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.

People Perform Better When They’re Happy

Corporate Team Building Games

It goes without saying people perform better when they’re happy. But it’s often the simple things that are most overlooked in the workplace and when people feel undervalued stress sets in and it can wreak havoc on a morale.

Newer startups tend to put more emphasis on culture and environment at work, while more traditional companies have not adjusted their expectations and structure to meet the demands and needs of their staff. It’s not to say that all newer companies are hitting the mark when it comes to giving their employees freedom to be creative and aid them in creating communities.

Occasionally, we hear of management struggling to lead by example as they are feeling the pressure of their job roles to hit targets and meet deadlines and so motivation and mood decline when they put the focus on what company heads deem most important. So how do you break the cycle and help your team unlock their passion and joy at work?

Cultivating Passion

In today’s economy there’s no doubt that many people lose passion for their work but in many companies losing passion and a drop in performance can quickly mean reviews, probation and job cuts when employers believe they can easily find a fresh replacement ready to unleash their creativity and do their best work. Changing the pattern can be hard, but thankfully there are many different ways to rekindle your passion – check out a few of them here.

Fun aids Function

Many companies are wary of having employees go on team building days if they don’t think there’s anything “valuable” being taught, even though we are adults now just like children we still learn best through having fun and this is something we all tend to forget. Taking some time out of from the day-to-day activities and doing team building games, not only helps to lower stress.

Being able to see people’s personalities, allows for true connections to be formed when working towards a common goal that is entertaining but also taxing which is shown to increase performance. This is the perfect opportunity for leadership to identify strengths and weaknesses of team members and witness different dynamics that could be implemented back at work. Check out how to incorporate more fun into your workplace.

Team Building Games

Team building games don’t necessarily sound very entertaining, team building still has some negative stereotypes attached to it and many people dread having to spend the day doing something pointless. When team building games are executed effectively, they’re complex, demanding and the pressure and detail should leave you anything but bored. There is a lot to be said for who instructs and runs the activities too, the team building leader needs to be high energy and passionate about what they’re doing to really inspire others to take part.

At Summit, we are on hand to offer bespoke experiences wherever possible. We feel it’s important that teams get back to basics not only to unlock their passion, but there’s no better feeling than knowing you’ve made a valuable contribution to others, whether it’s to your teammates during activities, offering support on a project or helping the local community and those in need with your combined efforts.

We’re here to help you uncover the happiness and purpose already inside of you.

A Little Mood Music  – Just Push Play

Over the last ten years I have had the pleasure of delivering a heck of a lot of team building programs for Summit and I have learned a lot about things that can make or break a successful event.  One detail that we consistently get great feedback about is the playlist that we have going on during programs like Put Your Chef Hat On! Once our iPhone is cued up and we hit “play” you can literally feel the energy in the room grow. People start dancing, sometimes a little Karaoke breaks out.  Tone setting is critical in my world – get it wrong and you have a mess on your hands… get it right and magic happens. My music tastes fall pretty solidly into the Classic Rock category but I am open minded enough to know that some of the greatest toe-tapping ditties came both before and after that era.

So, here are 5 tunes that I personally guarantee will lighten moods, bring smiles to faces and get people busting moves.  It would be impossible for me to rank these and I could list hundreds more… consider this a starter kit to your “Give Me Energy” playlist.

1. All the Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It) by Beyonce.

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It is great when people start dancing – even our facilitators are not afraid to cut a rug sometimes…but not everyone is all that good at it (including me) and eventually you see some pretty awkward moves (including mine). This is not a bad thing though, it’s good to be able to laugh at ourselves and the bad dancing reminds me of that hilarious SNL sketch when Justin Timberlake and some cast members show up as Beyonce’s back up dancers.

2. Brown Eyed Girl – Van Morrisonteambuilding events

Not sure what it is about this song but it’s been around for so long and it is so catchy that everyone seems to know it. It doesn’t matter if you’re a baby boomer or a millennial, this one is universally loved and we often use it as a kick off song to get things started. It’s never let us down. Take a listen here!

3. A Little Less Conversation – Elvis Presley

keynote program

You really can’t have a great rock ‘n roll playlist without including the King can you? No. You can’t. This one has been around since the late 60’s and was featured in the movie “Live a Little, Love a Little”  – check out this scene.

Elvis could bring energy to a room just by walking into it…when you add this song to the mix it’s a wonder people’s heads don’t explode from all the excitement!

4. Crazy Little Thing Called Love – Queen

I had to include something by this band…if I didn’t, those who know me would wonder if I were OK.  There’s something about the way Freddie evokes Elvis in that song that is just plain cool. This is another example of a tune that has stood the test of time. Everyone knows it from beginning to end and typically when I play it at a team building program at least 1/2 the room is singing along. By the way, a little Queen trivia—this is their only tune that featured Freddie playing a guitar – you learn something new every day right?

5. Uptown Funk – Bruno Mars

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There was a reason the Superbowl organizers got Bruno to headline a few years ago. This guy knows how to get a crowd moving and when this song plays it seems to trigger some weird switch in people’s heads that tells them “go ahead, you know you wanna dance like Bruno.”   Even though Uptown Funk has only been out for a couple of years it resonates with all ages and is super catchy.

Like I said, there are a million more links I could share but these are some of my favs. Try them out at your next office or home get together and see what happens. Don’t believe me? Just Watch.

Everest 9 Year Anniversary

south-kress-summit

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