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This Protocol was drawn up by Tangent Expeditions Ltd through consultation with its expedition leadership team; including IFMGA Mountain Guides, Mountaineering Instructors, Winter Mountain Leaders and through consultation with our external Technical Advisor Philip Poole. It has been produced to specifically address the role of Tangent leaders on expeditions to Greenland. It provides definitions of the various types of expeditions that we operate and identifies leadership issues arising from them.

It is based on an IFMGA initiative and the IFMGA High Altitude Guiding Protocol, although adapted to meet the specific requirements of Tangent organised expeditions to lower altitudes in Greenland. It is intended to accommodate both IFMGA and non-IFMGA expedition leaders/guides working on peaks at all altitudes in Greenland. The original IFMGA High Altitude Guiding Protocol document can be found on the following British Mountain Guides website link:

This Protocol covers the following aspects of professional expeditions:

Categories of Professional Expeditions
Expedition Leader's Experience

Client Experience
High Altitude Warning

Rescue Ethics

Throughout this Protocol professionally organised expeditions are referred to as "Professional” rather than "Commercial” expeditions. Although the latter term is more commonly used, it has become associated with poor practice and commercialisation, a stigma which is not an appropriate description of well-run expeditions.

Categories of Professional Expeditions

Tangent uses 5 categories of professional expeditions. These are determined by the role of the guide and the level of service provided. From 2012 each expedition that we run will be assigned one of these categories that will be clearly stated on the website tour description. The Tangent scale of expeditions is as follows:

IFMGA Individually Guided

This describes guiding in the classic sense with an IFMGA Mountain Guide working with his/her clients at all times. The usual procedures of Alpine guiding will be applied in a Greenland environment. This would necessitate a 1:1 or 1:2 guiding ratio in most cases, or up to 1:3 on technically easy ground on alpine grade F or PD- routes. This would normally be a very expensive option for clients.

Professionally Individually Guided

Expeditions as above, led by an experienced and professional guide, normally with MIA, MIC or Aspirant IFMGA qualifications, but not a full IFMGA Mountain Guide.

Professionally Guided

This is the term applied to the more usual climbing strategy on Greenland expeditions, when led by a professional guide, including IFMGA, Aspirants and non-IFMGA guides. This is defined by the following criteria:

1. The expedition leader/guide should place or prove all fixed ropes and site all camps. The leader/guide should endeavour to check and be responsible for all aspects of security on the mountain.

2. The leader/guide should endeavour to go to the top of all mountains with their clients. This is to provide a clear distinction from led or consulted expeditions. It is recognised, however, that experienced clients may sometimes go to the summit outside of the direct supervision of a guide and may at times place their own fixed ropes and/or snow and ice belays and protection.

3. The maximum guiding ratio is to be 1 guide to 5 clients on peaks of alpine grade F or PD- at altitudes below 4000m (in contrast to the 1:4 ratio for High Altitude mountains in the IFMGA High Altitude Protocol).

4. On expeditions involving 6 or more clients there will be an additional nominated deputy leader/guide. This person will normally hold relevant formal mountain leader or instructor qualifications, but could be a competent and experienced guide who does not necessarily possess formal qualifications but who will be deemed suitably experienced for this role. The deputy leader must possess the necessary technical skills required and have considerable previous expedition experience. This person will have been independently assessed for technical competence by an external Technical Advisor.

Professionally Led Expeditions

Professionally led expeditions are where the expedition is organised up to and including base camp (or advance base camp if one is used). The services provided would include the following services listed below, but it is not a compulsory requirement that the guide should accompany the clients to the summit. In reality however, they will endeavour to do so:

a) The presence of a Tangent non-IFMGA or IFMGA guide at base camp or advance base camp who will be responsible for the placing of such camps.
b) Experienced members of the team may place their own fixed ropes or lead climb as instructed by, or in consultation with, the guide.
c) All services up to and including base camp and/or advance base camp are included.

The purpose of Professionally Led expeditions is to give experienced climbers the chance to climb Greenland peaks without the direct involvement of a guide. In theory, such "clients” do not need to be guided and they would accept that no guiding as such would take place on the mountain. The guide would have no responsibility above base camp for the safety of "the clients”, but the guide would be there to give advice, direction and possibly training to the climbing team. The guide may or may not go on the climb him/herself, but the guide should be in radio contact with the team members at regular intervals whilst the team are away from camp.

Professionally Consulted (Independent) Expeditions

Professionally consulted (independent) expeditions are those where an independent group of friends or colleagues have approached Tangent for a logistics and consultancy package. This is likely to include such services as flights, accommodation, additional transport, fuel, specialist equipment hire, consultancy, but does not include the services of a guide in any way. These would be operated on a similar basis to a professionally led expedition but with the important exclusion of any guide services in the mountains or at base camp.

Consulted Expeditions are intended for private teams who wish to have the convenience of having the expedition organised by a professional operator, and the benefit of professional advice by telephone. However, they would be completely self-sufficient on the mountain, normally providing all their own personal camping and climbing equipment and food, unless arranged for separately by Tangent Expeditions Ltd. On Consulted Expeditions there would be no Tangent leader or guide in the mountains.

