I did my self organised trip with 5 other girls from my class and we combined it with our longer trip in North Norway (Tromso – Lofoten).
Before we left for our trip we already planned the route for our self organised trip. We did this on the basis of some websites (DNT, ut, kartverket) and the expedition route card, we had to fill in. It was all a bit chaotic, because we thought we could plan the self organised trip during our longer trip, but we had to have the expedition route card ready before our departure. At this moment that sounds logical, because at home we could still ask questions and then we were sure that we did the route card correctly. At that moment we had not so much time for doing that. We also still had to plan a lot for our long trip. We decided to split up and me and three other persons from my group focused on our self organised trip, while the two others focused on the long trip itself. When we tried to organise where we wanted to go for our self organised trip and how we were going to fill in the expedition route card I felt that me and one other person, where doing all the work. We already decided before with everyone that we wanted to go in the area of Fredvang, because we read that it was a area with a lot of hiking opportunities. The others acted like we were the experts and didn’t take a lot of action without us saying anything. This was a clear form of soical loafing for me. The other person and me told them that we didn’t want to make everything with the two of us and gave them the task to do also a part of the expedition route card. They started really late and started asking us questions, when we wanted to pack our bags. We thought this would happen, because they showed signs of social loafing. That’s why we decided to make videos where we explained clearly how to fill in the expedition route card. When they started calling us I felt annoyed, but I decided just to help them with their questions, so they could get the expedition route card done. We showed this route card to our teacher and he said it was a good plan and that it was also good that we had some backup plans in our head. I was glad that by the end everything went well and I also had the feeling that we had a good expedition route card for our trip. When we got this feedback we printed out the maps we needed and the route card. We also checked the weather and avalanche risk before we made our route card and also at the following days before the trip.
The day before the start of the trip we already had been on our way for some days with the six of us. We already went through some group dynamic processes. We were all feeling a bit insecure about our trip, because the weather was going to be really bad the next days and there was also more snow in the area then we expected. This led to some frustration in the group. One person of the group talked a bit with the owner of our cabin and he told us that our plan for our trip really was not a good idea now with the bad weather and the avalanche risks. We decided quickly that we wanted to change our plans to more safe routes, for example using our backup plans more. We decided to wait with the actual plan making until tomorrow, when we met with another local woman who knows a lot about the area. I felt at that moment relieved, because I was glad that we were going to talk with more locals to get the best route for our trip. On the other side I also felt that there were still some frustrations in the group, but I didn’t know why. We all worked together with preparing the food for the trip. We all worked good together until we were deciding who takes what. At that moment the frustrations came back and some went to their room and others just made quick decisions for everyone who takes what from the food in their rucksack. I didn’t know what happened and was confused. I really didn’t like this vibe just before the trip. After some cooldown time me and some others called everyone together, because we didn’t want to start the trip like this. We all talked around the table and shared our feelings and opinions. I stated that it was for me important to have a good vibe in the group before we start the trip, so that we could work together like a team. We talked and hugged the frustrations out and after this moment I also felt that the vibe changed, the frustrations were gone.
In the morning of the trip we first went to the local woman and got some nice tips about hikes that were now possible and which of our hikes in our old plan were still okay in her opinion. We went back to the cabin to review everything (her opinion and our own opinions) and after lunch we started our trip, with a new plan and backup plans and a good vibe in the group. We were ready for it.
On the first day we wanted to do a 3 kilometer hike at the coastline (right the sea – left the mountain) to a beach. Before that we wanted to try to check out the place where we were going to walk the next day. When we arrived at the right location with all our gear ready we tried to hike to the spot for the next day. After half an hour we decided that is was best to go directly to the beach and not to the spot for tomorrow, because hiking in the snow with our rucksacks took us a lot of time and energy. We hiked to the beach. The weather was not great. It was raining most of the time and it was windy. We all tried to find the best route. After some time the path was gone and we hiked further in even deeper snow. We dropped to our knees or further in the snow with every step. We switch the first and last ones hiking around so we all had some harder and easier times. In front you had to make the path for the others and more in the back you could hike in the footsteps the others made in the snow. After some time there were two options, hiking in the deep snow or hiking on the rocks. There we splitted up for a short time, because half of the group didn’t trust the rock, because they could be slippery. Quickly after that we decided to find something in between the two options. We hiked close to the rocks, because there was a little less snow, but still in the snow. After 3 hours we arrived at the beach, where we wanted to camp. We were all tired of the hike and searched for a good spot to set our tents up. We also checked the weather forecast again, especially for the wind direction. We took all these things into consideration and setted up our tents. After that we all went in our tents, because it started raining again. We cooked dinner and tried to keep the tent organised. This was difficult because we had a lot of wet stuff and there was also water coming in, because the tarp was laying a bit outside. We fixed this, when we saw it, but because of that some more gear was wet. We tried to get the vibe up by playing some card games and talking and after that we went to sleep.
