Everest 2017 By Scott Kress

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Well another spring Everest season has come and gone. And an exciting season it was as always. I have always keenly followed each Everest climbing season and even more so since I summited on May 21, 2008.

Today’s internet environment makes it much easier to keep tabs on what is happening on the mountain. Every team and every climber is updating their social media sites and sometimes multiple sites at once.

Although this provides a flood of information, it is not always accurate. I try and avoid anything posted for sensationalizing or personal bragging. I try and separate the wheat from the chaff. The following will provide a very minor overview of what transpired in April and May this year on Everest. This is by no means a complete overview. If you are looking for additional details the internet is full of them.

Everest is climbed by two main/standard routes. The Southeast Ridge in Nepal and the North Col in Tibet/China. Nepal issued 371 climbing permits to foreign climbers (Sherpas are not included in this number and usually account for a similar number). China issued approximately 136 permits, but the numbers are not as available from China so this is somewhat of an educated guess based on gathered information.

These numbers represent a big year for Everest. The number of climbers is up for several reasons including the re-use (therefore no payment required) of climbing permits from the 2014 and 2015 seasons which saw the climbing season cut short due to avalanches and earthquakes. The Nepal government said they would honour these permits at no extra fee until the end of 2017. We are also seeing a large influx of climbers from India and China as the middle class expands in those countries. Along with this comes budget price guiding companies based in Nepal and India to support this new emerging market.

Overall, the large number of climbers did not seem to create any real issues of crowding and traffic jams on the mountain. Everest is a huge mountain and can accommodate a lot of people. Patience is required however, if you happen to get stuck behind a slower moving team of climbers.

As the numbers indicate, Nepal is much more popular than Tibet/China for climbing. There are several reasons for this, but the primary one is the unpredictability of the Chinese Government and the changing policies, permit dates, and restrictions. Many established guiding companies are not comfortable with this uncertainty and choose to go to Nepal where, although not perfect, the system seems to be a little more predictable.

The climbing routes, mountain conditions and weather are often very different (as was the case this season), but this is not a huge factor in deciding which route to climb.

Early in April the route through the Ice Fall in Nepal was established making climbers optimistic for an early summit window. This was quickly shut down as high winds moved in and stuck around for much of the season greatly hampering the ability of climbers to move on the mountain. One strong positive in Nepal was the allowance of helicopters to ferry loads of climbing gear up the Western Cwm to Camp 2. This reduced the number of Sherpa loads that had to be carried through the very dangerous Ice Fall.

As the Nepal side dealt with high winds and difficult climbing conditions, over in Tibet things were moving quite well. The weather was uncharacteristically good and the ropes moved further and further up the mountain. For some reason, the team fixing the ropes to the summit decided to stop about 700m short, but the other climbing teams stepped up to the task and the first summits of Everest from Tibet came on May 11 (quite an early date statistically speaking).

With her 8th summit Lhapka Sherpa set a new record for the most summits by a woman. Several other interesting ‘events of note’ also occurred this season. We saw the second blind climber to summit. A Sherpa guide from Nepal set a new record for the most summits at 21. An Indian woman summited 2 times within 5 days. There were 5 summits without oxygen (a very difficult and dangerous task). And a speed climber set a new record for climbing from below base camp in Tibet to the summit and back again in 29:30 (and this was his second summit of the season – crazy).

As with any sport the ability of the participants grows every year as we push athletic and technological boundaries. More and more records will be broken in future years, and what we once thought was impossible will become commonplace.

The wind finally let up a bit in Nepal allowing for climbers to squeak in summit attempts. With summits in Nepal came the staggering news that the famous Hillary Step was gone. Climbers speculated that the earthquake in 2015 had dislodged the rock formation forever changing the face of Everest. This news hit the media and the internet like a raging fire. It turned out, however, to be fake news. It seems that perhaps a few boulders had shifted changing the wind patterns and how the snow collected on the Hillary Step making it look different. It is still there, it just looks different now with a new coating of snow.

