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A heeler is someone who wants to become a Cabin and Trail leader

We're so excited that you're interested in leading trips with us! If you have any questions, or would like to meet up to chat about the leadership process or anything else, blitz the 'CnT' account or the current Heeler Chair.

How to co-lead a trip

The first and most important part of becoming a leader is to co-lead Cnt trips.

How? First, find a leader to co-lead with you. You can get a list of current leaders either by blitzing Cnt or the Heeler Chair. Also, we have trip planning meetings at 9:30 on Monday nights in 110 Robo that are open to anyone who might want to co-lead a trip. You just need to show up and suggest a trip - or you can ask to co-lead a trip some other leader wants to do. Leaders are always happy to have Heelers co-lead trips with them!

For info on how to make the trip happen, check out Trip Leading Procedures.

How to be an effective leader

Requirements for ascension

In order to become a leader in Cabin and Trail you must have completed the following minimum requirements while demonstrating both logistical competence and leadership ability:

  1. Become CPR and First Aid Certified
  2. Co-lead 3 trips, including an overnight and a full day trip.
  3. Complete a Risk Management seminar
  4. Complete a Group Dynamics seminar
  5. Demonstrate fire-building ability
  6. Demonstrate the ability to use a compass and map
  7. Participate in a full day of trailwork

This may seem daunting, but if you plan well, you can complete it in a term. However, many of the leaders in CnT took more than a term to complete the requirements (including me). There is no rush. It is better to take more time and develop your skills than to hectically cram an overnight into finals week.

About each of the requirements:

  • First Aid / CPR – Current certification is required of all DOC leaders. Given that our trips are typically removed from convenient access to medical facilities and/or emergency assistance, pursuit of advanced certification in wilderness medicine (Wilderness First Responder and Wilderness EMT) is strongly encouraged. You can take the courses regularly offered by Dartmouth EMS (sign up for their blitz bulletin), or even better - complete a Wilderness First Aid course or one of the other more advanced emergency medical care courses. You can get money from the DOC to partially cover the expense of the more advanced courses.
  • Risk Management & Group Dynamics – Risk Management and Group Dynamics are both seminars taught usually by Brian Kunz or Rory Gawler from the OPO office. They will be offered at least once a term. The Risk Management seminar for DOC Trips leader training does not count towards these DOC leader requirements since there is a special support system set up for Trips leaders that is not present during the rest of the year.
  • Firebuilding – An elementary understanding of how to construct, ignite, and sustain a fire is considered indispensable knowledge for a leader in Cabin and Trail, particularly with respect to the woodstoves which heat the majority of our cabins and as a basic wilderness survival skill.
  • Map and Compass – Although the majority of our trips take place along well-marked and familiar routes, proficiency in orienteering is to be desired to facilitate (1) more remote excursions, particularly in unfamiliar wilderness, and (2) flexibility in choice of action when confronted with adversity (as in a medical emergency or unfavorable weather conditions). To this end, map and compass should be considered standard trip equipment.
  • Full Day of Trailwork – The DOC is responsible for some 75 miles of Appalachian Trail, stretching from Route 12 in Vermont to Route 112 in New Hampshire, as well as various other trails. The majority of C&T leaders arrive with little or no prior trailwork experience. The required full day of trailwork serves to expose such individuals to the “service work” aspect of Cabin and Trail.
  • Co-leads & Overnight – Considered the “proving grounds” for an aspiring leader, coleads and the heeler overnight provide a means by which the existing leadership body, the “Council” may assess the suitability of a candidate. Co-leads and the overnight are expected to comprise substantial demonstrations of logistical competence and leadership ability, and the heeler should take full responsibility for all aspects of the trip in question (ie. planning, advertising, logistics and preparation, trip dynamics, and safe return). While consultation with leaders and the heeler mentor is encouraged, previous familiarity with Cabin and Trail is assumed on the part of the potential ascendee.

Special Notes

  • Ascensions – Review of heeler “portfolios” may occur on a rolling basis, and should take place at least once per term. Membership to Council is to be granted in accordance with those guidelines outlined here, in the C&T Constitution, and in relevant supporting documents. Heelers who earn leader status prior to the end of the term may immediately obtain certification and begin leading trips, but will undergo the ascensions ceremony at the end of the term in which they ascended.
  • Commitment – While no formal “demonstration of commitment” (to Cabin and Trail) requirement exists, an aspiring heeler should be familiar with the leaders, membership, and activities of the club. In the past, a minimum of two terms’ prior involvement has been considered requisite.* It is recommended that this practice be continued, as the period affords ample exposure to the full breadth of the club’s offerings. In the case of certain highly qualified individuals whose previous familiarity with C&T borders involvement (e.g. Leaders of other DOC clubs, and especially Winter Sports), it may prove desirable to waive this expectation.
  • Petitioning – Any of the above leader requirements may be waived by successful petition to Cabin and Trail Council and subsequent approval of the waiver by the club advisor (Outdoor Programs Office). This clause is intended to grant qualified candidates flexibility (through substitution or waiver) in satisfying the above requirements given unforeseen or adverse circumstances. In particular, this clause should not be interpreted as an “escape clause” through which the above requirements are to be circumvented.
  • Additionally, any heeler may submit a written petition to Council requesting immediate review of his or her qualifications for ascension, either because he or she feels the review of such materials is being blocked, or because he or she disagrees with the decision rendered upon a previous such review, or for some other stated reason. Such a review is to be granted in a timely manner, and a copy of its outcome and justifications transmitted to the candidate thereafter. Mediation of such a review by the club advisor may also be requested.

Ascensions meeting


  • Mentor request form.pdf - This form contains a few questions about your interests and goals as a future CnT leader. Fill it out and give it the current Heeler Chair (for 11S, this is Eric Ross '11). You will then get paired with a CnT leader who will help you through the leadership process.
  • CnT Leader Requirements Summary.pdf - This form contains a summary of the requirements to become a leader or receive a leadership certification through Cabin and Trail. It's a good one to give to Heelers at the interest meeting, since it succinctly describes the leadership process without getting into all the details.
  • CnT leader req checklist.pdf - This form contains a checklist for all of the requirements you must fulfill to become a CnT leader. Fill it out and bring a copy to your Ascensions meeting.
  • Trip Feedback Form.pdf - This form contains a few questions about the success of your co-lead. You should fill one out after each trip you co-lead - use this as an opportunity to learn from your trip by discussing it with your co-leader and mentor. You should bring all of your trip feedback forms to your Ascensions meeting, so the leaders there can learn more about all of the trips you've led.