In the night the weather became worse then the forecast predicted. The wind direction also changed. This resulted in really bad weather and a bad night sleep, because the tent was moving a lot with the powerful wind and rain. We tried to fix it once in the night by pulling all the cords again thight, but it didn’t help for a long time. Because the tent was loosening more gear got wet, because the rain was coming inside by dripping through the sail of the tent.
In the morning it was still storming. I felt annoyed, because a lot of my gear was wet. That because it was right in the stream that was created yesterday because the tarp wasn’t laying completely correct (under the tent and not outside so it could stream in). We talked with the others what are options were: staying in the tents and waiting the storm out or walking back. We checked the weather, looked at how the way back was and looked at the state of our tents. With all this in consideration we decided to hike back. One pole of a tent broke, the storm would hits us again stronger after noon, but the way back also didn’t look quit good, because in the beginning we had to walk on a steep edge that ended in a cliff. It was difficult to make this decision, because nobody wanted to take it, but after considering everything we decided. We packed our stuff, but with al the wet gear this wasn’t going as fast. We hiked back, staying close together and choosing always the same path. Because of all the rain the path was more clear and there was less snow on our way. The wind also lied down, when we passed the steep edge but after that it got stronger again. We made it in 1/1,5 hour back to our start point. At that moment the decision was made that we didn’t go through with the trip, mostly because of the broken pole of the tent. I missed that we made this decision, but didn’t want to make a discussion about that at that moment. I felt failed, because we were going to end our trip, but also thought it was the best decision seeing how everyone felt. I also think it wasn’t a good idea to push at that moment others, that really didn’t want to go through anymore, because that would just lead to a bad rest of the trip. I think it is important to hear everyone and if someone is not feeling safe we also have to respect that and change the plan, so that everyone’s feels safe about it.
I saw a lot group dynamic processes passing during this trip. Social loafing was one of them, like I already described when I was telling about the preparation for the trip. I also saw the opposite when we hiked in the snow. We switched up who was in front and who was last, so that everyone had to do hard work at some time of the hike. I think that is really important to do, so that not one person uses all of his or her energy. I also recognised the four stages of group development clearly, not specifically during the short trip but especially during the long trip. In the beginning everyone was still looking for their role and we got in a lot of discussions and even had frustrations with each other, but after some time we found what our values were and how we could work efficient together. The day before the hike I saw us falling shortly back in the stroming phase. We were insecure about the trip and mirrored that on the others. We didn’t know what to do as a team and that made us fall back. After we talked about that and made new plans we were back a team that worked together. Especially during the hike back we stayed together and looked after each other as one team. Last thing I saw was that it was difficult for us to make a decision in the morning with the bad weather and if we would end the trip. Nobody wanted to take the lead in this decision, that had to be made. There I recognised that a leader also has to make hard decisions at times, that maybe not everyone agrees to at that moment.
What I learned from this trip besides the things I already wrote (for example about group dynamics):
- weather can be tricky and can change unexpected (it is good to be always prepared for the worst)
- For heavy rain fall you need plastic bags to separate your dry and wet gear from each other
- Frustrations and discussions are not always bad, they can lift the group to a next level of performing and working as a team
- plans can change quickly (backup plans are really important to have!)
- hiking in the snow is more exhausting and time consuming then I expected (1 km an hour is a decent speed)
- planning without enough knowledge about the area is difficult (locals are a good resource!)