There was a high attrition rate on both sides of the mountain from illness (the flu hit the Nepal base camp especially hard this season), injury and just plain frustration. Some climbers smartly left because they realized they were in over their heads. Other pressed forward regardless of their level of preparedness. Some threaded the needle and were successful and some paid the ultimate price.

Overall, the number of fatalities on Everest was normal with 7. Some of these deaths were from falls, but the majority seems to be from heart attack as older climbers struggle with the immense pressures placed upon their bodies at high altitude.

There were also two interesting stories of rebels on the mountain who felt they did not need to pay the permit fees as all the other climbers had. Interesting enough, both these climbers were telling the world about their exploits through social media and that made it pretty easy for the authorities to capture and arrest them. There is much more to these stories if you are interested in digging through the internet to find them.

Overall, it was another great and interesting climbing season on Everest. Many people realized their goal of standing on the highest point on our planet.

So that is my summary of the 2017 Spring Everest climbing season. Yes there is a fall season, but due to many factors very few if any people attempt to climb Everest at this time. I hope you have enjoyed this review and as I have stated, this is just a brief overview as seen through my eyes. Much more detail is available for those who wish to seek it out.

Team Building Activities With Real Value

team-building-activities

We’ve all worked somewhere where the idea of team building activities are met with a collective groan. Not everyone feels comfortable participating and many employees fail to see the point, even if you feel like getting out of the office and already like your co-workers, this sort of thing usually isn’t your idea of fun!

Here at Summit, we understand that every business is different and for everyone to get the most out of our programs they’ve been designed around the key skills that power success.

Get Creative

In many businesses creativity is left to certain teams but it’s a skill everyone should be work on and with the combination of the right activities you and your team will be in a better position to think creatively and innovate. Creativity is no longer just for the chosen few or the gifted, research from The Harvard Business Review on the subject shows these two areas are not one and the same and that employees are more productive under the guidance of innovative superiors and work more cohesively when they’re in an open environment that values their opinions and desires.

Our creativity packages include culinary challenges to see if your team can think fast and create dishes. When a moderate to high level of pressure is attached to tasks it fosters greater levels of creativity, it’s worth keeping that in mind when you’re working on future projects and setting targets.

We also run the Art Of Team program in which all team members have to contribute ideas and add creative flair to make a creative masterpiece. While this exercise may seem simple, it pushes boundaries and really tests communication.

Your team’s finished article represents diversity and those who can appreciate diversity and a shared vision end up with a higher quality result. The program is built on the basis of Daniel Pink’s: A Whole New Mind, which showcases the positives that come from a more holistic and person-centered perspective which can often be challenging for those with more logical minds.

Dream Team

The crux of all team building activities is teamwork, our programs work on the basis that every individual has a natural comfort zone so team building activities should encourage you to work together with your co-workers while playing to your strengths and help you identify your weaknesses on your own through the use of high energy challenges.

There’s now a lot of research on teamwork, with conclusively evidence across both technical and creative professions alike. Teamwork plays a key role in producing positive outcomes and meeting deadlines, as task complexity rises so does the need for teamwork. Everyone knows teamwork is important but what areas matter most?

The answer varies from person-to-person and the companies they work for but it seems that corporate businesses see the biggest benefits in staff morale, flexibility, and innovation. Where many employees are hired for their skills and experience, those in leadership roles sometimes lack knowledge in specialised subjects so when co-workers can negotiate hierarchy they’re more likely to tackle problems head on.

In smaller businesses solid teamwork aids delegation, increases ideas and allows for a more supportive environment. When your team has a better understanding of each other’s strengths and weaknesses it’s easier to reach targets, ask for assistance and overcome challenges.

Everest 9 Year Anniversary

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It is hard to believe it has been nine years since my summit of Mount Everest. Time sure flies when you are having fun. Even after nine years Everest still has a magical hold on me and a special place in my life. Everest has given me so much.

I never imagined I would climb Everest one day. I knew as a climber that is was out of my league. However, as I gained more experience my comfort zone expanded and I thought that perhaps it was worthy of a try.

