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Mountain Guiding Legalities.....?

Mountain Guiding Legalities.....?


Postby Ibex » Thu Nov 14, 2013 8:20 pm

As I am sure many of you are aware, I am currently fundraising for a charity trek.
I am brainstorming some idea's for raising donations. One of them is guiding some people up some mountains.

I am thinking about offering a service to take people up a mountain, (or several) of thier choice, for a donation to my cause.
The thing that worries me, is that I am not a qualified mountain guide, just an experienced walker. Seeing as I am doing this for a charity, and not making money for a company or a business, am I on any kind of shaky legal ground?

Wouldn't mind becoming a mountain guide in the future though. Just a shame I don't live anywhere near any smegging mountains. :lol:
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Re: Mountain Guiding Legalities.....?

Postby Cairngormwanderer » Thu Nov 14, 2013 8:27 pm

I'm not a lawyer (though I met one once :lol: ) but it sounds pretty dodgy to me. Even with you not taking any money from them (the donation going to a charity), you are offering a service and I think that puts you in a position of responsibility - and that probably applies legally as well as morally. Someone might know a workable alternative though...
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Re: Mountain Guiding Legalities.....?

Postby Ibex » Thu Nov 14, 2013 8:44 pm

Thats sort of how I feel about it as well. Could just be paranoia I suppose, but I am certainly no lawyer.

Obviously I would be doing everything in my power to limit risks. I would carry all the food and water to make it easier on them as well.
Will be good training for me, and hopefully raise some cash for the charity too.
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Re: Mountain Guiding Legalities.....?

Postby IamAJMiller » Thu Nov 14, 2013 8:48 pm

From going over (briefly) the legal side of guiding in my SML course I was lead to believe that you can indeed get into bother should the worst happen. If you are in a position of authority (which you would be as the leader) and are deemed by a court to be negligent then you can be prosecuted.

Take a worst case scenario for example: You take someone up Ben Nevis under your guidance. Due to a navigation error by you they fall off the North Face. If they have family or dependents then they can sue you for negligence and the court could award them loss of earnings etc etc at your expense. Even if it's not for commercial gain you could still be liable, so friends taking friends hiking and one of them is clearly the more experienced then this could apply too. Of course this is only relevant if you're deemed to be negligent so if they have a mishap which wasn't your fault or was deemed unforeseeable you'd be ok.

It's a lot to think about and when I was told about the friends taking friends out thing it definitely made me think.
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Re: Mountain Guiding Legalities.....?

Postby Captain Black » Thu Nov 14, 2013 9:01 pm

IamAJMiller wrote:It's a lot to think about and when I was told about the friends taking friends out thing it definitely made me think.

There is a lot of money to be made from spinning tales of legal liability to persuade people to attend expensive courses.

I'd be very interested to hear of a single example where an injured "inexperienced" individual has sued a more experienced mate with whom they'd gone out into the hills.

Sounds like an apocryphal tale from the very people who earn many notes from the health and safety business.
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Re: Mountain Guiding Legalities.....?

Postby IamAJMiller » Thu Nov 14, 2013 9:57 pm

Captain Black wrote:
IamAJMiller wrote:It's a lot to think about and when I was told about the friends taking friends out thing it definitely made me think.

There is a lot of money to be made from spinning tales of legal liability to persuade people to attend expensive courses.

I'd be very interested to hear of a single example where an injured "inexperienced" individual has sued a more experienced mate with whom they'd gone out into the hills.

Sounds like an apocryphal tale from the very people who earn many notes from the health and safety business.


Yeah I agree, I can't see it happening often, if at all in real life. But the scenario in that case was: close work colleagues going rock climbing. If one of them had an accident due to my negligence then technically they could claim for compensation because they were unable to work and support family pay mortgage etc. We might be friends but if it meant suing to support your family.....friends have fallen out over a lot less! I still take less experienced friends hiking and climbing, I'm confident that I'm very safety conscious so it wouldn't stop me. All very extreme cases and I take your point, but technically it could happen, just good to be aware of worst case scenarios.
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Re: Mountain Guiding Legalities.....?

Postby Cairngormwanderer » Thu Nov 14, 2013 10:05 pm

I think pals going out is different from what the OP is talking about. If he tells people he will offer a service on the condition that they make a donation, then I would have thought that constitutes a contract. And an assurance that he will 'take care' and carry food and water won't affect the legal situation if there is an accident. I'd suggest speaking to a lawyer mate or asking a friendly guide for advice rather than the best guesses and prejudices of me and others on this forum.
But, hey, that's just me wearing my Mr Cautious hat.
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Re: Mountain Guiding Legalities.....?

Postby IamAJMiller » Thu Nov 14, 2013 10:11 pm

Cairngormwanderer wrote:I think pals going out is different from what the OP is talking about. If he tells people he will offer a service on the condition that they make a donation, then I would have thought that constitutes a contract. And an assurance that he will 'take care' and carry food and water won't affect the legal situation if there is an accident. I'd suggest speaking to a lawyer mate or asking a friendly guide for advice rather than the best guesses and prejudices of me and others on this forum.
But, hey, that's just me wearing my Mr Cautious hat.


