August 16, 2007

Haute Route: Find the Right Partner

The first point Mark Jenkins makes about getting out into an adventure in the January issue of Outside magazine is this:

Find the right partner: "Everybody will say, 'Great, amazing, I want to go'; 90 percent won't. Line up a number of potential partners and hope that one will come through. If they don't, go anyway."

As thinking about this trip rattled around in my head through the several years between its germination and now, I collected names of people I thought would be interested and would make good companions. I talked to many of them about it, as well. By the start of this year, I had a group of over a dozen people whom I thought would make good companions for a trip like this.

Because I’m a member of the Mountaineers, I also thought about advertising within the club, but outside of the regular scheduled trip listings. In addition, others suggested that I list the trip as an international trip, of which there are several each year. In the end, I opted not to use either of those ideas.

It is important to me to have actually traveled with or hiked with the prospective participants. A phone conversation or a day hike aren’t really useful substitutes for spending this amount of time with someone, in knowing how committed they are to the trip or how they’ll act under the stresses of travel and trails.

Many of the people who sign up for my Mountaineers trips expect to be led more than I was willing to do for this trip. I don’t have the expertise in the region, nor in international travel, to serve as a typical leader. The international trips the Mountaineers list are planned and arranged by the leaders even more than a typical hike or backpack, with specific itineraries and a package price. I was looking for active, independent participants, willing to make their own arrangements to got to and from the hike, not tour members.

So, I contacted my collected group. They considered the invitation and, one by one, the eventually declined. For a time, I wondered if I had made a mistake by not casting the net wider. Perhaps I should have. But I spent no time thinking that this threatened my trip. After all, “if they don’t [come through], go anyway.” I’ll have to be my own “right partner.”

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