Are Guides Who Lead Walking Tours Different?

We must define the duties, and examine the hazards faced by “walking  guides” before deciding what qualifications need to be held.


Walking guides” are those guides who lead groups on tours where the primary means of travel is on foot in remote areas, such as game reserves, the coastline or mountains, in fact, any area could be included where the party walks over terrain that has not been modified by permanent fixed walkways, and is remote enough that assistance can not be reached on foot within one hour. This makes it “Walking Guide” terrain.

Clients going on such a trip are in many cases not adequately prepared by the tour operator and guide for a trip into the outside environment. Serious problems arise when the “easy” walk gets more difficult because of unexpected changing conditions. Nobody is prepared for or recognises the changes, but the trip will often go on as planned. Modern civilisation makes the average person inefficient to travel in the outdoors. It strips us of our skills of walking in remote unmodified areas.

Says experienced Tour Guide Dave Sclanders,

I believe that anyone who goes into the outdoor environment should have appropriate walking training and registration. (There is) a problem with large tour operators who have guides who have no ‘Mountain Experience’ taking day tours by foot into the mountains. If tour guides are city graded, that’s where they must stay.


The usual qualifications that tour guides hold fall into three main categories: Culture, Nature and Adventure. Neither the Culture nor Nature qualification unit standards have any “walking skills” built into them. (Although some providers may add some as extras) There are no requirements that the guide knows how to cope with for example:

Group Leadership on foot in the outdoors,
• Navigation
• Hazardous obstacle avoidance
• Steep ground movement
• Water hazards

Only the Adventure Guide Qualifications include these as specific requirements.

Says Grant Hine of FGASA,

Given the nature of and potential dangers in mountain areas it is imperative that Nature Guides working in this type of “speciality” environment attain the relevant mountain guiding unit standards over and above the nature unit standards, before being legally allowed to guide in these areas.

This can apply to all on foot areas and not just mountain areas, as well as to all categories of guides and not just nature.

Searching rough terrain


Very few statistics are available that look at accidents and causes, but there is one good resource, the Mountain Club of SA – Cape Section, which looks at the Western Cape area over the last 100 years or so, (1881-2004), and the statistics are interesting:

Of 1041 accident entries in the database, 645 or 62% of accidents involved walkers, the highest of the eleven categories listed. Of 197 fatalities in the same period, 88 or 45% were walkers. Table Mountain was detailed as the most dangerous area of the Western Cape as the access is so easy, and it is still today the area where the most unsuitably qualified guides are leading walking trips.


In outdoor & or remote areas…

  • Weather: Changes occur much faster and effects are more severe and the guide must know what to do, in all circumstances. Temperatures down to -10° C occur in mountains regularly in winter causing hypothermia. However, high temperatures can also occur, causing hyperthermia.
  • Altitude: 8 in 10 clients who go beyond 2400m above sea level will experience mild (or worse) symptoms of altitude sickness. High Altitude Pulmonary Oedema is possible in the Drakensberg. A person not treated correctly can die within 18 hours.
  • Fitness & Nutrition: The tough outdoors environment takes its toll on people who would be seen as fit on average tours. Energy consumption is higher and dehydration is more likely. Guides need to provide suitable meals and advice as well as closely monitoring the clients.
  • Injuries: Distances to get help are much greater. Often, the nearest help may be 2 hours to 2 days walk away. There are no easy communications and cell phones often do not work. Normal first aid courses are not suitable, especially the current minimum requirement of Level 1. There are specific protocols for alerting rescue teams that are not known or taught to normal guides.
  • Biodiversity in our remote areas is often more spectacular than in the more urban areas. The environment is much more sensitive to our impact. Guides need advanced environmental training to learn about this complex system, not only to tell guests about it, but to keep them safe and preserve it.
  • Distances: Trips led by walking guides vary from less than a kilometre to over 300 kilometres in South Africa. Walks are usually unsupported. A greater degree of fitness, strength and self-sufficiency is needed.
  • Navigation. Practiced skills and local knowledge are essential. Restricted visibility is very possible year round. Compasses are not usable in some remote areas due to magnetic aberrations and Guides must know how to use alternative methods. The survival of a group is dependent on the Guide being able to navigate in zero visibility. And this includes “urban areas” like Table Mountain.
  • Leadership qualities: A walking guide requires better leadership and team skills than a normal guide. Walking guides work 24 hours a day on tour. They are guide, friend, companion, shoulder to cry on, cook, dishwasher, general encyclopaedia and story teller. Many matters have to be attended to during the night, such as chasing away predators and standing guard over toilet visits.
  • Cultural heritage: Remote areas have a rich cultural heritage that requires specific knowledge. Visitors to rock art sites need special training, as do guides walking through sensitive tribal lands.
    10) Steep Terrain: Movement on this type of surface requires specialised training and skills which normal guides are not taught. A “walking rope” is invaluable.
  • Camping: There are no facilities in remote areas so specialised equipment is used. The use of this equipment is not taught to standard Guides, and some of this equipment can be highly dangerous in inexperienced hands.
  • Water hazards: Rivers and other water bodies are a significant hazard to anyone. Many people are killed each year trying to cross rivers incorrectly.
  • Dress: The outdoors requires specific dress codes, especially if one is to stay out overnight. Simple things like inadequate footwear can cause major problems.

