How Many Adult Advisors To Take On a Philmont Trek

Date: Wed, 20 Nov 2002 01:05:21 -0500 (EST)
From: John LeBlanc <> [address updated 2may07]
November 2002

Somehow we get all caught up in the preparation phase of a PhilTrek and focus all too much on the equipment, practice hikes and food preparation and we forget to plan for the eventuality of illness or accident and the what if's that go with that.

The Philmont administration will do whatever is within their power to accommodate crews to be able to stay on the trail.

However, sometimes the possible becomes the impossible.

During the last few years, Philmont has had jobs go unfilled all summer. It used to be that Rangers were picked from applicants with strong Scouting backgrounds and had previous experience at Philmont in another capacity sort of as a "test" so to speak before Rangerhood. Philmont still wants that, but can't get it in all cases.

Some of the 2002 Rangers had no Scouting backgrounds and no previous experience at Philmont. I am not trying to say they are not as good as ones with that background or experience. The ones I observed were as good as or maybe even better. What I am saying is that the availability of qualified employees at Philmont gets thinner and thinner each year.

During the summer of 2002 the Rangers were stretched very thin. Many took on crews without any days off for several weeks at a time.

What this boils down to is that there may not be a Ranger available to take the place of an adult on your crew. In that case, your crew just may in fact have to come off the trail. This is a pretty high price for a crew to pay for lack of foresight on the part of the leaders in planning ahead and selecting the correct individuals and numbers of adults to accompany the crew.

The biggest problem is finding a replacement female advisor or Ranger in the event a crew comes up short of a female advisor. If you have a coed crew, then by all means try your best to take two female advisors. Extra female advisors are few and far between at Philmont. Wives of the Philmont staff have filled in during the past and will continue to do so in the future, but their ranks are thin.

On a slightly different area, in my opinion, an adult advisor that does not meet the height/weight and physical exam requirements now and hopes to "get under the wire by the time we go" has no business being selected as an advisor nor should they push themselves against all odds of a healthful trek. Marginal advisors at low altitudes more often than not become crew liabilities at PhilTrail altitude.

Quite personally, I would not want to even consider taking a crew with only two advisors. A crew is no more safe with three or four advisors than with two so crew safety is not the issue, but there is a redundancy built in with three or four advisors to meet the required two deep adult leadership requirements and enable the crew to stay on the trail. Staying on the trail is what you go to Philmont for in the first place.

I'll give you an example.

I was on a crew of eleven in July 2002. Four of us were adults and all adults had at least one child on trek. In one brief moment of inattention an accident occurred on the conservation project and caused an adult to be taken to Health Lodge from near Panther Junction for sutures. That advisors son was involved in the incident and seeing all the blood on dad caused him to also be transported to HL for observation after being treated at the scene for shock. They both returned to the crew and trail two days later.

These two individuals happened to be a father son pair. Had it been the child of one of the other adults I am sure that parent would have accompanied their child to HL. That would have pulled two adults off the trail.

With four adults in the crew, our crew could still function as a crew on the trail under the leadership of the remaining two adults. If a crew only has three adults, there are quite a few scenarios where the crew would run short on adults. If a crew has only two adults, the die is cast. Off they come.

I prefer four, but would consider three minimum.

Let me expand that further.

Would I take a fourth adult and leave a youth at home? Certainly not, I'd take the youth.

Would I take a third adult and leave a youth at home? I'd have to weigh this one thoroughly by assessing the health and condition of the crew members, the way the crew functioned as a group and a lot of otehr factors before I'd take a crew with only two adult advisors, but when it came down to it, all things b eing equal, I'd take the youth and just two adults rather than leave a youth at home if at all possible.

Notice that I told you earlier our crew contained eleven people. It did contain twelve, but due to a Philmont Administration advisory one of the youth waited until the 2003 trek to go because of a history of asthma problems in smoky environments.

Most times when push comes to shove things just seem to work themselves out in the end and you don't have to be the bad guy.

You cannot be prepared for all eventualities, but if you are squeaking by with a minimum of two adults, then you are not prepared for any of them for sure. Extra attention to detail is then in order. Risk management comes into play and the bar is upped a notch or two.

Just remember Murphy is a Scouter too. He does live at Philmont during the summer.

The Philmont administration will do all in their power to accommodate your crew and try their best to keep your crew on the trail, but there is a limit to what they can do. Their resources, although phenomenally large and adequate in most cases can be stretched to the point where they no longer can assist the crew with spare adults.

In that case, the only alternative is coming off the trail. That is not what your crew went to Philmont to do, so do your homework and plan your resources adequately to cover the crews needs.

Each year this happens to many crews. If you don't want it happening, then plan accordingly.

The old adage "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" is worth paying attention to.

John LeBlanc
<> [address updated 2may07]
Eagle Class of 1959
Phirst Phil Ptrek 1959
PhilTrek 2002 630H2 Trek 16
My latest adventure was yesterday,
Today is not over yet!

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