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Frequently Asked Questions

Questions and Answers

The Organization

Do I need to be a member of GLS or the Sierra Club to participate in GLS outings and events?

No, you do not need to be a member of GLS or the Sierra Club to participate in our outings and events. Outings and events are open to everyone. However, your membership provides financial support for our conservation, educational, and training programs.

Do I have to be gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender to participate in GLS?

Certainly not. Straight, open-minded allies are welcome. GLS does not discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

How do I join GLS?

To join GLS, send in a completed GLS Membership Form[PDF]. (Note: You need Adobe Acrobat to open this document.)

Does GLS charge fees or require member dues? What is the money used for?

GLS does not have any mandatory fees. However we encourage you to join both GLS and the Sierra Club. Annual GLS membership is $10 for an individual and $15 for a couple. Your monetary contributions support our conservation, education, and training programs.

What kind of people belong to GLS?

Most of the membership and participants in GLS identify with the larger gay, lesbian, transgendered and bisexual (GLBT) community. Our leadership, membership, and participation is equally split between men and women. Our activities are co-ed. Most of us are also avid outdoorsmen and women who both appreciate the unique recreational opportunities that Colorado and the West have to offer and want to take advantage of them.

Many of us belong to the Sierra Club and support its environmental and conservation philosophy. We seek to be good stewards.

We also appreciate the opportunities that membership in a group can provide. This includes learning about and visiting new areas, having regular access to organized outings, having people to do things with and to learn from, and generally being social. Our outings tend to be "chatty" and may not appeal to those who prefer solitude. We are people who enjoy being around other people, but are an independent-minded crowd.

What are the ages of the people participating?

GLS welcomes participants of all ages. In general, the most active members tend to be from their early-30's to late 50's.

How is GLS connected to the Sierra Club?

GLS is recognized as an official activities section within the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the Sierra Club. We are listed in the Sierra Club's national directory of gay and lesbian sections.

Who leads GLS?

The GLS is led by fabulous, hard-working volunteers who have agreed to take on the responsibility of organizing the group, planning and leading outings, and performing administrative tasks.

I want to help out with GLS but I don't want to be an Outings leader. What else can I do to help?

Outdoor activities are our most popular events. Outing Leaders lead hikes, road and mountain bike rides, camping and backpacking, bird watching, rafting, skiing, and snow shoe. Not everyone, though, has the time, interest, or temperament to be an Outings Leader.

There are many things that you can do besides being an Outings Leader. You can become a dues-paying member to help cover our conservation, educational, training, and outreach costs. You can be an Event Leader and organize social events like potlucks and dinners, movie nights, concerts and plays, and museum trips. You can lead or volunteer on conservation events like trail and wetlands restoration. You can suggest a hike on your favorite trail to an Outings Leader. You can volunteer to help with our administrative tasks and outreach efforts.

What qualifications do GLS Outing Leaders have?

Outing Leaders are fun, outgoing people who enjoy sharing their recreational experiences and their love for wilderness and the environment. They have advanced skills that are suitable for the outings that they lead. They are aware of group safety and know when to head back if trail or weather conditions deteriorate. Although they are not trained medical professionals, they have Wilderness First Aid certification to help with problems such as blisters, sprains or cuts.

How can I become a GLS Outings Leader?

You need to be a current member of the Sierra Club and complete both Leadership Training and Wilderness First Aid. After you successfully co-lead a couple outings with a mentor leader, you are ready to lead trips on your own. To get started, please contact any current Outings Leader.

If I join GLS, will my name and contact information be shared with others?

If you sign up for our Alerts List, your name and email address are placed on the Sierra Club server and you will receive notices of upcoming outings and possibly a few other membership or administrative emails from GLS. If for some reason a GLS or Sierra Club Leader needs your email address, they can access the server.

If you join GLS, your name, contact information, and interests are recorded in a GLS database. We share membership information among GLS Leaders on a "need to know" basis. This information is not given to any other group and is kept confidential. Our list is not given or sold to any outside group for their use or solicitation.

Outings & Events

This section answers general questions about GLS outings and events. If you have questions specifically about the hikes, see the Hiking section below.

What kind of activities does GLS do?

GLS members organize and participate in a wide variety of activities including the following:

  • restaurant nights and potlucks
  • movie nights
  • day hikes
  • camping and backpacking
  • bicycle rides
  • river trips
  • cross-country skiing
  • snowshoeing
  • conservation activities

How do I find out about what GLS is doing?