A walking guide qualification can be seen as your ‘drivers licence’. Without a drivers license, regardless of how expert you are on the fauna, flora, culture or history of an area if you crash the coach you will kill your clients. If you want to guide on foot, obtain the correct drivers licence first then enhance that with your specialist knowledge. Brilliant knowledge and stories will never make a badly led walking experience safe.

What a walking guide needs to know is learnt from many years in the outdoors and from targeted training – it cannot be learnt from a book in a few weeks. If you lead trips on foot in the outdoors, make sure you hold the correct qualifications — both for your safety and that of your clients.

Long term patient care on a walking trip

Culture Awareness

Adventure activities like Trekking by nature visit places that have cultures different from our own. In visiting these places, we will be exposed to different customs, values and ways of life which may be very different to the norms we are used to, and it can be very easy to upset the local people by infringing in some of their cultures which they hold dear.

Fitting in with the local cultures will not only avoid confrontation, but it will help ensure sustainability and future access to the area.

Some General Pointers

There are simply too many different cultures worldwide to try to be specific about the do’s and don’ts of every variable, but there are some common universal pointers which should at least keep you out of trouble.

  • Do not take photos of people unless having permission to do so. In most cases we are not talking about people in the far distance. We are referring to close ups or where the subject of the picture is a specific person or group of persons.
  • When visiting religious sites, preserve what you’ve come to see and never touch and remove religious objects. Respect the beliefs and traditions of others even if you do not agree with them.
  • Dress modestly – No flimsy clothes and sleeveless shirts, shorts should come down to your knees for men and women should have longs or a skirt on.
  • Always respect local people and their ways. Allow them to change you, but don’t try to change them!
  • Always ask before taking close-up photographs of religious places / shrines.
  • Don’t give money to children, beggars. There’re better ways to help them – make donations to local projects/organizations.
  • Particularly in rural areas, do not dish out sweets to children. They may not have access to dental care and you are simply ruining their health. Rather give fruit if you want to give something.
  • Abstain from showing affection out in the open. It may be okay in your culture, but it is not in many, and you could even end up in jail.

  • Not all cultures are happy with physical contact, even a handshake can be an insult, so be led by the people you are meeting. If they extend their hand to shake it, then fine, but rather wait for them to make the first move.
  • Watch carefully what is going on around you with others and follow their example.
  • Eye contact can be a good sign but also a sign of aggression. Looking away when talking to someone may be a sign of respect, so try to gauge what the locals are doing and follow suit.
  • In some cultures, men should not sit with women. Again, follow the lead of the locals and observe what they do.

Where On Earth Am I?

COMPASS READING: Your GPS has died and you are lost in the wild!

So our GPS batteries have died and we need desperately to know where we are. Fortunately we are careful hikers and we have packed a 1:20 000 map, a pencil and a standard hiking Polaris compass in our kit. We do know the names of two distant peaks (Call them Peak 1 and Peak 2. How will we go about “triangulating” our position?

We haul out our Map, pencil and compass. Find a relatively flat surface for our map.

