Hiking Leadership

Mod note: I moved this into it’s own thread. I have written a decent explanation why here.

Hi all,

I was very disappointed that I couldn’t go out with you today, and the reasons why have led me to start a discussion on the role of hike leaders.

For the most part, people have accepted me as a sort of unofficial leader of the club. I started it, lead most hikes, and spend a lot of time looking for and scouting out new and interesting places for us. Furthermore, in the past, when hard decisions had to be made, such as telling Mingshah and Mr. He that they could not bring their children along on hikes, it was me who had to make them. And without exception, my decisions were respected.

There is a problem now that one member of our group no longer has any respect for me (he has said this openly in a letter) and disagrees that I have any right to make decisions to exclude people. He says this is a public club, and the hikes are open to the public. This is true to some degree, but as I wrote, we have excluded people in the past because their needs didn’t match ours.

Now I don’t want to suggest that I am king of the club, and what I say goes. Others have led hikes and in the future I’m sure they will continue too. In fact, for a long time I have been trying to encourage others to lead to take some pressure off me.

But the fact remains that hikes do not happen without someone sitting down to post about a new hike (usually an area they know) and then leading it. Omni has led hikes along the Neidong River which would not have taken place without him as he knows the area and we don’t. Same with hikes Limey led on Guanyinshan, and Chris and Kitty led in Neihu. Sure it’s possible we could learn about these places ourselves, and organize our own hikes, but we all know this is not likely to happen.

So my first question now is this: Can the leader/organizer of a hike exclude other hikers by right of the efforts he or she has put into it?

In my case, I wanted to exclude one hiker firstly because he has written to me that I am an irresponsible leader, a danger to others, selfish, and it is only a matter of time before someone is seriously hurt on one of my hikes. When I told this hiker he was not welcome on Sunday’s hike to Daxi I said that it was in part because I could no longer trust him to be cooperative. As leader of a hike, I need to believe that the people who have joined respect me and each other. To me it’s obvious that you shouldn’t go out into the wilderness with someone you don’t trust, or deeply dislike. It’s also obvious a leader does not want someone along who adds stress, and who is as likely to start taking shots at him if things go wrong, as helping out.

Now this hiker took all this to a very personal level and started calling me names. I gave him the opportunity to meet me before the hike to say what he wanted to my face. I also warned him not say anything more about my wife (as he had already made some insulting remarks). He responded with even greater insults directed at my wife (she was untrustworthy, I hadn’t a clue what she was doing, and I really needed to clean up my house), and the threat that he would bring up the problems he has with my leadership in public, at his time and choosing. I was livid and I don’t want to relive those emotions. Suffice to say, I decided that if the two of us went out on a hike together, the chances of it ending in a fistfight were pretty high. You don’t provoke a man by insulting his wife unless you are looking for serious trouble.

So, this is why I decided it would be best that I not go today. You guys just wanted to get out and enjoy the sun and a swim. It wasn’t right to put you in danger or, at the very least, in a very uncomfortable situation.

But the issue remains for the group and we can hopefully solve it in a peaceful manner on this forum. I don’t want this person on any more hikes that I lead. Period! You would think he wouldn’t want to go on hikes I lead either, especially when he believes I am a menace, but he insists he will go if he wants. I considered to just organize hikes by private email in the future, but decided this is wrong. I want to keep the club open, but I also want to keep it the very friendly, happy meeting place it has always been.

So, the only way to exclude this person is to have everyone agree that the leader of a hike has the right to say who can and can’t go.

The other issue we should bring up now is what responsibilities and duties a leader has. I have had a few complaints over the past year and a half, a few I accepted, and I few I outright rejected. If I say a hike is going to be around 4 hours and it turns out to be 4.5 please don’t complain. If we arrive at a spot that I said is very beautiful and it turns out a landslide has turned it into what looks like a construction zone, please don’t get angry with me. I don’t control the forces of nature, and I try my best to estimate times. If I said a hike was two hours and it turned out to be 4, you can complain. But with any hike over 3 or 4 hours usually there are so many variables (and group size is a big one), that exact timing is impossible. Please be flexible or don’t come along.

