Case Study: Early Departure?

May 8, 2019
View of Lonesome Lake from the Hut
View of Lonesome Lake from the Hut

Below is a fictional case study created from the experiences of AMC’s volunteer leaders on their trips. Read on & consider what you would do if you found yourself in this situation. . .

Case Study: Trip Participant Wants to Depart Early

Trip Location: Lonesome Lake Hut & Cannon Mountain, Franconia Notch, New Hampshire

Trails: Lonesome Lake Trail to Hut

Mileage: 1.5 miles to hut

Elevation Change: 1000’

Season: Late Spring


You’re leading an overnight trip to AMC’s Lonesome Lake Hut in Franconia Notch, New Hampshire.  If the weather cooperates, you hope to summit Cannon Mountain on the second day before descending back to vehicles parked along I-93.


Seven hikers in the group – eight including you.  It is a mixed gender group with participants between the ages of 28 and 63.  Three of the seven participants have achieved leadership status within your Chapter and one is in the process of completing their co-leads.  The remaining three are experienced hikers you’ve led on multiple trips.  One person has a dust allergy and carries an inhaler.


After meeting at the parking area at the base of the Lonesome Lake trail in late morning, you do a brief gear check and depart for the Hut.  The temperature is moderate at 58 degrees Fahrenheit. The temperature slowly rises and the day warms up in early afternoon.  The hike up is uneventful – you swap leading and sweeping with a couple of group members and maintain a consistent pace to the lake. At the lake, you take a leisurely break to eat lunch around 12:45pm.  There are no events of note over the afternoon or evening.  All in all, it’s setting up to be one of your favorite trips.

The next morning you wake up at 5:30am and head into the main building to make coffee.  The group has planned to leave the bulk of their belongings at the Hut during their summit attempt to lighten things up and make the hike a bit more enjoyable.  As the sun begins to show its face, you are psyched NOAA was right – it’s shaping up to be a beautiful, clear day.   By 6am, the other group members filter in for a quick breakfast.  One of the group members pulls you aside to let you know they just don’t feel like completing the trip and will be hiking back to the parking lot right after breakfast to drive home.  They feel fine, just aren’t psyched to be out on trail today.

As the leader how do you respond?

Additional Details: The group member who wishes to depart early is a Leader within your Chapter.  You’ve hiked with them before and they are very proficient.  You noticed yesterday they seemed a little frazzled – they forgot their map and last night you observed they didn’t have a headlamp.  These were very minor bumps in yesterday’s overall plan and the rest of the group was able to compensate.  This is the participant’s first time to Franconia Notch so they aren’t familiar with the trails in this area.

Stay tuned for the June post where we’ll discuss this scenario and what how a Leader might adapt (or not) the plan to accommodate this participant.

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Colby Meehan

Colby Meehan is the Leadership Training Manager with the AMC. She lives & works in New Hampshire.