How to organize a trek?

Thursday, May 5, 2011

I thought it might be interesting to share the organization process of our volunteering treks in CTC -

I will focus on the organizational aspects assuming a location and date has been fixed and the lead is familiar with the trail. Assuming a 2-day trek with 30 people. The organizer is the overall coordinator - many of the tasks can be shared by the participants/volunteers

Just wanted to illustrate that it's not a very daunting task and hope that some of our regular trekkers will soon dare to step forward and expand our team of organizers. You could start off by co-organizing with someone else.

The start - Creating an invite - organizer (30 minutes)

Create a new form to collect details from the participants - name, contact, email, assembly point, vehicle, etc.
Include important details of the trek - location, date, duration, distance, difficulty, terrain, etc.
One can easily create a copy from any of our past invites
Send out the form/invite to the group
All responses to the invite will be automatically be consolidated in a single sheet making it easy for the organizer to review all registrations

A few days later - Shortlisting registrations - organizer (30 minutes)

Once the max headcount is reached the organizer closes the form and informs the group.
Next important step is to confirm/drop the registered members based on max. headcount and difficulty of the trek
For difficult treks we typically shortlist those with an active (recent) trekking record (either within or outside CTC) to avoid delays
For easy treks one can use the first come, first serve principle
Inform the confirmed/dropped members asap so they can plan accordingly
In many cases members join/drop till last minute making it a real challenge for our organizers as transportation/food needs to be arranged in advance
Optionally the organizer might request for advance payment (online transfer) to protect against drop outs

Next - Transportation - organizer (10 minutes)

For treks nearby Chennai we typically share own transportation (bikes, cars) - a bike can take 2, a car can take 5 participants
Any shortage in transport can be filled up with renting additional vans or buses (contacts available)
For locations further away from Chennai one needs to book transport (train, bus) a few weeks in advance
For these treks it's a good idea to request confirmed participants to make an advance transfer of the approximate expense to cover the advance transport booking cost and to be safe against drop outs

3 days before trek - prep email - Organizer (15 minutes)
A few days before the trek the organizer sends out a prep email to all confirmed participants
The prep email includes contact details, name list, assembly points/timings/process, must carry items, trek details, guidelines
This email basically keeps everyone updated on important do's and don'ts and to get their luggage ready

2 days before trek - Confirmation - ask volunteers (30 minutes/volunteer)

Typically 2 days before the trek it's a good idea to request a few volunteers to call up all participants to confirm (each calls up 10)
This is very important to finalize the headcount for advance arrangement of food and transportation

1-2 days before trek - Food - ask volunteers (1 hour each)

Next important item is to arrange of the food items. A typical 2-day CTC menu consists of below items
Given the large quantities it's a good idea to split up and let several volunteers each buy few items below
This is typically done on Thursday or Friday evening after finalizing the headcount (confirmation call above) to avoid waste

Sat/Sun breakfast -
30*6 Nilgiris cream buns
1 tea packet + 1 kg sugar + 500gr milk powder
Sat lunch -
30 tepla/polli packets (4 each)
Sat dinner -
30/6 big Maggie noodle packets (6 slices)
30/2 Knorr soup packets
Sun lunch
30 chappati packets (5 each) + 5 pickle packets
In between
30*4 five-stars + 30 biscuit packets
30*2 oranges + 30*3 lemons + 100gr salt
30 100gr glucon-D packets

D-day - Assembly - ask volunteers (30 minutes each)

Appoint a volunteer in each of the usual 4 pick-up points to take attendance -
Request them to take a print out of participants list and disclaimer forms
For each participant reporting at the assembly point -
tick the name on the list
identify drop outs (to be blacklisted from future CTC treks)
collect the advance (e.g. 500Rs)
hand over, sign and collect back the disclaimer form (each takes responsibility of his own safety)

D-day - Accounts - volunteer (30 minutes)

This is relatively easy - simply add up all the food and transport expenses (e.g. 1000Rs/car, 300Rs/bike)
And divide by the number of participants to derive the cost per head
Take all the money collected from and refund those who bought food items and fuel for bike/car owners

One group to the starting point - ask volunteers

One important thing is to ensure all vehicles proceed as one single group to the starting point of the trek
Indicate a lead car (who regroups during each major diversion) and a sweeper car (who ensure everyone comes along)
A bike or car taking of in the wrong direction can cause significant delays for the entire group/trek. Stay together at all times

Ready to go - ask volunteers (30 minutes)

Once all vehicles have reached the starting point following things take place
Park the vehicles safely, distribute the food items (proper quantity per head)
Share the common gears - cooking pots, tarps, first aid kits (to be returned at end of the trek!)
The organizer will give a safety briefing to the participants

Post trek - organizer (30 minutes)

Upon completion of the trek the organizer does a number of things
Create a topic on our forum where participants can share their experiences, photos, write-ups for the trek
After a few days shoot an email to the group with a nice trek summary and some photos

That's all! You are ready to go. What are you waiting for?



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