We are going out into the woods and many things can go wrong. We have learned what some of those may be, and now take precautions, such as always having flashlights. There’s always room to learn, and I am open to suggestions, and even some criticism that is done with respect. I am not open to being evaluated.

Anyway, just a recap of a few things we need to get out into the air:

  1. Can a leader exclude someone because he feels the other’s presence would harm the group in some way, or just make his task of leading that much more difficult?
  2. What are the leaders’ responsibilities, and what do people expect of hike leaders?

I’ve just seen this post, MM. I thought there must be something amiss for you to have suddenly withdrawn from the hike and river trace as you did, especially knowing how much you’d been looking forward to it.

I’m surprised and sorry that such things could have been said to you by one of our group. I consider them entirely unwarranted, and I have full confidence in your capabilities as a hike leader. What does it matter if things don’t always pan out exactly as planned? It just makes it more of a challenge when unexpected difficulties crop up (such as trails having become overgrown, blocked by landslides, not corresponding with how they’re shown on maps, and suchlike). I really don’t think you’ve ever put anyone in the slightest danger or distress on any of the hikes I’ve taken part in. On the contrary, I’d say you generally err on the side of caution rather than otherwise.

On the question of excluding people from hikes, my view is that it is eminently reasonable for whoever organises and announces a hike to set whatever conditions he considers appropriate for other people’s participation in it. So if he considers that it is suitable only for people of a certain level of fitness, strength, agility, mobility or whatever, it is entirely reasonable for him to tell someone who does not meet those conditions that they will have to give it a miss. It is also wholly reasonable that the organizer and leader should be able to exclude anyone whom he considers likely to be a source of disruption, animosity, or any kind of unpleasantness that could detract from the cordial atmosphere of the event and the group’s enjoyment of it.

If anyone has any reservations about a hike, river trace or other outing that MM, I or anyone else has set up, then let them just keep such views to themselves and stay away. They can always organise activities of their own if they think they can do a better job, and I’m sure their efforts will be warmly welcomed and applauded. Two or more people can always arrange different jaunts over the same weekend, and avid outdoorsmen can pick whichever suits them best or even take part in more than one.

Anyway, MM, you have an unqualified thumbs up from me for the time, thought and effort you’ve put into arranging a lot of hugely enjoyable hikes and swims, and I’m looking forward to enjoying many more like them in the future.

So I am pretty new to the hiking club I have been only two river traces, I’ve found MM’s descriptions of the hikes dead on. I am a bit baffled that someone would want to come on a hike that is lead by someone they consider dangerous. Insults are clearly out of line, you don’t like the way someone does something you can communicate that without having to resort to insults we are all adults here.

Omniloquacious, surely you don’t mean that if someone doesn’t like a hike or thinks a hike in a certain area is a bad idea they should just keep that to themselves ? Other than that I agree wholeheartedy with you. In fact it would be irresponsible to include people in a hike who would be a danger to themselves or others or were not physically fit enough to finish.

As for excluding people personally I don’t like to exclude people without reason but that is not the case here. I think it’s certainly justified, why should you be forced to spend time with someone who has insulted you/your wife (I still can’t believe someone did that).

As for the hike leader I would simply expect that they know where the hike is and how long it would roughly take, if you know a good place to grab dinner afterwards so much the better.

My newbie 0.02c

P.S. I’ve seen MM put a ton of effort into writing directions and descriptions of the hike and on the hike itself make sure everyone is accounted for. I double Omniloquacious thumbs up and I think it’s clear at a minimum someone owes MM a big apology.

MM, as hike leader you can choose who or who not you want to lead, full stop.