Study the compass above and note the names of the components

  1. Point our compass at the first peak (Peak 1). When we do this we make sure that we aim the Direction of Travel Arrow directly at Peak 1.
  2. We turn the “N” on our Rotating Housing (with the Degree Dial) until the Orienting Arrow is exactly below the Red painted end of the Magnetic Needle. (ie. The magnetic needle fits perfectly into the Orienting Arrow).
  3. We can now stop pointing the compass at the peak because the angle is fixed on our compass.
  4. Read the angle between the “N” on the Rotating Housing and the Direction of Travel Arrow. (e.g 109°) This is the angle between the red Magnetic Needle and the Direction of Travel Arrow. (Note: Degrees are always read clockwise starting at “N” if no direction is indicated (e.g. East or West).
  5. Now adjust the angle to take into account the MAGNETIC DECLINATION of our location.
    • NB: IMPORTANT  NOTE ON DECLINATION: Remember that the compass needle does not point at the “True” North Pole. It points at the Magnetic North Pole which slowly migrates across the globe in the vicinity of the North Pole. As of May 2018 it is situated off the North Pole at 86°N/173°W). In Cape Town the Declination is 25° West (-25°). In Mumbai, India, the Declination is 0°, i.e. True North = Magnetic North!!. In Sydney Australia the Declination is 12° East (+12°).
  6. In our actual example we are have an angle of 109° between Magnetic North and Peak 1. To determine “True North” we must subtract 25° from 109°. This gives us an angle of 84° between True North and Peak 1.
  7. Now rotate the Rotating Housing to the right so that the angle between True North and the Direction Housing is 84° (East of North).
  8. Now we can place our compass on our Map and line up the meridian lines with the Grid on the Map. Thus True North is now lined up with the Grid lines on the map and the Orienting Arrow is pointing at 84° East. Once we have done this, we carefully slide the compass on the map until the one edge of the compass is exactly on Peak 1. Draw a pencil line towards where we are located.
  9. REPEAT for Peak 2 – e.g. Let us say that Peak 2 is located at 73° East of us. Now we must ADD 25° because Peak 2 is West of us. Thus 73° + 25° = 98° East,
  10. Place the Polaris compass on the Map again and line up the meridian lines with the Grid on the Map. Carefully shift the compass until the one edge of the compass is exactly on Peak 2. Draw a pencil line towards where we are located.
  11. Where these two lines intersect is our location (within a few feet / meters).
  • Any mistakes are my own – Let’s hope there are none!

Naismiths Rule Calculator for Estimating Walking Time

Naismiths Rule

Naismiths Rule

Naismith's rule helps with the planning of a walking or hiking expedition by calculating how long it will take to travel the intended route, including any extra time taken when walking uphill. This rule of thumb was devised by William W. Naismith, a Scottish mountaineer, in 1892. A modern version can be formulated as follows:

Allow one hour for every 3 miles (4.82 km) forward, plus an additional hour for every 2,000 feet (600 m) of ascent.

The basic rule assumes hikers of reasonable fitness, on typical terrain, and under normal conditions. It does not account for delays, such as extended breaks for rest or sightseeing, or for navigational obstacles. (Wikipedia)

In Kilometers
In Meters
Hours (Excluding Stops) (distance/4.82803)+(altitude/600)
There have been many attempts and adapting this, and all have pro's and con's to them. In my personal; experience in the Drakensberg, mainly climbing to high altitude, I have found my own variation of the rule which works for me. My estimation works on the assumption of walking at 2km/h.
Hours (Excluding Stops) (distance/2)+(altitude/600)

Try setting your own walking speed.

In Kilometers per hour
Hours (Excluding Stops) (distance/your walking speed)+(altitude/600)

Compare your results with the Energy Kilometers method.

Nutritional Needs and ‘Energy Kilometers’

How much Energy do we need on a walking trip? A sensible and healthy diet is vital when physically active. Over and above any normal expenditure of energy under stress, you must also anticipate extra energy requirements caused by certain typical situations such as cold (even when you are resting), altitude, and a drop in atmospheric humidity.

To trek/hike successfully, the body must produce the right kind of energy to fuel the muscles. Without that fuel, the body will slow down, falter and refuse to walk.

Energy is obtained from the foods that we eat. Carbohydrates, fats and proteins which are modified by enzymes in our bodies to produce a form of energy the muscles can use.

Our Three Main Energy Needs:


This is for a short period of time, e.g. dodging a falling rock, regaining balance after a stumble.

Short Term

Energy used for short bursts of intense exercise lasting less than 30 seconds usually, like running away from a fire. This uses stored glucose and glycogen but has lactic acid as a by-product. e.g. the muscles feel like lead.

Long Term

Here the addition of oxygen from breathing promotes efficiency and strength in the cardiovascular system and burns the stores of fat for energy. Fat is very efficient at producing energy and the colder it gets, the more fat is the best choice of energy. In Polar Regions, pure fat is often eaten to produce energy.

