If you look, you can find tons and tons of posts and articles out there about hiking etiquette – what to do (or not to do) in the wild, either to protect the environment or to allow your fellow hikers to be able to fully enjoy their experience in Nature as well. I’m not going to talk here about every rule or behavior I believe hikers should adhere to; however, there is one which I witnessed recently in person, which irritated me to no end and I felt like sharing here with you.
When it comes to hiking in a group, odds are decent that not everyone will be in the same physical shape, which is perfectly fine as long as everyone involved is physically capable of tackling that particular hike. Now every group with different physicalities has different strategies on how to proceed. When I hike with my Mom, she’s able to climb much faster than I can at steeper elevations, but she also likes to hike with me the entire time. Therefore, she’ll have me get in front while we’re climbing so she doesn’t leave me behind. When I’m hiking with my friends H- and B-, they’re also faster than me on the climbs, but I’m typically much faster than they are on the downhills. We’ve hiked together so many times over the years and are so comfortable with each other’s styles, that we don’t mind if some distance grows between us, but we’ll stop periodically to let the other catch up and take a breather together. With larger groups, it’s not uncommon to have the group split into smaller groups who continue at their own pace, but have designated meeting points to ensure no-one gets lost.
All of those strategies (any many others) are perfectly fine, but now let me tell you about one Mom and I saw while hiking Mt. LeConte that angered both of us: Throughout our entire trek, from the trailhead of Alum Cave all the way to the top of Mt. LeConte, we played leap-frog with a young couple. They were doing fine until Alum Cave, but after that, the young woman really began struggling with the steep climbs and the young man just left her far behind. He would periodically stop and wait for her whenever he finally realized she was far out of sight, but when she caught up, he would immediately leave her in his dust again and not wait with her while she caught her breath. She looked so incredibly miserable every time we saw her, so Mom and I made a point to encourage her along the way and let her know what a great job we both thought she was doing. I don’t care who you are – if you have a hiking companion struggling the way she was, you don’t completely ditch them just because you can. Mom and I both expressed to ourselves several times when witnessing his behavior that we hoped the young woman let him have it when she finally reached the top.