Grand Canyon Expedition Day 5+ Commodore’s Log supplimental: Hidden Danger
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Previous Post: Day 5: A Father-Daughter experience
(Three people named David on 1 trip is too confusing, so they’re call me Commodore.)
Some noteworthy trip leader observations I have made: I am pleased to report that everyone is respecting my request that they behave appropriately for my 12-year-old daughter. A few off-color jokes aside, no foul language, public nudity nor drunk and disorderly conduct, yet everyone is having a great time. Funny how the presence of one kid can keep us adults in order. (If you are planning your own trip down the Canyon, pay special note of this point. For many reasons I recommend bringing kids. I will elaborate in a later post.)
In general, everyone is getting along well with each other, which is remarkable considering most of us had never met before we gathered in Flagstaff a few days ago. Some examples: The women have all had something to share with Ariel and really included her as an equal. Captain Shu is a great team player. He is always looking to learn and always has a great attitude. He often has something to contribute, yet is never overbearing. He helped me run the water filtration today to filter about 40 gallons of water to refill the 5-gallon water jugs. With Canyon 9 trips already under his belt, he seems to have accumulated everything you could possibly need stashed away in his raft. I also noticed Steve has started stepping it up more as a team player. I have even seen him looking for things to do and stepping in to help other work crews now.
There is still plenty of room to improve our efficiencies, particularly in the mornings. Many of the things the outfitter showed us before we launched the first day seem to have been forgotten, but he did overload people with information. I expect few people if any, took the time to read the primer/meal plan the outfitter sent us a few weeks before the trip so they would already know things like how to use the dish washing system or where everything is located on the rafts, especially where the food is for each meal. The captains should know what they have on their boats and help the cook crew locate it. I expect that will improve as we go.
I am concerned about one person who is not showing strong team skills, seen standing around when work needs to be done unless given explicit instructions to help and sometimes going back for seconds of food before everyone has had their first serving. My concern is for the friction it could cause in the group. If we have a day-12-meltdown, this could be the catalyst.
There are many hazards in the Canyon: falls, cuts, bites and stings, dehydration and hypothermia to name a few. But some are more insidious. Some we bring with us. The term “day-12-meltdown” is used to describe what can happen on wilderness expeditions where people must live and work together in close quarters under stressful conditions with little reprieve from each other. By about day 12, people run out of patience and conflicts can happen. A breakdown in group cohesion can actually be fatal as was proven in the very first expedition in the Canyon, led by John Wesley Powell, at a place that aptly earned the name Separation Canyon. Even a slightly annoying laugh can sound like fingernails scratched on a chalkboard after a week or two. A good trip leader will recognize the signs early and take action promptly to avert such a disaster that can spoil the trip for everyone. It only takes one person to create discord. This is also why I believe a trip leader’s most important job is that of selecting a compatible crew.
Keep in mind that regardless of their experience, everyone on the trip is learning as we go, particularly if it’s their first trip. New people, new environment, new lifestyle; it can all be overwhelming. Everyone reacts to the stress differently. Leading a group of strangers under these conditions can be much more challenging than most anything you’ll ever deal with in the office.
TRIP TIP: If you observe behavior that may damage group cohesion, address it swiftly and discretely. Odds are that the person is unaware of their behavior and if you let it go, it will only get worse. It always does.
(Thank you all for an amazing response to this account of our journey. Wow! If you like it, click the thumbs up. Your public and private comments are great. If you have questions, post them. The dialog adds to the story and many others probably have the same question.)
Posted on January 5, 2012, in Grand Canyon 2011 and tagged adventure, Day-12-Meltdown, expedition, Grand Canyon, group dynamics, John Wesley Powell, Leadership, nankoweap, rafting, Separation Canyon. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.