Good nutrition is the key to energy. Individual nutritional needs vary, but all of us have a continual need for the essential nutrients supplied by food – for energy, growth, maintenance and the renewal of the body tissue, and for the regulation of vital functions in the body.


Some pointers:

  • Without water we cannot process food. Regardless of altitude we need to take in a minimum of 30 ml or water per Kg of body weight per day to process the food you take in or the energy stored in that food is wasted.
  • At 2000 to 3000 meters (top of the Drakensberg) you must drink at least 3 litres of water a day to make up for losses just due to the altitude. Even when resting you will be consuming about 6000 kilojoules in twenty-four hours.
  • Under stress when trekking, with an oxygen consumption rate that can reach 3 to 4 times the normal rate, consumption can reach as high as 15 000 to 20 000 kilojoules a day.
  • The optimum food ration, however, is only 50% of the Kilojoule requirement; it is advisable to divide it into small, repeated snacks of 1000 – 2000 Kilojoules each, so as not to overload the digestive system. The Kilojoule deficit indicated above is not significant for short periods of up to 4 days as your body has enough reserve to cope with this.
  • The ideal diet contains one gram of protein for every kilo of body weight per day, dividing the rest between 70% Carbohydrates and 30% Fats. However, do not get all your kilojoules from simple carbohydrates such as sweets. Rather get them from complex carbohydrates such as full grain products. (Whole wheat Pasta, Brown rice etc.)
  • The glucose required by the body’s cells is stored by the liver in the form of glycogen, extracted from carbohydrates, fats and proteins (Food). The body normally converts the glycogen to glucose with enzymes and oxygen before using it in the muscles.
  • With exertion, the consumption of oxygen in the tissues increases, but if this is not sufficient, there is a shortage of oxygen and the body starts drawing directly from the glycogen reserves, with the resultant production of lactic acid.
    • This ‘oxygen-less’ reaction releases 16 times fewer kilojoules than those produced in normal aerobic metabolism. In this state the muscles become intoxicated and there is a typical sensation of fatigue. (The heavy burning sensation in the muscles)
  • Lactic acid can only be digested when resting, with an inflow of oxygen through breathing, which turns it into carbon dioxide and water.

Time and Energy is often more important than Distance

You are out on a trek. It’s 9:30 am. The sign at the trail start says there is a great lake just 1.5 kilometres from the camp you are staying at. Easy enough for you and children in the group to do with you and be back at camp for lunch. No need to take food with. Right? It’s only 3 kilometres return. Even at a child’s pace that’s only 2 hours.


What the sign does not tell you is the lake is 300 meters higher than where you are now, and gaining altitude takes energy.

As you gain altitude each 100 meters of ascent uses the same energy as walking between 1.5 to 2 kilometers depending on your walking speed. So that 300 meters ascent will equate to 4.5 to 6 kilometers extra “Energy kilometers”.

Assuming the distance to the lake is 1.5 km each way, that makes it 3 km total, but now we add the energy kilometres needed for the altitude gain which is an additional 4.5 to 6 kilometres. (We only count the up hills)

So now the trip to the lake is going to be a total of between 6 to 9 “Energy Kilometers”. Can you and the children do that before lunch without having substantial drinks and snacks along the way?

A child walking at 1.5 kilometres an hour is now going to take between 4.5 and 6 hours. An adult will take 1.5 to 2.5 hours.

Energy Kilometers Calculator

Energy Kilometers Calculator

In Kilometers
In Meters
Average in Kilometers per Hour
Hours (Excluding Stops)

I have found this method to be a bit more reliable than Naismiths Rule, but like any method you need to personalise or adapt it to your own hiking style.

Your Turn

Give a few examples of trips you know that take longer than anticipated. Do the math. How about Table Mountain in Cape Town? Work out the Energy Kilometers of the popular routes up and add your suggestions to the comments below…

Walking Skills

Walking is one of those skills we mostly take for granted and people who spend a lot of time in the outdoors will develop efficient walking techniques over time without having to think about it.

Many others however often spend little time in the outdoors except when on a walking trip. The rest of the time is usually behind a desk at work, so these skills and techniques do not come naturally but can make a huge difference to your experience on the trip by relieving stress and strain on the body, conserving energy, providing good balance and confidence and generally making it easier to cover the distances required comfortably.

