Explorers Connect

How to put together an expedition team

How-toJames Hipkiss
"Team selection can make or break an expedition


In the majority of cases an expedition is born by talking, questioning and acting. A small group of individuals suddenly hit upon an idea which gradually develops into a full-scale expedition.

The leader usually emerges through specialist knowledge or through sheer force of personality. Not only is selection of an expedition leader important but to be successful an expedition team should encompass all the skills and expertise necessary to complete the mission. Team selection can make or break an expedition. While it may seem a nice idea to have a group of close friends along with you, survival in the field necessitates qualified expertise above camaraderie.

However many are in the expedition team, responsibility for the following key requirements will need to be accounted for: Specialist equipment Stores Transport Communications Food Medical Finance. A large proportion of any expedition will be taken up by logistics, transport and communication issues and load carrying. It is therefore essential that any expedition team is sufficiently well manned to carry out these tasks. Man the rear While many expeditioners will naturally seek to be up front to grab the glory, it is essential that rear support roles are maintained. For this reason it is important to communicate this from the outset and seek team members who appreciate the importance of support tasks. A good example would be Major Kelvin Kent - a mountaineer and hiker in addition to being known as one of the most experienced expedition administrators.

He equates expedition team selection with that of football team selection; Excluding, for the moment, the rearward line of communication [backwards from the area of operations to civilisation], it is fair to think of a normal sized expedition as a football team of eleven men with, say, five forwards, three half backs and three defence. Using this analogy for an assault on a mountain, the five forwards would be the lead climbers (all capable of reaching the summit), the three half backs would constitute the support party working up to the middle or upper part of the mountain, whilst the three defence, which would probably include the doctor, base camp manager and one other, would ensure that the resupply chain is maintained from the bottom.

Lastly, never forget to establish a home party, keen to follow the expedition closely enough to notice when communications fail and capable of raising appropriate alarms if and when necessary. 

Words by Sarah M Lawton