FAQ – Trip Leaders

What to expect for trip leaders and trip assistants

Questions? Contact Derek Torry, Trip Leader Coordination

How do I know my trip route?

Often but not always the trip leader has been on that particular hike before. Derek or Brian will make sure you have a copy of the National Geographic section trail maps, perhaps the FaroutGuides.com (formerly GutHook app) or other specific maps marked of the planned trail and access to the trailheads. Trip leaders will discuss the daily camps, water locations, grazing areas, and possible exits from the trail, if needed.

How will I navigate on the trail?

Pass to Pass (PtP) has a Garmin inReach navigator for each hike. The inReach GPS is activated at the trailhead and it provides waypoints every 10 minutes to the Pass to Pass Track the Hikers page. The device also allows both two-way text messaging to people and texting between inReach devices on the same trail together. It has an emergency SOS button that notifies emergency personnel if a medical emergency occurs.

Trip leaders will have trail maps and a compass and know how to read both in the wilderness.

Trip assistants will also be knowledgeable of trail navigation.

GPS information:

  • Assign someone to run the GPS device.
  • GPS device must be synced to Earthmate app on a smartphone.
  • Start tracking each day when the group begins hiking, and end tracking when finished hiking for the day.
  • Use text message function to provide brief daily updates to blogger and emergency trip contact (usually Bill or Brian).
  • Know how to use the device for emergencies.

Do I need first-aid training?

All trip leaders will take a Wilderness First Aid course. Many of our trip leaders are lifelong backpackers. Some have led many different groups into the wilderness and all of them are knowledgeable of PtP’s goals to assist PD hikers in their travels in the wilderness.

Trip leaders will be knowledgeable of the items in the group first-aid kit for people and llamas including the SAM splint. Manufacturer’s video EMS video on splinting

How will I learn about handling the pack llamas?

Trip leaders have been on a previous PtP hike and therefore know the basics about loading panniers, grazing, keeping the llamas away from Hellebore plants, and common strategies for leading llamas and staking them out overnight. Some trips have their own llama wrangler (especially in Oregon). Check with the previous trip leader about grazing and staking the llamas. Your maps should show possible locations.

What tasks should I assign to hikers?

  • Taking hikers’ temperatures.
  • Weighing llama panniers.
  • Leading the loading of llamas.
  • Keeping account of radios and GPS devices. Be sure they are turned off at night.
  • Running the GPS device. Also be sure this is turned off at night. Turn device on each day so group’s location is tracked on the PtP Track the Hikers page. In addition, send out short status messages via text each day (2-3/day). The designated PtP blogger will post short updates for hikers’ friends and family on the PtP blog each day–it’s important the blogger has access to updates from your group. The trip leader will be informed of who to send status messages to.
  • Combine GPS, radios, and thermometer–gather these up each evening and be sure the units are turned off.
  • Set up and tear down of water filter station in camp.

How do I get to know my hikers?

When a hiker (PD or support) is accepted after they have filled out the application, been evaluated as needed, signed the waiver form, and discussed the possible trips, the hiker is assigned to a trip. The trip leader is notified at that time. Trip leaders will have their hikers’ contact information and can communicate with them. After PtP conference calls start (usually monthly calls starting in April), some trip leaders hold follow-up calls with just their hikers, especially as the hike time nears.

Often a trip leader checks in with a particular hiker if they need encouragement to continue a regime of physical preparedness or if they are experiencing some physical difficulty, especially with feet, back, or legs.

Email your team of hikers to introduce yourself. Provide them with your contact information should they want to contact you for any reason.

  • Call each team member to get to know them, their relationship to Parkinson’s, and their experience and skill level with backpacking.
  • For those who have not backpacked or have limited experience, review in detail the gear and food they plan to bring, and make sure their total gear and food weight with water is under 40 pounds. Granted much of it will go on the llama, but space is limited.

How do I coordinate shuttles and transportation to and from the trailheads?