With all the effort you’ve put into organizing these trips, you’ve earned this right. If this person has a problem with you why would they want to tag along anyway? This is a country full of hiking trails and there are plenty to go around…This guy can simply choose a different trail and be done with it.

Sorry you had to cancel your hike for this reason…A real bummer. :s

MM, I also have fully confidence in your capabilities as a hike leader. Something would happen good or not we cannot expect… like you guys have lost a pile of stuff in Neidong Stream if I remember correctly and how you helped me out there. But, it gets more difficult to handle when group gets bigger. I believe not only the leader, but every member doesn’t hope anybody gets hurt. We might face obstables all the time, but more adventures is also an important factor to bring more joys afterwards if we could help each other not just rely on the leader. (I hope you guys know what I am talking about in this poor English)

I agree that the leader of a hike has the right to say who can and can’t go… but I still think someone you mentioned should try to have a good talk with you again… maybe there is some misunderstanding.

I second Omni’s and snafu’s assessment of the situation and find it rather contradictory for someone to say that your hikes are dangerous and at the same time complain that you want to exclude people who might not be fit for the occasion, or might cause trouble during the hike.

Personally, I find that you are very cautious when organizing a hike, and that the assessment of your hikes by that person is absolutely wrong and without any justification. When somebody knows the area and dangerous as well as you do, and have to carry a lot of responsibility by leading a group into “The Wild”, I think this is absolutely correct, and you have absolutely the right to suggest to that person not to come along.

The excluded person might choose to do the hike on their own, at a similar time, but should not interfere with the group. But I see that might become awkward.

About the hike this Saturday, I find is a big “Sauerei” that this situation made you choose not to come along and enjoy the seclution of this very nice place. Afterall, it was your idea in the first place to do an exploratory hike along the big creek. This exploratory hike was the reason that we found the waterfall and swimming hole and decided to make it a destination last weekend. And having the situation escalating to this point is just not fair towards you. If you ever like to return there and make it a quick walk up, I would be happy if I could join you. I also have a personal reason to go back, since I lost my precious Nalgene bottle somewhere along the way. As you know, they are indestructable, and I don’t want to litter this wonderful piece of nature for centuries.

I also was surprised when MM suddenly withdrew from the hike. I was hoping that it really was the need to paint his house that had caused him to withdraw, and I’m very sorry to hear the true reason for it.

I’ve been fortunate to have gone on hikes led by MM, Chris, and Omni, and none of you have ever done anything that has made me question your leadership or the safety of anyone in the group.

I’d say that the leader should definitely have the right to say who can and cannot go on the hikes. If someone joining the hike compromises the safety of others, or if the mood of the hike will be spoiled, then what’s the point of that? Mandatory inclusion of anybody who shows interest in a hike could probably be the one thing that brings an end to the hiking club, and nobody would like to see that.

Just because a hike is posted on an open internet forum like Forumosa doesn’t mean that anyone can or should come. Going hiking is not like a group of people going to see a movie at Warner Village where there is not much danger involved. Hiking can require a great deal of fitness and cooperation with other hiking partners, and lack of either can definitely put people in danger.

Like snafu said, as long as the leader has a good idea of where the trail is, a general knowledge of the terrain that could be encountered, and an approximate duration of the hike, then that’s good enough for me. An idea of what public transportation options are available is an added bonus since so many people in Taipei do not have vehicles, but transport should not be the responsibility of the group leader if he does not wish to be bothered with the issue.

I’m starting to ramble now, so I just want to say that I feel very privileged to have gone on hikes led by MM, Chris, and Omni, and I hope that nothing stops any of you from hiking for as long as you are able to put one foot in front of the other.

(if it means anything, this is quite possibly the longest post I’ve made on Forumosa in years, so my word count alone is a testament to you MM :bravo: )

I support you MM, you posted the hike and scouted out the location, you absolutely have the right to say who goes. i thought the river trace yesterday was torture, but I wouldn’t mind going back again just one more time. that is all, just once. after that, never again.