After a failure on the 6th highest mountain in the world (Cho Oyu) in 2001 I put a lot of learning into future expeditions. Although I did not summit Cho Oyu, it became one of the greatest learning experiences of my life as failure often does (to those that are open to it anyway). We had failed due to a dysfunctional selfish team culture driven by an egocentric and abusive leader. We were not a team and we did not trust, support, communicate or collaborate with one another. Even though we had the skills, experience and fitness this was not enough to overcome the dysfunctional team environment and we failed miserably.

After Cho Oyu, I applied my team and leadership learning to several other mountains and after many successes, I thought I was ready for Everest.

In 2008 I went to Everest with my climbing buddy Angus and three others I did not know. We worked hard to build strong, trusting, supportive relationships because I knew that relationship was the foundation of a high-performance team.

Our original plan was to climb Everest via the North Col from Tibet, but due to circumstances beyond our control our permit was cancelled and the border into Tibet was closed to foreigners. We had to relocate our climb to Nepal which was a huge change for us and caused much anxiety and stress.

We worked hard to overcome this initial challenge and made our way to base camp to begin our ascent. However, international politics were not done with us yet. Again for circumstances beyond our control the military occupied the mountain and enforced severe restrictions upon all climbers, dictated when we could and could not climb, where we could go and they even confiscated all our video cameras and satellite phones. Anyone who rebelled was arrested and deported from the country.

To make a long story short, this was just the beginning of the challenges we were to face individually and as a team. We fought our way up the mountain through numbing temperatures, avalanches, wind storms and more and eventually on May 20 we were hunkered down on the South Col in our Camp 4.

We were now entering the Death Zone for the final push to the summit. We left camp at 8:30pm on May 21 and climbed steadily through the night. And a beautiful night it was. A cloudless sky, a bright full moon (so bright I did not need my headlamp on), and relatively warm temperatures with a light wind. There was a bit of a crowd that day with many very slow climbers in front of me. Passing is not really an option so patience was the word of the day. We passed various famous landmarks on our way to the top; The Balcony, The South Summit and the Hillary Step.

At 8:15am on May 21 I stood on the highest point on earth, let out a sigh of relief, smiled and cried. It was an amazing accomplishment, but I was only half way. Going up is harder, but going down is more painful. As your adrenaline levels drop the pain seeps in to fill the void. Going down is also very dangerous with a high percentage of deaths occurring on the way down.

We made it back to base camp May 23 and then started our journey back home to family and friends. What am amazing journey it had been.

Everest taught me a lot about myself, about team building, about leadership, goal setting, overcoming the challenge and so much more. I have gone on to use much of this in our Team Development and Team Building programs at Summit Team Building and especially in my keynote presentations.

I am fortunate to have such a great story to share from Everest and my training and academic background allow me to translate my experience into learning opportunities for others. I will deliver over 30 keynotes in 2017 to audiences around the globe.

I want to thank Angus, Alan, Ryan and Al for making this incredible journey with me.

Building Relationships With Team Building Activities

Team Building Activities & Ideas

Here at Summit Team Building we always say that relationship is the foundation of any high-performance team. After all, we don’t do things for each other because we have to, but rather because we want to.

So the key is to build a team of people that know, understand, trust, and support one another. This cannot happen virtually and takes time and many interactions. This is why the company dinner, the company picnic and other company events are so important.

As a leader, you need to look at formal and informal team building strategies to build your team. The dinner, team picnic, bowling and other similar events are informal team building and help to reinforce relationships.

The formal team building takes place in professionally run team building workshops or training sessions. It is in these facilitated sessions that team members truly begin to understand one another’s motivators, as well as their communication, problem-solving, and decision-making styles to name but a few things.

Therefore, as a leader, you need to build in a mix of team building opportunities throughout the year. Some formal and some informal.

 Team building activities are a simple way for people to build positive relationships in the workplace. In carefully-structured team building activities, people share success, have fun, and begin (or continue) to build a common, positive history together. They connect with each other.

Team building activities don’t need to be sophisticated … and certainly shouldn’t be hockey … but they must promote positive social interaction and be satisfying for the participants while keeping them in an emotionally “safe place”. Keeping it emotionally safe is what makes the difference between team building activities that elicit eye rolls and those that result in full participation, smiles and laughter.