Definitely seek professional advice so your back is covered for this one. I know H&S is often seen as a hindrance but you need to be sure. I'm confident there's some guides reading this that can give you their point of view.
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Re: Mountain Guiding Legalities.....?

Postby Ibex » Thu Nov 14, 2013 10:35 pm

Cheers guys. I also have my Mr Cautious and safety concious hat, firmy glued to my head.

I have emailed an aqantaince of mine, that happens to have used to be quite a decent lawyer. Asked him for his advice.
Will be interesting to hear what he has to say.

Does make me once again think about all the mountain guiding courses you can go on though.
WHY don't I live closer to mountains?.......
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Re: Mountain Guiding Legalities.....?

Postby wee black dug » Thu Nov 14, 2013 11:04 pm

You can over analyse this stuff. :wink:

Generally, you have a duty to take reasonable care for the safety of other folk who might foreseeably be adversely affected by your actions. (Or inactions, sometimes.)

That's why when you're out driving your car, if you pile into the back of another car, it's your "fault" - ie you've failed in your duty of reasonable care to the unfortunate motorist in front - and the affected party has a claim against you. In a car of course you are - or should be - insured for that very occurrence.

If you guide folk up a hill, as an informal favour kind of affair, then you owe those people the care that a reasonably careful chap guiding folks up a hill on an informal basis owes them. (The duties owed by professionals - whether it be mountain guides or doctors - can be a whole different kettle of negligence.)

If you make a mistake, and someone suffers loss injury & damage (as they say) as a result of that mistake, then yes, you are at risk of getting sued if someone's motivated enough. And indeed, whether you're up a hill or not, if you make a mistake and someone gets hurt as a result, why shouldn't you get sued? :)

Which kind of brings us back to insurance.
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Re: Mountain Guiding Legalities.....?

Postby OpenC » Fri Nov 15, 2013 12:12 am

This is something I've spent a lot of time thinking about as well, having taken a couple of friends up to Stob Binnein and Ben Nevis and having almost been caught out by hideous weather on more than one occasion, which turned the days into more of an adventure than people were expecting despite my having told them that this is not like a walk in the forest.

Some kind of disclaimer might be considered.? "I acknowledge that I'm going up this big mountain with a guy who's been up it before and knows what he's doing, but who does not claim to guarantee my safety" sort of thing?
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Re: Mountain Guiding Legalities.....?

Postby IamAJMiller » Fri Nov 15, 2013 10:24 am

OpenC wrote:Some kind of disclaimer might be considered.? "I acknowledge that I'm going up this big mountain with a guy who's been up it before and knows what he's doing, but who does not claim to guarantee my safety" sort of thing?


A mountain environment is considered a dangerous place with lots of potential for accidents anyway. So it's likely if the worst happened you'd be covered. Unless it was deemed you were guilty of being extremely negligent. If someone thought you had been, and thought they could prove it, then the disclaimer wouldn't be worth anything.
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Re: Mountain Guiding Legalities.....?

Postby Rudolph » Fri Nov 15, 2013 10:38 am

If there is no accident there is no problem but...

If there is an accident and you are sued for negligence one of the things you will have to prove you had good reason for believing you were competent to lead others in the area and conditions at the time. You need to be happy that you can justify your claim. As a minimum I'd think a formal qualification (ML) and several years of documented experience with an experienced guide in taking groups out would be necessary for anything you are going to charge for. Leading a group is very different from doing it yourself.

You'd probably also have to have some form or risk assessment including how you'd cope with an injury to yourself.

Courts tend to award partial damages depending on how much was your fault. There will nearly always be things they find you could have done better so you may end up paying some damages even if the client was a total numpty. You'd also inevitably have to pay your own legal costs even though you were exonerated. Insurance would be essential.

Of course there is a balance of risk here and only you can decide whether taking a few friends or aquantences up a local hill for a donation of £5 runs a credible risk of being sued for millions...

For myself I wouldn't risk it without insurance..

A mountain environment is considered a dangerous place with lots of potential for accidents anyway.

So if you are offering to take people into this environment for a donation it's reasonable for them to expect you to be able to provide some extra protection as a result of you experience and skills.
Last edited by Rudolph on Fri Nov 15, 2013 10:44 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Mountain Guiding Legalities.....?

Postby IamAJMiller » Fri Nov 15, 2013 10:39 am

Incidentally I do hope all this talk of legalities isn't disheartening you or putting you off too much. It's all just worst case scenario stuff and to be honest it wouldn't put me off. What I would do is make absolutely sure you're taking every safety precaution should you decide to go ahead with it. Careful weather planning, make sure your group is up to the challenge, both through their fitness and having the right kit. Route planning, accident blackspots, emergency procedures, what to do if things start to go wrong. If you've thought about all this and are pretty sure you can get round them all then you've done a great deal to ensure their safety.
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Re: Mountain Guiding Legalities.....?

Postby Rudolph » Fri Nov 15, 2013 10:45 am

IamAJMiller wrote: If you've thought about all this and are pretty sure you can get round them all then you've done a great deal to ensure their safety.


+1 And remember to write it down so you can prove you've thought about it.
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