Being Prepared

Of course the first aspect of good walking skills is to be properly prepared with well worn-in and fitting boots, good socks, comfortable balanced pack and possibly trekking poles. There are two very different techniques when using walking poles. Trekking technique and Nordic Walking technique. It is not our aim here to teach the difference, but just to say once you know both you will be about 80% more efficient when walking.

Once out on the trail, there are a number of things you can do to make life easier. Even walking on a good trail will make your heart and lungs work harder so you need to take it easy the first few days. Steep terrain and rough trails put extra strain on the body so this is where good technique comes in to make your body into an efficient walking machine.

To find out more about how the terrain conditions, what we call ‘Conditions Under Foot’ (CUF) affects your walking, have a look at the section on the CUF Scale.

Basic Principles

Before we get into the actual techniques, here are some basic principles that always apply:

  • Keep balanced. Nothing should be tied loosely to your backpack – swaying / swinging items affect balance.
  • On easy terrain legs are generally swung from the hip and the head is centred between the front and back foot for good balance.
  • Start off dressed a little cooler than you’d like to be – strip off a layer just before starting so you do not have to stop after 10 minutes to take off a layer.
  • Check boots and laces before starting to walk. Seems obvious but most people don’t and they have to stop a short while later to tie them properly.
  • If you still need to make adjustments, stop after the first 20-30 minutes:
    • Adjust backpacks
    • Adjust boots
    • Shed or add a layer of clothing
  • Pace your self – most walkers start at a fast pace, enthusiastic to get out on the trail, but this is counter-productive. The body needs time to warm up. You should not get out of breath when walking. If you cannot hold a conversation and walk at the same time you are going too fast.
  • Try to maintain a constant rhythm when walking – if necessary adjust your stride length. You need a pace that you can sustain all day.
  • Try not to take too frequent breaks – they disrupt your rhythm and you never really get going. Resting for 10 minutes every hour is great, but in very wet or cold conditions you may want to keep going until you have found shelter as you may become more prone to hypothermia. If there is no natural shelter, carry a portable emergency group shelter. Just a two person one is fine.
  • On up-hills take baby-steps: find the smallest step up that you can each time.
  • Trekking poles are a great tool for saving energy.
    • They assist with balance, saving leg muscles and reducing injuries.
    • Also useful for river crossings and difficult terrain.
    • Using Nordic technique will turbo boost your walking.

Foot Placements

The placement of each footstep must be deliberate and focused on stability. This will become automatic with practice.

  • When moving uphill step over small rocks, not on them.
  • On boulder terrain, use the stiffness of your boots sole to ‘bridge’ between rocks.
  • If you are forced to cross boulders, step directly on top of the boulders, moving slowly from one to another, always ready to hop to the next if the one you’re standing on shifts or rolls.
  • Look at rocks and judge what leverage you’ll be applying before you step. Will it move? If it does what will I do? What’s my next step going to be?
  • In grassy areas step on the uphill side of the grass tufts – the ground is more stable
  • In areas of boulders look for texture on the rock on which to get grip. Choose lichen-covered rocks, since lichen is usually a sign of long-term stability, the rock is less likely to move.

Walking in Groups

Walking in a group can be a challenge for many people. You may not be able to maintain your favoured pace, and on narrow trails, stopping can hold up the whole group. However we need to adapt to the situation finding our most efficient pace and walking style whilst still in the group.


Experienced walkers will often have forgotten what it was like on their early treks so will set a pace inexperienced walkers cannot maintain. When walking in a mixed group, remember newbies will take longer to get ready, walk slower and stop more frequently. Experienced walkers can assist the group by helping newbies with packing, advice and befriending them whilst walking. The conversation can help them maintain a faster pace. If they are still slow however, perhaps offer to carry some of their load, or simply accept the slower walking speed.

Group sizes should ideally be small, but commercial treks become unviable in very small groups so they tend to be larger. Large groups have a greater impact on the land, local population and other trail users. Also the bigger the group, the more there will be differences in abilities.

Walking in a group has other benefits. More knowledge and expertise to draw on, easier to carry loads, bigger range of interests and experiences to share, better safety. However you will also be less likely to see wildlife in a large noisy group.

If there are children in the group, everyone will have to realise that the pace will be much slower. There are advantages though as children tend to see much more than adults do. For the child the experience is totally new and opens their eyes to the wonders and excitement of the natural environment. Adults can be reawakened to this as well by the children’s excitement.