What feels emotionally safe to one person may feel completely outside the comfort zone of another. It’s important to know the individuals on your team and to ensure that, in any team building activity you select, people can choose how to participate.

Here are a few things that we, at Summit, consider in our approach to team building:

  • We structure team building activities so that they offer a number of roles with varying degrees of physical activity and personal “exposure”. Many quiet people will be quite happy to participate in the background and let the extroverts go wild if they know they won’t be pressured to do the same.
  • When we organise big team building activities (say, several hundred people) we make sure people interact in small sub-groups for large parts of the program. This allows the introverts to develop a few deeper, more comfortable relationships away from the chaos.
  • We know that lightly physical team-building activity can work very well. But once again, we’re all adults now, not kids. We always make sure that success does not require the fitness of an Olympian.
  • We also know that people like to contribute to society. We have designed several team building activities that focus on the act of “giving back”, locally and internationally.

Good team building activities bring people together for a few hours of fun and result in lasting relationships. And that’s priceless.

Check out all our team building activities here

Failure Is A Great Teacher – Part 2

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In the previous blog, I wrote about the power of failure to be an amazing teacher provided your mind, heart and eyes are open to the lessons available. Failure often produces very strong and not always favourable emotions. These emotions can block our ability to learn from failure. As a result one of the first steps in learning from failure is to give yourself some time for the emotions to stabilise. Then you can examine the event in depth and pluck out the learning and the applications to future challenges. This takes a certain level of emotional intelligence to accomplish.

This learning process is what is called the Experiential Learning Cycle. This method of learning involves three basic steps. Experience, Analysis, and Application. In order for there to be learning there needs to be an event or an experience. This can be something you were personally involved in, something you observed, or event something you read about. Next, you need to analyse what took place and look for the learning. Bring in relevant models and research to help you see clearly and make your own conclusions as it relates to your goals and challenges. Lastly, you need to figure out how to apply what you have learned in a practical and realistic way. You can follow the simple steps of What, So What and Now What.

As you may recall from my last blog I had failed to climb one of the world’s tallest mountains. Well, it was not just me, but it was my entire team of highly experienced mountaineer partners. Partner and team are not really the right words as we were neither. For various reasons every person there, myself included was focused on person success only. This was the result of a very dysfunctional team environment that had formed within our group. Trust, support, compassion, empathy, and teamwork were replaced by selfishness, mistrust, gatekeeping, conflict, and ego.

In the end, this devastating experience became one of the greatest teachers of my life and I used this experience to go on and summit Mount Everest on my first attempt and to complete many other arduous adventures.

Patrick Lencioni helped me to crystalize my learning in his book 5 Dysfunctions of Team. Through my personal experiences and the desire to focus on the positive, I developed my High-Performance Team Model.

I believe the foundation of all high-performance teams is RELATIONSHIP. We need to get to know and understand our fellow teammates as well as to bond with them emotionally. After all, I always say “we do not do things for each other because we HAVE to, we do things for each other because we WANT to”. And this is based on positive relationships.

This relationship foundation is the root of building TRUST as trust comes from positive experiences with others.

This trust allows us to COMMUNICATE openly and honestly. If we trust one another I will ask the stupid question, I will disagree with you, and I will express my opinions event if they are not shared by the rest of the team. This allows us all to express ourselves fully and to discuss and debate the issue at hand. Without trust I will keep my mouth shut and although the team will appear supportive and committed it is really a mask hiding tension just below the surface.

Only once we have communicated openly and honestly will we be able to truly COMMIT to a team vision, action or decision. It is through this open dialogue that we listen to one another and formulate our plans. As Stephen Covey writes in the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People “seek first to understand, and then to be understood”.

Only through true and real commitment can we achieve ACCOUNTABILITY. Accountability of one’s self and accountability by others is critical for follow through. In an accountable team, we feel safe to follow up on each other’s actions and commitments and this is seen as supportive rather than threatening.

Although simple in principle, this model is not always simple to implement. It takes strong leadership to bring it to life, but after all, that is what leadership’s most important job it; to build high performance within individuals and in teams.

At Summit Team Building we use this model in our Team Development and Leadership Development training programs.