Sorry to read this MM.

I was hoping to go on the hike this weekend but got way-laid with a decent flu.

I would like to meet up with you sometime at any rate.


Translation:I got rip-roaringly blind drunk on Saturday night, and there was no way I was getting up that early on Sunday!

Translation:I got rip-roaringly blind drunk on Saturday night, and there was no way I was getting up that early on Sunday![/quote]
Oh I wish.

Thank you all so much for the warm, and lengthy, encomiums. It has been a stressful few days and your words have heartened me to a degree you can’t imagine. Again, thank you all.

As for the matter of leaders’ rights, I think we have settled that: anyone organizing a hike has the right to set the invitation list.

I trust we will never need to discuss this issue again. The hiker in question wrote during our dispute that he would accept a democratically arrived at decision, and I hold him to his word. I will just state here for the record, so everyone is clear, that he is not welcome on any future hikes of mine.

I am truly sorry that the group had to be involved, but I think we have resolved this matter in the fairest and most amicable way possible. No blood was drawn (metaphorically or otherwise), the future harmony of the group is assured, and the hiker in question gets to keep his identity and dignity.

[quote=“Truant”]Sorry to read this MM.

I was hoping to go on the hike this weekend but got way-laid with a decent flu.

I would like to meet up with you sometime at any rate.


Thanks Truant. Hope to see you out soon. Take care.

Hi all,

After posting useful info and photos in yesterday’s Daxi hike thread today, I wandered over to the general hiking chat thread to see what was going on. Unfortunately, it was this discussion.

There’s a parable about three blindfolded men who try to feel and guess an object which is an elephant. One feels the leg and says, “It’s a tree”. The second feels the tail and says, “It’s a rope.” The third feels the trunk and says, “It’s a snake.” Reminds me of this latest series of posts. No fault of most participants though. The story thus far has been presented in such a way that most anyone would sympathize and agree.

First, while I disagree with the characterization of my communication, I am the one who has been in contact with Mucha Man (MM) concerning his organization and leading of a few hikes. I have no interest in dragging this out. So, I will respond, mainly this one time, in our chat thread because some balance in the conversation is necessary. I will try to be as brief as I can, as almost no one has time or interest in the details. By way of overview, prior to today, I have done everything I know to keep this issue private in order to keep it manageable and to avoid any potential face issues for MM that public criticism might have caused. Despite that, he and his wife, in various ways, have chosen to make it public, though until yesterday, not in an open way. And still not in a fair way. For the record, I have been the one who has initiated contact with MM, attempted to communicate, asked for replies, and been generally interested in and available for resolving any problems. On the other hand, MM has avoided the issue for months, in fact, until a few days ago. For most of the timeframe of the problem, he failed to respond to any of my communications or discuss this topic. I decided to give him some time. After a couple of months where I didn’t join the group, recently back from overseas travel, I decided to join in for a hike. It was in response to my post that I would join that MM finally communicated with me. I was surprised that he finally communicated and hoped for the best. Unfortunately, however, he did so mainly to say that I was not welcome to hike with the group any longer. Believing that the group was not his to control, but rather something we have all created, I took issue with that.

I have enjoyed many of our hikes, most organized by MM. I have always given him credit, publicly and personally, for the work he has put into the hikes, and often for the results. However, when problems arose, as they do with any activity, as a participant I offered feedback. Over time, my ignored comments went from comical hints to written feedback. The main written feedback was sent a couple of months ago, prompted by the first Daxi hike which placed the group in unnecessarily unsafe situations in a very remote area after dark. But the main issues are the same in all cases where I’ve had something to say: Easily avoidable problems which repeat, cause difficulty or minor injuries, and could easily cause serious injury.