  • Verify hikers’ hotel and airline transportation reservations, if applicable. We may have some trail angels who can help shuttle hikers to and from airports and trailheads. Regardless, coordinate these logistics amongst your team.
  • Call the trip leader on the next trip after yours to discuss how to get vehicles to the appropriate trailheads. For each trip, it is important to plan for at least one vehicle to remain at the starting trailhead and the others to be taken to the ending trailhead. Many teams find they need at least three cars to transport all the group’s hikers and gear to and from trailheads. An ideal sample scenario: Trip 1 coordinates carpools amongst their team and takes three vehicles to the starting trailhead. The Trip 1 and Trip 2 hike leaders coordinate prior to the Trip 1 hike. The Trip 2 hike leader is informed of where the Trip 1 team’s vehicles will be parked, how to obtain keys, etc. The Trip 2 team moves relevant Trip 1 team vehicles from the Trip 1 starting trailhead to the Trip 1 ending trailhead, which is also the Trip 2 starting trailhead. At the end of Trip 1, all the Trip 1 and Trip 2 hikers and the relevant Trip 1 and Trip 2 vehicles are at the Trip 1 ending/Trip 2 starting trailhead. The Trip 2 and Trip 3 hike leaders repeat this process.
  • If someone at the trailhead is returning to where cell phone service is available, take photos of vehicles to be moved and key locations and send them to the next trip leader.
  • Be sure to discuss where you will hide vehicle keys.
  • Discuss which car will contain the resupply for the team starting a hike. This includes things like llama feed and batteries for electronic devices.
  • Reminder that for all vehicles, we need two sets of keys (this may not be possible with rentals).
  • The team starting a hike may bring the team ending a hike sandwich supplies, chips and water. Often we have a team vehicle ready to do this task.

How will I provide updates during my trip?

The Garmin inReach navigator is linked to the PtP Track the Hikers page so family and friends can follow the hike as it progresses. It is important that the trip leader arrange for daily status reports to be sent via text to the designated blogger for the daily blog post sharing details of the hike with family and friends.

What if my group has a medical emergency on the trail? (policy being developed by board)

  • Know your evacuation routes before your hike begins.
  • Check the affected hiker’s condition and stabilize them with items from the first aid kit.
  • Carry emergency contact numbers for members of your team and PtP emergency contacts like Bill or Brian.
  • If you need assistance and the SOS is activated on the Garmin inReach, you will now be responsible to coordinate with the area emergency services (National Park or National Forest Service or local sheriff’s department).

What about wildfires?

In the event of trail closure due to wildfires, blowndowns, etc., PtP will try to locate an alternative trail, so the trip is not canceled. PCTA has a good review of how react to wildfires.

What is the trip cancellation policy?

The PtP board is clarifying the trip cancellation policy. Safety is the utmost concern and a trip will be rescheduled or rerouted if possible if there is a wildfire or other trail closure. If the trip leader has an emergency and cannot lead the trip, we will try to use a trip leader who is designated as roving to fill in. It may be that a trip has to be cancelled and then hikers will be offered any available space on later hikes.

What checklists do I need and where do I find them?

A trailhead checklist has been created for starting and ending a Pass to Pass hike so the necessary group items are not forgotten.

What tasks need to be done during the transitions between hikes?


  • You may want to assign someone to be responsible for weighing each llama pannier and another to lead the saddling and loading of the llamas. Each pack should be color coded with a colored ribbon.
  • Line up llama bags with all contents outside each bag in which they will ride. The team leader going on trail will check off each item from the trailhead checklist provided to ensure items are accounted for and they know which bag it is in.
  • Start training hikers on loading llama panniers.
  • Have someone pass out labeled bags of shirt, hat, cards, and stickers.
  • Check the number of stoves and fuel canisters.
  • Trip leaders should scan the amount of clothing and food the hikers brought (excess can be left in shuttle vehicles).


  • Ask all hikers to post their pictures and video to a common location. A common location (usually a Google Drive folder) will be set up and everyone will be notified via email.
  • Verify all common gear to be passed on to the next team from the checklist.

What are the hiking/camping protocols?

  • No one ever hikes alone. Trip leaders should be prepared for different hiking speeds.
  • Check that backpacks fit properly so that the weight is on the hips.
  • Check with hikers about sore spots and blisters- the earlier the better to handle them
  • Take 10 minute rest breaks every hour of hiking.
  • Everyone should have a map, or at least a copy of a map. Each team should have two waterproof maps.
  • Everyone stops and regathers at every junction on the trail, no exceptions.
  • There should be a radio in the front and in the back of the group.
  • Camp should be 100 feet from water and from the trail, unless there is a clearly established campsite.
  • Restroom area should be 200 feet from camp, trail, and water if possible. TP should be put in ziplock (provided with common gear) to haul out with garbage.
  • Perform camp sweep before leaving campsite each day.
  • If possible, do not set up tents under trees (do not set up under dead trees), especially if wind or rain conditions are prevalent. Always check above your tent for anything that might potentially fall.