A few tips for walking in a group:

  • Discuss at the start of the day how the group will plan the day. How often will stops be? Fast or slow pace? What will the group do if someone is battling?
  • In a group, try not to get too close to the person in front – 3m is already too close as:
    • You can’t anticipate foot placements
    • You can’t compensate for changes in place
    • You can’t compensate for sudden stops
  • Try not to get too far away from the group – if the group gets too spread-out the leader has to stop too frequently to re-group which ruins everyone’s pace.

Walking Through Bush

Trails often have sections of dense bush – especially in the gullies where rivers flow. Certain precautions make walking in bush easier:

  • Allow additional space between yourselves to allow for branches flicking back
  • Remove your hat – the brim obscures the branches you’re going to hit your head on.
  • Be aware of the possibility of stumbling across wild animals who may be frightened by your sudden appearance.

Waterlogged Ground

Trails will invariably try to avoid waterlogged ground, but if the weather has been very wet this may not be possible. The mud becomes very difficult to cross with each step becoming an effort as the mud sucks at your boots trying to keep you in one spot.

If you have to cross waterlogged ground, try to follow as many of the following hard spots as possible. Look for and follow natural hard spots. Tufts of grass will often provide a firm footing, as will the ground around larger trees a shrubs. Rocks also provide hard stepping-stones. Your poles come in handy for balance here.

Steep Terrain

Most walking routes will avoid steep terrain, but they do not always do this. If you have to walk in steep terrain there are additional skills and knowledge which can make life easier and safer for you.

Gullies are narrow areas which channel falling rocks like a funnel, so avoid entering or passing below a gully when sun is melting snow or ice, loosening rocks above or when there is a group ascending or descending the gully. If you have to climb a gully, do so one at a time, and don’t climb directly above or below companions. You could send a rock flying onto someone below you. If staggered travel is impossible, walk close together so rocks loosened by one walker doesn’t have time to gain speed before striking those below. If a stone goes flying, shout “Rock!” to alert others. Wearing a helmet is wise if they are available.

Be very weary of climbing up unknown gullies or slopes unless your leaders / guides have specifically told you to. Scrambling upward is always safer and less awkward than coming down, because your eyes lead your body, making holds easier to find. That’s the reason people get stuck up high, they’ve climbed up through sections they later find too frightening or difficult to descend. Look down while going up, imagining yourself coming back down. Don’t like what you see? Then turn around before you get too high.

The constant freeze and thaw of some environments loosens potential hand-holds. These can come off suddenly if pulled on, causing falls or showering loose stones on others. Test every hold before you rely on it; pull, hit or kick down to see if it shifts and listen for a hollow sound which means the hold is loose.

If you have to cross snow slopes, check the “run-out”, the place you’d end up if you slipped and slid. Don’t cross hard snow if there is a cliff or hard rocks below. Look for a crossing place with a smooth soft run out of snow or grass that will catch you.

Moving Up Hill

Ascending is physically more difficult than descending, but is easier for most people as your eyes can easily see where to go and what the next safe step is. When descending your vision is less clear and often you cannot see exactly what you are going to step onto making for a more hazardous movement.

A few points to remember when moving uphill on steep terrain.

  • The first tip is do not rush. Constant slow movement will get you to the top faster than trying to race up. By constant movement we include mini breaks of a few seconds to get your breath back. It does not mean you cannot stop.
  • Look backwards often to see how much you have climbed. The top always seems far away, but when looking back you will be reassured that you are gaining height.
  • Soft scree is hard to go up (two steps up and one step back), but great to go down. Try to kick toe steps and create platforms for firm footing. For better traction zigzag with your feet angled across the slope rather than pointing straight up.
  • On harder surfaces with stones on them, put your toe on the slope and heels onto a stone. This will help level out your foot-bed.
  • Employ the mountaineer’s rest step to conserve energy in very steep terrain. With each step, pause for a breath or two with your lower knee locked, bearing weight on your skeletal structure.
  • Loosen any pack straps that inhibit your ability to twist and turn or step high. For instance, the “stabilizer straps” on the sides of your hip-belt, shoulder straps and load-lifters, but do not make them so loose that you become unbalanced.
  • Loosen the upper laces on tall, stiff boots so your ankle can flex fully forward to relieve strain on the Achilles tendon.
  • When moving uphill step over small rocks, not on them.

Moving Down Hill

Moving downhill can be more dangerous because it is not as easy to see the footholds you will use, and because the mind thinks it’s easier so relaxes your concentration just when you need to concentrate more. Make an effort to keep concentration high when descending slopes. Most accidents happen on the downhill section of trails.

