. Important: use of high clearance/SUV is NOT a sole factor for surcharge; only road condition is the determining factor (i.e. low clearance vehicle drivers may collect the surcharge rate for exceptional road condition miles they are willing to drive). Additionally, leaders may require high clearance vehicles at their discretion, but only miles with exceptional conditions qualify for the surcharge rate. Passengers should bring exact change to the meeting place. Under this policy an outing involving 120 paved miles plus 16 exceptional miles, regardless of the type of vehicle used, would cost each passenger approximately $21.00. 

What to Bring (Leaders and Participants)

Footwear:
Hiking boots for rugged conditions (with firm ankle support and lug soles). Running, cross training, or walking shoes (except as a change of footwear when crossing streams) are discouraged. Additionally, proper hiking socks. Cotton should be avoided. Wearing a sock liner is advisable. Not having proper footwear is grounds for the leader to turn away a participant at the meeting place.

Day pack:
Ensure all your gear fits in a sturdy 1,500 -2,500 cubic inch (25-41 liters) pack.

Ten Essentials:
Extra water and food; Extra clothing appropriate for the season (rain gear, dry socks, gloves or mittens, warm layer, warm hat); Sunglasses and sunscreen; First Aid Kit; Pocket knife; Matches/lighter/fire starter; Whistle; Headlamp or flashlight and extra batteries. In addition Leaders must have (and participants are encouraged to have) a Map of the area to be hiked and a Compass, which you know how to use.  Remember: even if you are not the cause of an emergency situation, you may still be involved in one.

First Aid Kit:
First aid manual, personal medication, antiseptic, gauze roll and pad, razor blades and needle, Band-Aids, tweezers, adhesive tape, aspirin or other pain medicine, ace bandage, soap, safety pins, burn ointment, antacid tablets and diarrhea medicine.

Water:
This is outing dependent, but generally two quarts, and at least three quarts in the summer months or for desert hiking; electrolyte replacement recommended.

Food:
i.e. lunch and snacks, including quick energy foods

Toilet kit in plastic bag

Water purification tablets or filter device

Gaiters for snowy, wet conditions, water crossings, or off-trail debris

Blister protection


Handling Emergencies or Unexpected Events

Injured, Ill, or Incapacitated Participant: S.T.O.P.
(Sit, Think, Observe, Plan). Everyone must remain calm. The leader must assess the situation and determine what the problem is. It may be the person just needs a short rest, some medication, or equipment adjustment. If the situation is serious, alternatives include assisting the person in returning to the trailhead, or, if necessary, sending a volunteer for assistance. It is the leader’s responsibility to tell the person that he/she can’t go on, or end the hike and assist the injured/ill person back to the trailhead. Many times people won’t want to cooperate. It is up to the leader to make the decision. If rescue is necessary, call the New Mexico State Police; they are responsible for rescue coordination. If calling 911, let them know you have a search and rescue situation and need to be transferred the state police. Have the strongest/fastest hikers return to the trailhead to seek assistance. They should stay at the trailhead to lead rescuers to the location of the injured/ill person. If possible, the advance party should have the trip sign-in sheet and call the families of those on the hike to let them know there will be a late return. Keep the injured/ill person warm, comfortable and provided with water and food if they can eat. Build a fire if necessary. Keep several people with the person until help arrives.

Unexpected Conditions:
If the weather turns bad, or the trail is in worse condition that anticipated, or the road to the trailhead is bad, or participants are becoming overly tired or stressed…the leader must make a conscientious decision whether or not to end the trip. Carefully listen to what participants have to say about a situation. Many NMMC members are experienced leaders and have faced similar situations. It is better turn back than to become stranded or have someone get hurt or sick. Watch for and address foot problems early. Apply moleskin (leader should always have a supply) on the affected area. If you encounter other hikers or hunters who are exhibiting combative behavior, avoid a confrontation at all costs. If accommodation cannot be made reasonably, then turn back. Hunters have the right of way during hunting season; it is against state law to spook game, so make every effort not as to. NMMC prohibits any participant from carrying a gun on outings.

