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How to Lead a Summit Hike

Keep a group of peakbaggers safe with these field-proven tips.

On the Ground

Ask a key question: Should you guide the hike? Think twice about leading a route you haven’t done previously, and avoid peaks that require ropes, belays, and self-arrest skills. “You need to be totally comfortable with anything you’ll encounter,” says veteran guide Colby Coombs, cofounder of the Alaska Mountaineering School. “You also need to have reserve strength, so that in an emergency, you can concentrate on details and help exhausted members.”

Limit your party to eight or fewer, and even then recruit help. “Appoint qualified assistants for every three people in your group,” advises Dan Oberlatz, founder of Alaska Alpine Adventures.

Match your group to the adventure. Either choose a summit first and invite friends with the necessary skills and fitness, or pick a route you know everyone can handle.

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