  • The best way to go down a steep, soft surface such as snow, scree or soil is to plunge your heels hard into the surface (Plunge Step) with your knees slightly bent. Bend forward at the waist slightly for stability.
  • Pull your pack’s hip-belt and stabilizer straps comfortably snug to prevent your load from shifting.
  • When crossing slippery slopes, use the edge of the boot to ‘cut in’ to the slope to make a more comfortable footing.
  • On harder surfaces with stones on them, put your heel on the slope and toes onto a stone. This will help level out your foot-bed.
  • Lace your boots snugly by lacing the lower half of the laces tight for optimal support and stability, and to avoid jamming your toes into the front of the boots.
  • In descent, the centre of gravity should be over the load bearing leg which prevents tumbling forward.
  • Step down moderately steep slopes sideways crab style. This will assist with keeping good balance and allows edging with the boot for good stability.
  • When descending steep terrain, “Bum It” by facing away from the slope and go down “crab” style, using your bum for friction (but don’t let your pack launch you out from the slope). As the descent steepens, face sideways to the slope. This allows a good view of holds and the route below. When it’s nearly vertical, face directly into the slope, just like when climbing down a ladder.


Life is for the living

How many times have you waited for someone to organise an adventure?

That was me for many years. It slowly dawned on me that I could create my own adventures and invite others to share them. The helping hand was miraculously at the end of my arm!

I spent too long watching “Days of Other peoples’ lives”, instead of living my own life.

Once the penny dropped I was away. I have no idea how many weekends, day trips, climbs and longer events I have planned (many hundreds). What is wonderful is that so many people benefit from you simply being able / prepared to get an idea and then act on it. BUT FIRST you have to realise that you can do it – you ARE allowed to dream and plan.

I was once told about folks who needed help in building a business in Walvis Bay. So I phone a friend who I knew was able to help. He explained that he was going to help people in Tanzania, oh dear!!!

I then panicked a bit and phoned another friend who is also capable of assisting them – Guess what, he was literally off to Ghana to help folks there. So no one could help these people.

Then it dawned on me – Keith, why don’t you go and help them??? WOW, I had never thought of that before – you know I can do it!!! So I started planning it – and lo and behold, I went and it all went well. That was a HUGE eye opener to me – I don’t have to wait around for other to do everything – I can do it!!!

So, with that in mind, I thought that I would share my strategy with you:

I always use the following strategy when planning adventures: (Notice this is almost exactly like the Adventure Trip Plan done on the GASG Course. Editor)

BRAIN STORM – think of amazing adventures that you would like to be on as well as share with others. What about taking a group down the Fish River Canyon? (I’m taking a group down in September this year – I decided to!!), What about organising a group to do the Klipspringer trail at Augrabies Falls!! What about booking 10 on the “Whale Trail”? Or simply doing a day hike up Devil’s Peak or Dark Gorge”. The adventures are infinite.

E.g. As I write this article I am busy chatting to an MCSA buddy (Graham D.) about a wonderful weekend (last weekend) we had with 10 other friends in Steenboksberg, Bainskloof. While we were sitting around having supper, Roy M, told us of a camp up on the left hand ridge that he had visited about 40 years previously – it had water and we could camp there prior to launching a hike to Bailey’s Peak (1500m). So we did a little recce on Sunday morning but didn’t see anything promising. On the recce I used my Garmin Extrex 30 GPS to track the hike. At home I loaded this onto google Earth as a .kmz file and saw that we had stopped about 300m short of a heavily wooded and green area wher water may very well be found – we had not gone far enough. So, I am whatsapping Graham to suggest that sometime in March we invite everyone back to Steenboksberg and we do another recce up the ridge to check our ideas. This gives everyone another amazing weekend and a chance to have fun swimming and exploring the area. We can also update the hiking maps in the area. So, GET THE IDEA and ACT ON IT. MAKE IT HAPPEN

GATHER BETA (as much info as you can) on the event / venue / area. (GASG: Task 02 Educational)

PLAN in DETAIL (GASG: Task 03 Adventure Trip Plan)