Getting Lost or Confused:
Again, S.T.O.P. Check your map. Use you compass. Check where you have been. Listen to others who may be familiar with the trail. Remember Jackson’s rule of staying found: “You are not lost if you can find your car.”

The bottom line is that a leader is expected to lead. You don’t have to be first on the trail, but you must be prepared to make decisions along the way; decisions that will determine the success of the trip, and future trips. It’s called “trail sense” and will become easier as you gain experience as a leader. Remember, if you enjoyed the trip the others probably did too. And that’s what it’s all about.
 

Trail Ethics

Hiking as a Single Group:
The leader should make clear at the trailhead whether or not they will allow participants to go ahead of the group. It is the leader’s prerogative to allow or deny anyone to go ahead of the group. If you allow faster hikers to go ahead, they must stop and wait for the group at the place(s) you designate. Slower hikers pose another challenge. The rule of thumb is: no one should hike alone. If the designated sweep is unwilling to monitor a slower hiker, you might pair the hiker with another participant and designate a meeting place ahead on the trail for them to “catch up”. Otherwise, consider changing the overall pace (or anything else for that matter) to accommodate the hiker. The last resort is to allow the hiker to return to the trailhead and wait; however, he/she must not hike out alone. Finally, anyone who is not willing to play by your rules must be “signed out” of the trip. Announce the departure to the group so you have public acknowledgment. Note: If this person is a driver, they must accept their responsibility and wait for all other riders to return in their car.

Leave No Trace:
Tread lightly! A good rule is to take only photographs and leave only footprints. A major part of the outdoor experience is to share the trail with others, even if it is a bit of an aggravation. There are also common courtesies that we should observe. Many NMMC groups are large -- more than 10 hikers. We can take up quite a bit of trail, and there are other outdoor enthusiasts who feel a group this large detracts from the wilderness experience. Potential problems may include wildlife, cattle, dogs and their owners, horses, mountain bikers and other slow or fast hikers. Wildlife should be left alone. This includes deer, elk, antelope, rabbits, squirrels, birds, and even rattlesnakes. Where we hike is their home, so don’t bother them and they won't bother you. Don't get between a mother bear and her cub. Never approach baby critter (mom is usually nearby).

Participants’ Dogs:
Members who want to take their dog(s) on an outing should ask advance permission and expect to be a driver. Many dogs are good pets and are experienced on the trail. Others, sadly, are not. Some interfere with hikers’ footing and some are not capable of resisting the urge to pursue wildlife. Allowing dogs is the leader's choice. Keep in mind dogs are generally not allowed in national parks, national preserves and national monuments and must be on a 6 foot or less leash in national forests when at “developed recreational areas and on interpretive trails”. Some dog owners choose to go ahead of the main group so their dog will not bother anyone. Never confront a dog on the trail if it looks the least bit hostile. Masters can also be hostile if they think their animal is in danger.

Horses:
Horses have the right of way on the trail. Some spook easily. If so, they may be hard to control, could throw a rider, run over a hiker, or bolt and run away. Yes, they make a mess of the trail under certain conditions. But according to the U.S. Forest Service (and the Code of the West) horses have a right to be on the trail. Give them all of the room thy need. Step off the trail downhill of the horses and have dogs under physical control.

Cyclists:
Persons riding mountain bikes don’t always respect the right of way of hikers and horses. Cyclists looking for thrills can come downhill very fast, too fast to stop or avoid hitting a hiker. Best to let them have the right of way and avoid a confrontation. If you see cyclists in the wilderness where it is illegal for them to be, take their photograph and turn them in to the Forest Service.

Other Hikers:
Hikers going uphill have the right of way. It is much easier for a downhill hiker to get out of the way, than for an uphill hiker to pause, particularly if it is a steep section of trail. Always give families with children or groups of children the right of way. On the trail, hike single file and on the center line of the trail. Resist the urge to cut across a meadow or switchback. If you are off trail, take the least invasive route. Keep a decent space between you and the next hiker.

