What is the Volunteer Assistant Guide Program?


The Assistant Guide is a designated Volunteer person who participates in a regularly scheduled guided hike, and who is available to assist the guide in managing a medical injury or other related emergency incident during the hike. The VAG will receive instructions from the guide that will ensure the safety and well being of other hiking clients and the protection and preservation of the National Park environment. This Volunteer person plays an important leadership role within the guided hike activities.

Who can participate in the Volunteer Assistant Guide Program?

A mature person with a valid First Aid Certificate, who is in good physical condition and familiar with hiking in the Rocky Mountains, can participate in the Volunteer Assistant Guide Program.

What duties are required of the Volunteer Assistant Guide?

The maximum number of people that can be guided to the fossil beds at any one time is 15. The guide conducting the group on the guided hike is the 16th person. The volunteer assistant guide is the 17th person. The Guide is the leader of the group. The Volunteer Assistant Guide takes up the last position in the group and must:

  • Possess a valid First Aid Certificate
  • Be in good physical condition
  • Follow the instructions directed from the Guide
  • Be familiar with hiking and looking after oneself in the Rocky Mountains
  • Help to keep the group together
  • Help to build the morale of the slowest group member to stay with the group
  • Respond to any questions regarding Yoho National Park/UNESCO World Heritage Site protection and preservation
  • Ensure that group members do not litter garbage on the trail, and that they pack out all garbage that may be left behind
  • Ensure the group stay on the trail tread, and not meander or wander
  • Ensure that any group members doe not remove any natural objects, including flowers
  • Assist the guide to ensure security of the fossil specimens, and that group members do not remove any fossil specimens from the quarry or surrounding areas
  • Ensure that the group remain in the area designated by the Guide for lunch break/stops
  • Assist the Guide with administering First Aid if required
  • Assist the Guide to take charge of the group to ensure their safety
  • Assist the Guide to continue to guide the group to the fossil bed location in the event the Guide must remain with an injured party member, or escort a group member down the trail
  • Provide courtesy and an explanation to other hikers encountered on the trail

Volunteers play an important role in the guided hike activity. The age of clients participating in the guided hikes vary from seven years old (the youngest) to eighty eight years old (the oldest). The majority of clients come from urban centres, working at sedentary jobs. They are extremely adept at fighting the rush hour traffic and maneuvering the urban jungle to get to work and home everyday. Many clients live at elevations much lower than the elevation of the village of Field, an elevation of 4,000 feet. And the elevation of the Burgess Shale – Walcott Quarry is 7,400 feet. 35% of clients book the educational guided hike six months in advance and design their holiday itinerary around their participating in the educational guided hike. Clients come from all over the world. They travel for days, and usually arrive the night prior to the hike.

Now, if the skies are blue, and the sun shining, the clients are happy. But, during a typical Rocky Mountain summer here in Canada, we can experience all four seasons, “all in one day”. And despite the best efforts and time we take to adequately prepare and forewarn clients to “be prepared”, some just don’t manage to get it together.

So, what we attempt to do is turn this situation in a positively memorable experience for them. The success of their guided hike is due entirely to the extraordinary support, encouragement; patience and exceptional CARE the Guide and Volunteer Assistant Guide provide to them during the hike. They may not remember the weird and bizarre names of the Burgess Shale Fauna, but they always remember the name of the guide and assistant guide who helped make their trip one of the most memorable they had ever planned for.

When can a person participate in the Volunteer Assistant Guide Program?

Educational Guided Hikes are scheduled throughout the summer commencing usually around July 1st and finish toward the end of September. Volunteer Assistant Guides are welcome to participate in any of the regularly scheduled guided hikes throughout the summer/fall.

How can a person participate in the Volunteer Assistant Guide Program?

In order to participate in the educational guided hike program, the potential candidate must phone the Burgess Shale Geoscience Foundation office at 1-800-343-3006 to discuss details of the program and complete the Application Form. The candidate must speak with the Director of the Foundation or his delegate. A copy of a valid First Aid Certificate must be submitted to the Foundation’s office prior to participating in the guided hike. Providing all conditions are met, and the candidate is deemed suitable, the volunteer can be registered to participate in the guided hike.