Point in fact is that I did not insult MM, or his wife, in any way. In fact, he was the only one who resorted to calling me things such as a rude son of a bitch. He very well may have been offended my some of my thoughts or feedback. Though I tried pretty hard to avoid it, I cannot control his perceptions. My comments were written directly, but as tactfully as I could manage, and always on topic, never wandering into anything as unrelated and absurd as cleaning his house. After reading this thread, I am certain that MM misunderstood some things that I said. I also think some of that misunderstanding is willful. However, he did not misunderstand the main points. He either fails to look at them or disagrees. Above all, he has no interest in resolving anything that requires him to contemplate or improve his organization of the hikes.

If my goal had been to insult anyone, I could have done it with much less effort, time, and care. My only purpose in giving any feedback was to make the hikes better and safer for all of us. Although I jump off rocks, fall from swinging ropes into pools, and pole-vault with dead bamboo as frequently as I get the chance, I am at heart very interested in my own safety and the safety of the group. When doing things alone, I take more calculated risks. When others depend on me, I am less tolerant of risk and intolerant of unnecessary risk. In addition to offering occasional constructive criticism, my participation in the hiking group has included leading hikes, organizing birthday parties or meals, supplying transportation, photos, and comic relief, and offering assistance to less experienced hikers or to anyone else who needs anything along the way. I think the nature and value of my participation in this group, as well as my own nature and intentions, stand for themselves without need for justification or explanation.

MM asked what should be expected of a hike leader. I will offer my answer to that question. First, what is not expected. A leader need not be all-knowing, all-powerful, or perfect. Those qualities are beyond us all. That said, any leader of any event should demonstrate a few skills to a specific degree.

That leader should be sufficiently aware of the hike conditions and duration. To what degree? Enough to provide accurate info that people can rely on to make informed, correct decisions about whether to participate.

That leader must put others in the group first. By that I mean that he or she must be basically aware of the participants and their abilities and allow for it. How? By purposefully planning the hike to the degree that avoids unnecessary danger to participants. One simple method would be to allow extra time when conditions are less familiar, rather than lying in bed longer because he or she doesn’t want to get up early.

The leader must be mature and humble enough to accept all feedback and change accordingly when appropriate. He or she should remain aware of the participants’ progress to allow changes to the plan if needed. One example would be when conditions on the hike are discovered to be different than expected, the plan should be changed to ensure safety first. The leader should not be prideful to the point that he or she persists when conditions call for change. The leader’s own personal hike goals should always be subordinated to the safety and enjoyment of the group. The leader should have enough integrity to avoid saying that he or she has acted in such a noble way as to allow one of the members “to keep his identity and dignity,” when in fact he or she has violated the same already to many group members, making it far from the truth.

Finally, the leader should not be so sensitive to feedback that he allows an easily resolvable issue to escalate, due to his or her neglect, into a non-resolvable mess resulting in damage to the group. If a person does not want to do these things, he or she has no business leading anything including a bake sale. There’s so much more that I could say about leadership, but I’ll leave it at that.

That said, it seems that I may have been mistaken on one point. I did assume that this group, which has become an important social and recreational outlet for friends due to contributions from all of us, not only from MM, was a democratic, voluntary association of mature adults. People who can hike together, laugh together, and effectively solve problems together. Not MM’s private club to include or exclude whoever he’s unhappy with at the moment.

MM’s desire to exclude me from hikes is purely to avoid any possibility of disagreement or different opinions – things he cannot tolerate. There is no safety issue, caused by me at least. There is no lack of cooperation issue. There is no issue of a rogue participant causing inexcusable offenses. Those pseudo-concerns were created by MM to advance his position in this discussion. While MM has a number of good qualities, he has demonstrated, beyond any doubt of mine, that he does not in fact possess the qualities that should exist in a real leader. Therefore, while I will surely miss the camaraderie that I’ve come to enjoy with the group, I will plan my own excursions into the beautiful nature that Taiwan provides to all of us.