Expedition Leader’s Experience

The minimum level of experience desirable for the leader in each of the above categories of Greenland expedition should be as follows:

IFMGA Individually Guided

Hold the IFMGA Mountain Guide qualification and be active in the Alpine guiding community and currently working as an Alpine guide

Professionally Individually Guided

Leaders working on a climbing based individually guided expedition will hold an Aspirant IFMGA or MIC qualification and have previous expedition experience. The guide must show evidence of exemplary and relevant past expedition climbing and leadership experience and be competent in glacier travel and crevasse rescue techniques.

Professionally Guided Expeditions

Leaders working on a climbing based individually guided expedition will normally hold an Aspirant IFMGA or MIC qualification and have previous expedition experience. A lesser MIA or Winter ML qualification will be acceptable where the guide can show evidence of exemplary and relevant past Greenland expedition climbing and leadership experience and be competent in glacier travel and crevasse rescue techniques.

Professionally Led Expeditions

Leaders working on a professionally led expedition will normally hold an MIC, MIA or Winter ML qualification. For those with an MIA or Winter ML qualification the leader must have previous Greenland expedition experience. The leader must show evidence of exemplary and relevant past expedition climbing and leadership experience and be competent in glacier travel and crevasse rescue techniques.

Professionally Consulted (Independent) Expeditions

Leaders working on a consulted expedition should have previous experience of leading at least two previous Greenland expeditions for Tangent Expeditions.


The above information relates primarily to snow and glacier based expeditions to remote mountain ranges in east Greenland. Some expeditions however, are carried out in more accessible, non-glaciated environments where exceptions to the above rules may apply. In such areas it is often acceptable to employ leaders with less experience than stated above, especially with regard to summer walking and back packing tours, and dog sled tours where no instructional experience is required. The final decision as to the suitability of a leader is therefore at the sole discretion of Tangent Expeditions Ltd and the above definitions of leaders and guides are not a contractual obligation.

Expedition leaders and guides will be assessed for their suitability based on the following:

 a) a relevant and current National Governing Body (NGB) award;

b) an equivalent nationally or internationally recognised award;

c) in house assessment and training;

d) experience;

e) interview.

Items c) and d) will be supported by a written statement of competence by a Technical Adviser.

Regarding point c), in-house training and assessment will take place annually  by the Technical Advisor for leaders employed for the coming season, with specific attention to glacier travel and crevasse rescue techniques.

Leader/Guide Illness/Injury

Most Tangent expeditions will be Professionally Guided or Professionally Led expeditions. Under normal circumstances these expeditions will only have one leader/guide. Only on Professionally Individually Guided expeditions of more than 3 clients, and on Professionally Led expeditions with more than 5 clients, is there likely to be a deputy leader. Where a deputy leader exists, the deputy leader will take over the role of expedition leader if the original leader becomes ill or injured and can no longer fulfil his/her duties. For expeditions operating during the March to May period and using Tangent snowmobiles, a replacement leader will be supplied from our pool of staff at Constable Point. For all other expeditions the supply of an alternative leader will be subject to availability depending on the time frames involved prior to the expedition start date. If we can not supply a suitable replacement leader prior to the expedition start date then a full refund will be made. If, however, a leader/guide becomes ill or injured during a Twin Otter ski plane or helicopter serviced expedition it may not be possible to provide a replacement due to the extremely remote nature of the location. In these circumstances it may be necessary to curtail the expedition and no refund can be made due to the expedition costs having already been prepaid to suppliers and third parties. There will be opportunity for either individuals, or the group as a whole, to consider the option of continuing as a Professionally Consulted (Independent) Expedition. This will depend on the skills and experience of the individuals or group involved. If it is deemed inappropriate or unsafe to allow individuals to continue on the expedition, under this new format, Tangent Expedition's decision will be final. Costs for the extraction of those individuals from the base camp location, and transport back to the nearest local airport, will be covered by Tangent. Clients will then be free to remain in the host country and carry out other general travel and tourism at their own cost until the original planned departure date from the country. If clients chose to leave the host country early, then all such associated costs will be the client's responsibility.

Client Experience

The client must truthfully reveal, by means of a detailed questionnaire in their booking form or other written notification, their relevant mountaineering, climbing, skiing or expedition experience and relevant medical history, to enable the expedition organiser or leader to make an informed decision on the suitability of the client for their chosen objective. When deciding on the suitability of a client the expedition organiser and leader should consider their previous relevant experience, technical ability, physical and mental toughness, fitness and group compatibility.

The selection of the client for any expedition is at the discretion of Tangent Expeditions and the expedition leader. Any client joining an expedition for which they do not possess the necessary skills required for that trip, through misrepresentation of their past experience, may be requested to leave the expedition. All such related costs will be the sole responsibility of the client.

Altitude Warning

Tangent expeditions in Greenland rarely involve ascents of mountains where the affects of altitude are experienced. The only expeditions operated by Tangent that involve operating at altitudes above 3000m are our expeditions to the Watkins Mountains of east Greenland. These expeditions will involve ascents up to 3700m, where it is possible to experience altitude sickness. The relevant tour descriptions for these expeditions will include an altitude warning.

Rescue Ethics

All Tangent expeditions will render assistance to other expedition team members who are in a serious medical condition or life threatening situation on the mountain, so long as this does not unreasonably compromise the safety of their own team members. Clients must be aware of this possibility at the start of the expedition, and that any rescue effort may jeopardise their summit chances. A note to this effect is included in Tangent's standard terms and conditions.

Author:  Paul Walker

Position: Director (Tangent Expeditions Ltd)

Dated:  27 November 2011

Greenland icecap