Bio Breaks:
Rest breaks should be taken where people can get at least 150 feet off the trail and away from water. All   human waste and paper should be buried at least eight inches deep. This can be difficult in rocky country, but do the best you can.  In winter, keep extra sealable bags with your toiletries so as to pack out any used toilet paper that cannot be covered with soil (not just snow).

Food Waste:
Carry out everything you carry in. It is OK to throw away an apple core (which will be promptly eaten), but not orange or banana peels (they do not biodegrade in our dry climate.) The NMMC practice is to clean the trail as we go, hauling trash to the trailhead or wherever it can be disposed. Don't wash or clean dishes in a water source. It will further pollute the water.

Water Sources:
Don't trust any water source. Filter or treat any water from a spring, stream or pond before drinking it.

Weather:
Watch out for lightning. It can be a killer. If a lightning storm starts, get off ridges, lay low on a slope, stay away from metal objects such as trekking poles and external frame packs. Avoid single trees and exposed points. Stay low until the storm has passed.  If possible, spread the group out but within visible sight of each other.

Noise Pollution:
Let nature's sounds prevail. This means no electronic devices except those used for safety, navigation, or taking photographs. Stand-alone Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) receivers are common and most hikers carry cell phones for emergency communication and/or for navigation with a GPS app. Cell phone conversations should be avoided as a courtesy to the group.

Choose an Outing that Fits Your Ability

Hike Ratings:
Classifications do not vary based on trail miles. Consider both rating and mileage in selecting a trip. Please note: we do not use the Yosemite system. Beginners are advised to start with a non-exploratory Class I outing and slowly progress to harder outings as you assess your abilities. This class is appropriate for people who have no prior hiking experience or who may have recently moved to the high altitude and dry conditions of New Mexico. Taking on a hike more difficult than your abilities not only creates a poor experience for you, but for everyone else on the hike that had to compromise their plans.

  • CLASS 1: Slow pace, usually on trail, 1-1.5 miles/hour; less than 1,000 feet elevation gain
     
  • CLASS 1+: Moderate pace, 2 miles/hour or less; less than 1,000 feet elevation gain
     
  • CLASS 2: Moderate pace, 2 miles/hour or less; 1,000-2,000 feet elevation gain
     
  • CLASS 2+: Brisk pace, 2-3 miles/hour; 2,000-3,000 feet elevation gain
     
  • CLASS 3: Brisk pace or faster, 2-3 miles/hour; greater than 3,000 feet elevation gain; Leaders may choose this designation at their discretion if trip has unusual difficulties.
     
  • CLASS 3+: Arduous day hikes and backpacks, requiring excellent physical condition, i.e. a 12-hour day climbing peaks over 14,000 feet above sea level.
     
  • CLASS 4: Mountaineering trip requiring use of ice axe and crampons or roping up for protection. Leaders must have a club technical climb rating. Leaders may require participants to also be rated for technical climbing or have comparable experience.
     
  • EXPLORATORY: In addition to a class rating, a trip may be designated with an “E” for exploratory. This is a trip that the leader has not done before, or not done within the last five years, or for which the leader is uncertain about some aspect of the proposed route. Participants should be experienced, expect that plans may go awry, and be prepared to use emergency gear.

Backpacking:
You carry your own eating, sleeping, and shelter gear to the campsite, as well as your share of group items. The leader may impose any appropriate limitations. Difficulty may range from Class I to technical climbs. Contact the leader for details.

Snowshoeing:
You provide your own snowshoes affixed to your hiking boots. High gaiters are strongly encouraged. Ice traction is also recommended for sections of trail where snowshoes are not adequate, such as MicroSpikes or YakTrax. There are several beginners' snowshoe trips each winter for those new to the sport.

Car Camping:
You can drive to where you sleep. Bring your own sleeping gear, shelter, and eating utensils. The leader may choose to arrange some group meals. The leader may limit the size of the party or limit it to only NMMC members, or impose other limitations based on his/her own best judgment.


Finally—

We appreciate your willingness to be well prepared and a good sport so our outings are fun, safe, and memorable events. Thank you!