Wishing you safe and enjoyable hikes,


“When you’ve given up your right or desire to voice your heartfelt opinions, in deference to false tranquility, you have nothing left of value.” – Tom Foley

I stayed out of this discussion in an attempt to maintain the anonymity of those involved, but now since it is out in the open, I want to say this:

I value the friendship of both seeker4 and Mucha_Man, and have found them both to be pleasures to hike with and interact with, and that feeling remains as true now as it has been at any time over the past year. I look forward to continued friendships, hikes and get-togethers with both of them (whether separately, or, as I sincerely hope, together).

I am certainly sorry to see that this situation has developed the way it has, and I cling to the hope that these two fine people can make amends.

It pains me to get involved in the discussion on Leadership that unfolded today, and it is after some serious thought that I am doing so.

It saddened me greatly to see two people bring a discussion such as this into the public arena. I am sure by now most of the hiking regulars have read the posts. I have moved the conversation to the ‘controversial threads’ forum, which is a private one, so don’t bother searching for the exchange. [color=red]EDIT: AS you can see, it’s back here for all to see.[/color]

I believe that this issue is something that is private between you both, and perhaps the others in the group, but not for general eaves dropping by those it doesn’t concern. If you would both like it brought back into public light, please contact Admin about this.

I feel you should continue this discussion by PM, email or even in person. I truly believe you both have the best intentions in each of your hearts, but it is concerning to me (and to others I am sure)that your passions have erupted in a destructive manner. So, please take this offline - and discuss it with everyone who it concerns to come up with a peaceful resolution. I would like to believe that you both want what is best for the group, and I hope that is what drives any future discussion.
Personally, I believe there will be a postive outcome. If it means 2 seperate hikes each weekend, then all the better for the hiking group perhaps. I know some of you cannot attend one day or the other, so having 2 options might pan out to be something positive for hikers as a whole.

I am not trying to be condescending or heavy handed by pulling that conversation, but I do think it has enough cringe value to all the hikers (many whom I know personally) that I don’t believe much good was coming of it left where it was.
There are 3 versions. His version, His version and the truth.

Anyway, I wasn’t expecting to do much more moderating, especially nothing like this. Thanks for your understanding…

Bestest Regards,
Events Mod in the dying throws.

The discussion was prompted by unfortunate events and it was participated in fully and by more people than two. As a matter of fact, it continued and was tolerated, until I replied, and then it was removed. The only thing that most people didn’t get to see is my reply. That strikes me as unbalanced and so quite inappropriate.

Consider this post next to the one I made above. Interesting contrast. So be it. I’m learning lessons about making, or more accurately, not making contributions here.

If anyone is interested in what I had to say, let me know.

It was not removed because of your reply, it was removed because after thinking about it, it seemed inappropriate to leave it be. I went out for a few hours and was going to move it anyway when I got back -your reply or not.
As I mentioned, I don’t believe there is much to be gained airing this dirty laundry in public. Admin is aware of it, and I have no problem at all if someone greater than me deems it should come back. I’m in an awkward postion on this one, and if it means you suddenly take exception to my moderating style then so be it. Edit your previous compliment for all I care. I’m just trying to be as objective as possible.

After some further consideration, and some reasoning from a member of the hiking club I respect, I have put the hiking club leadership debate thread back into events.

FWIW, I don’t agree with having this all out in public like this, but you guys do, and hey, I’m only the guy with the buttons. Personally I think it does the hiking club a discredit.

Go for it, and let me know when I can put it to bed again.


I have to agree with truant here. The way this discussion is held in public does not shine a bright light on the hiking club, which is probably one on the most fun events that ratbrain and I visit on a regular basis. The way that this discussion is held does not do the club justice and probably would repell new faces from joining in.

One solution might be that the 2 parties in dispute get together on neutral grounds, accompanied by 2 objective hiking club core members and talk this over, instead of this public name calling and accusations. I would suggest Chris and maybe Omni as moderators, to make sure that is meeting won’t escalate. Afterall this is the hiking club and not Jerry Springer.