The best way to keep informed about GLS activites is to subscribe to the weekly GLS Activities Email List. Or, periodically check the outings & events page on the GLS web site.

How many events does GLS organize?

We hold approximately 50 hikes and social events each year. Summer is the busiest period as it fills with hikes and other outings.

Does it cost anything to go on one of the outings?

GLS is organized by volunteers and does not charge to participate in events. However, each person pays for normal trip expenses such as the cost of dinner at a restaurant, the entrance fee at a park, or the cost of movie tickets at a theater. For car pooling, you should share gas costs with your driver.

Are there any rules on GLS outings?

For hikes and backcountry trips, you need to sign up with the Outings Leader prior to the outing. On the day of the hike, you meet at the assigned place and time and sign a Liability Waiver and roster. You are expected to follow directions and stay with the group. If you need to leave early, you must sign out with the Outings Leader.

What is the purpose of a Liability Waiver?

Anytime you go into the woods and mountains or onto a river, there is inherent risk. There are risks because you are in uncertain and exposed terrain, face unsettled weather, and you may be far from emergency medical aid. Outing Leaders try to minimize the risk by doing research, choosing trails with which they are familiar, receiving training, discussing concerns with participants, and supervising the activity. But the inherent risk remains.

The Liability Waiver is your acknowledgement of these risks and of your full responsibility for your own well-being. It also protects the Sierra Club, its affiliates and your Outings Leader from having to worry about getting sued over something that is out of their control.

There would be no Sierra Club outings program and we GLS volunteers would not be leading hikes if we had to assume liability for anything that might go wrong. We are happy to provide an opportunity, but you are ultimately responsible for your health and safety. We encourage you to be knowledgeable about outdoor safety and survival.

An outing that I'm interested in is full. What can I do?

You can contact the Outings Leader and ask to be placed on the wait list. You may still be able to participate if someone else cancels.

What if I am signed up for an outing and then have to cancel?

If you find that you are unable to go on an outing that you signed up for, please contact the Outings Leader as soon as possible. Outings often fill up quickly and have wait lists, so if you can't make it, please let someone else take your spot. Don't be a no-show.

Can I bring a friend on an outing with me?

Yes, you may bring a friend, but he or she must be registered for the event just like everyone else. There are group size limits, so please do not bring a friend who is not signed up.

Can I bring my dog?

Out of respect for other participants who may be allergic to or feel uncomfortable around dogs, we ask that you do not bring your dog to GLS events unless the event is specifically stated to be pet-friendly. However, service dogs are always permitted when in the service of their owners.

Can I bring my kid(s)?

GLS activities are typically planned with adults in mind. If you think that a certain event might be suitable for your child, you should first contact the Event Leader to confirm that it is okay. In general, children are not frequently seen at GLS events. Unaccompanied teenagers are required to bring a parental/guardian waiver form.

Can the event leader arrange a carpool spot for me?

Event leaders can typically help match people for carpooling to event locations. However, it is up to the individuals to follow through on making the necessary arrangements about where and when to meet, sharing the cost of gas, etc.

What if there is an outing that I want to sign up for, but I'm not totally sure I can come? Should I sign up to save my place, or should I wait?

GLS events typically limit the number of people that can attend. Popular events fill up quickly. If you are fairly sure that you can attend, consider asking to have your name put on the list as "tentative" and then let the Outings Leader know as soon as your plans are finalized. Alternatively, if your plans are really uncertain, you can ask to be put on the wait list from the start, in which case you won't be taking up a spot that somebody else could use.

Hiking

What are the "10 Essentials?" Or, what should I bring on a hike?

Experts on hiking and other outdoor activities stress the importance of always taking the proper gear. Frequently the list of recommended gear is summarized as ten or so must-have items, which are then called the "10 Essentials." The original list was published in the book Mountaineering, The Freedom of the Hills and was later adopted and modified by the Colorado Mountain Club (CMC) and other groups. The 10 Essentials list for the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the Sierra Club can be found here, Even if you think you won't need an item on the list, you should bring it anyway.

I am an inexperienced hiker. Can I still go on the hikes?

