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Healthy communication for adventure partners

Hiking, climbing, forbidden peak, north cascades, NCNP, Johannesburg mountain
Dr Eon approaches Forbidden Peak with Johannesburg Mountain across the cloudy valley

Healthy communication with adventure partners. (Applicable to other relationships too!)

I strongly recommend going on a low stakes trip with all new potential new partners to get acquainted. There are times where you may be able to skip this step with a known person who has hiked with other partners of yours. Some people will be easy for you to get along with and some will require effort- this is OK! You both get to decide if you work well together or not. Climbing partners need to focus on effective communication because you may be in potentially dangerous situations and need to be able to address any concerns in a manner that works for all parties involved. Here are a few points to consider:

Discuss expectations before you leave. If one party member is set on “Summit or bust!” and others are more interested in the journey, you want to know this in advance.

Discuss necessary equipment in advance and make certain everyone has what you need before leaving the trailhead.

Even when you designate a “leader”, which is often appropriate for larger parties, everyone gets a say when it comes to potential safety problems. Create an environment of safety by discussing potential safety concerns with everyone in the party. Appreciate the contributions of everyone and thank them for speaking up.

When faced with a decision, use open ended questions. If you are the leader, comment on the decision and inquire about what the others in your party would do. If their decision matches what you would do, the decision is made easily. If not, discussion is needed.

When parties differ on decision making, stay calm and focus on what you know about the situation. Given everyone an opportunity to express their opinion. Understand that everyone involved wants a safe and successful trip. Respect the knowledge of others. Often these scenarios can provide you with an opportunity to learn from your partners.


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