Pace, rhythm and rest stops

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A steady walking pace, good rhythm and regular rest stops contribute greatly to enjoyable bushwalking that can be sustained all day and keep the group together.

Experienced walkers with a good walking rhythm can assist less experienced walkers by walking with them. They should not force a pace that may be too fast for less experienced walkers. The overarching consideration is to ensure that the pace is comfortable for the slowest member of the group.

A group is only as fast as its slowest member. Putting slower individuals close to the front of the group helps set the pace, keep the group together, and stay in everybody’s comfort zone.

If a person walks too fast for the rest of the group ask them to slow down to the group’s pace. They could also take on the whip role or assist with navigation.

Keeping the group together is important for both safety and enjoyment.

Rest stops

It is important for the group to establish a good routine for rest stops. A leader should be proactive in informing the group when and where rest stops will occur.

For example, set an easy pace for the first 15–20 minutes for everyone to warm up then have a rest to adjust to adjust clothing, equipment and footwear.

Activity periods should vary depending on the nature of the group and how they are coping with the conditions. Rests stops allow the group to reform and catch their breath, have a drink and a snack and adjust clothing.

Time allowed for a rest stop needs to be counted from when the last person arrives. The last members in the group are usually the most tired and require the most rest. 

When and where to stop will depend on the weather, terrain and the progress of the group.  

Select pleasant rest spots (e.g. under a shady tree or at the top of a hill with a view) so that the group can enjoy the break.  Avoid stopping in cold, wet and windy or exposed locations.

Rest breaks are a good opportunity to the group to discuss what is ahead so that they can enjoy highlights and objectives.

Unscheduled stops may include photo opportunities and observing interesting flora and fauna, and views.

Too many stops can break up the rhythm and can cause frustration. For example, it is best to slow down on a long climb rather than stopping frequently. 

Climbing and descending

Use shorter steps on uphill climbs. Ground features can form natural steps to make climbing easier.  For each step, place the whole foot on the ground where possible to reduce stress on the body.

On steep descents, place the feet carefully, heel first and knees bent.  Avoid leaning backwards. This will help prevent and control slipping. Placing hands on available trees and rocks may assist balance and control.  Wearing gloves can make this easier.

Some bushwalkers find walking poles are very useful and help to maintain rhythm, pace and balance, especially when climbing and descending.

Zig-zagging across steeper slopes may be easier than going directly up or down. This effectively reduces the gradient of the slope, the strain on the knees and the energy consumed with each step.

Zig-zagging or traversing on steep slopes also prevents rocks or ice dislodged by people above hitting those directly below – this is an important safety consideration.

When descending steep rock slabs it is best to keep the boot sole flat on rock surface to maximise friction and grip.