If you have little or no recent experience, we ask that you limit yourself only to hikes that are designated as "easy" or "for beginners." Be sure to tell your Outings Leader about your past experiences and current physical condition to make sure the hike is right for you. Also, consult with your doctor before beginning any new exercise program or fitness routine.

Am I in good enough shape to participate?

GLS offers a variety of activities suited to different levels of physical fitness. From dinner outings at local restaurants to multi-day rafting and camping trips in the outback, there is something for everyone! Before participating in any outdoor activity, such as hiking, biking or camping, you should let your own experience be your guide. If you have little or no recent experience with an activity, then you should limit yourself to outings that are designated as "easy" or "for beginners". This is especially true if you are new to the area and not yet fully acclimatized to the higher altitude and mountainous terrain. Always contact the Outings Leader before signing up for an event if you have any questions or concerns about the strenuousness of the outing. Also be sure to consult with a doctor before starting any new fitness or exercise routine.

I have some health issues or concerns. Can I still go on a hike?

It can be pretty serious if you have a medical condition that suddenly affects your welfare or endangers your health while you are on a hike or in the backcountry. Quick and timely access to medical personnel may not be possible. You may be outside the range of cell phone service. Your hike leader and fellow group members will try to help you, but ultimately your health and safety rests with yourself.

You may first want to consult your doctor before embarking on hikes or overnight trips. You may also want to purchase an annual “Colorado Outdoor Recreation Search and Rescue” (CORSAR) card. CORSAR cards can be purchased at many outdoor sporting good stores. (See the CORSAR Card Fact Sheet for more information.)

Having done these preliminary steps, you can talk to your hike leader if you need to understand more about the strenuousness and duration of the hike, and discuss any health concerns. The leader might suggest this hike is not appropriate for you.

What time will we be back?

Outing Leaders usually have a good idea how long a hike will take and can give a rough estimate about when the group will return. However, given the nature of outdoor activities, it is impossible to predict exactly. When planning to join GLS on a hike or similar outing, it is best to be flexible and to allow extra time for getting back. Another reason to add flexibility to your schedule is that oftentimes folks will make impromptu plans to go out for food or drinks after an outing and you may want to allow time to join in.

What is an easy, moderate, or advanced hike?

What seems easy, moderate, or advanced is somewhat subjective. Each of you has your own criteria on the effort associated with these labels. And on any given day, conditions such as the weather and altitude, and how you are feeling and the amount of rest you had the night before, may make a moderate hike feel more like an advanced hike. Here are our guidelines.

  • An easy hike is less than 5 miles and less than 800 feet of elevation gain. It is suitable for beginner hikers who are in reasonable physical condition. Easy hikes typically last a half day or less. There is little or no exposure to steep terrain.
  • A moderate hike is between 5 and 9 miles with less than 1600 feet of elevation gain. These hikes typically last half to a whole day. You ought to have previously done similar hikes. Parts of the trail may be steep.
  • An advanced hike exceeds 9 miles or 1600 feet of elevation gain. There may be steep trails with exposure to sheer cliffs. You may be in remote areas far from any town. Advanced hikers are in good physical condition and can keep up a good pace. The duration is a full day.

What is pace?

We all hike at different speeds due to factors such as trail steepness and terrain, distance and altitude, weather, and our personal fitness and conditioning. On the trail, we naturally walk faster on flat and downhill sections and slower up steep sections. We also walk slower on snowshoes. Pace is defined as the average speed for the entirety of the hike. At home, an average person might comfortably walk 3 miles per hour on flat, paved ground.

As a general guideline, we define a slow pace as up to 2.0 miles per hour. This pace is suitable for an easy social hike, a casual photographer/birding hike, or an advanced hike that is unrelentingly steep.

A medium pace ranges between 2.0 and 2.5 miles per hour. A medium pace is suitable for most foothills trails and those mountain trails which have combinations of flatter and steeper sections. Most GLS hikes fall in this category.

Occasionally, you will see hikes described with a fast past, above 2.5 miles per hour. These are often short and may be designed with a fitness goal in mind.

Our hikes are group hikes. That means we reach our destination together. Ideally everyone is comfortable with the pace set by the Outings Leader so that we don't separate into smaller groups or spread out too thinly. When you read a hike description, please ask yourself if the pace is a good match to your fitness and experience level.

Miscellaneous

Who should I contact if I have a question that isn't answered here?

You can use the Contact Us form to submit your question directly to one of the GLS leaders.