  • Booking of venue, trail, camp – find out what you need to know.
  • Permits required (private land, mountain club land, National Parks land, etc..).
  • What transport is needed.
  • Meals (ideas, formats, spreadsheets) I always whatsapp a suggested meal format
    (i.e. food ideas for Day 1, 2, 3 etc.., morning, afternoon and evening)
  • Clothing (winter, summer) checklist – Never underestimate – always build in redundancy. Over prepare.
  • Equipment – checklist
  • Safety (Once again – redundancy – check, check check).
REMEMBER: There is No democracy around safety. NO EXCEPTIONS.
  • Collect info on your hiking members (i.e. what special talents can they bring to the group in case of emergency and just generally – maybe a nurse, a doctor, a mechanic, a guide, and so on).
  • Brain storm a lot of “What if’s”) – e.g. “What if a sudden snow storm occurs”, What if someone breaks a limb”, “What if there is no mobile coverage and we have an emergency”, and so on.

ADVERTISE (newsletter, word of mouth, web) – If it simply taking a non-paying group of friends you have advantage of knowing their capabilities and choosing folks you generally get along with. If you are advertising to take a paying group of customers, the selection process is much more complex – you don’t know them or their capabilities.

FILL PLACES – Firstly decide on a MAXIMUM number. As folks indicate they want in, keep an excel spreadsheet of their info: Names, Mobile no’s, Wild Card No’s, Payments, Can they provide transport, Ailments, etc..

STABILITY CHECKS VITAL: is the person capable of completing the hike / event – If they are not known to you, you have to ask them to fill in some sort of questionnaire – e.g. Have they ever hiked before, when last did they hike, can they easily climb Lion’s Head, Would they make it up and down Platteklip Gorge relatively comfortably, what allergies, other ailments do they have. Then be brutally honest – e.g. “You will not make it on this hike.”

COLLECT MONEY – if a paying adventure.

REGULAR NEWSLETTERS giving info and keeping interest up..

CREATE A WHATSAPP GROUP (eg. “Sprinboksberg Weekend 10-12March” and enter all participants names therein. Everyone is in touch with everyone.

DO ALL YOUR DEEP THINKING and then EXECUTE the actual event – DO IT!!!

FEEDBACK – When the event is over ask for feedback – for paying customers this is more important than it is for old friends.

THEN, VERY IMPORTANT: Immediately start to plan next adventure.

REMEMBER: – If it is to be, it is up to me. It is no good sitting around waiting for someone else to create adventures. This way you get to do the adventures you want to do. You can have as many adventures as you want. Above all you ENRICH other peoples’ lives.


CUF Scale

Ever heard of the CUF scale?

The CUF scale (conditions under foot) is a guide to the type of conditions under foot one may expect on a walking trip. The CUF has an important effect on our walking efficiency. Not all people use the same grading scale, so investigate what the scale you are using uses. If you are leading your own trips and do not have a scale you use already, then this is a good one to use.

There are many other methods of grading walks, but the CUF Scale shown here was developed after 20 years of professional guiding a variety of groups over very differing terrains and has been found to be extremely useful….

Using the CUF scale

Each level may include all the elements of the previous levels and for a trip to be classified at a level, at least 10% of the trip must involve those conditions.

A Class + trip means that it is the class specified, but there may be small sections (<10%) of the next higher level. E.g. Class 3+

Snow, Rain, Wind, Darkness etc. could increase any level to the level above it.


( 4-5 KM/H AVERAGE )

  • Walking along a clear, well established trail.
  • Could be some erosion to negotiate.
  • May be wet areas with mud.
  • A few rocks or steps in path may be encountered
  • Easy to moderate slopes


( 3-4 KM/H AVERAGE )

  • Walking along a sometimes-obscured trail.
  • Will be some boulder hopping to cross rivers etc.
  • Moderately steep slopes.
  • Easy cross-country travel (bush, climbing over and around fallen trees, and big talus – hands may be used for balance)


( 2-3 KM/H AVERAGE )

  • The trail is either very uneven, intermittent or non-existent and you may need to put your hand down occasionally for balance.
  • Requires use of hands for climbing steep sections
  • Rope is necessary only to provide safety in unusual circumstances


( 1-2 KM/H AVERAGE )

  • Climbing on steep terrain maybe requiring roped belay or rope handrail in sections
  • Scrambling on rocks using hands as well as feet
  • Exposed climbing such as a ladder
  • Rope required to prevent serious injury if a fall occurs
  • Head for heights required in some places.



  • Climbing on steep terrain requiring roped belay
  • Safety rope must be used for exposed sections
  • Thin, exposed areas requiring skill and good balance as well as a head for heights.