Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Making a molehill out of a mountain

I was watching Everest: Beyond the Limit on Discovery Channel the other night and was struck by the complexity of organizing an expedition to the top of the world. The expedition leader must account for the weather, the health of the climbers and what everyone else on the mountain is doing. Make a wrong call and you can end up with a tragedy.
  • For a harrowing account of the deadliest day on the mountain, check out John Krakauer's book Into Thin Air.
Guides must decide what time to leave camp each morning (more like middle of the night) in order to avoid unstable conditions in the day light and to stay out of traffic jams on the upper slopes. Some leaders impose rigid time limits on climbers on "summit day" in order to conserve bottled oxygen. The organizers must also decide who gets to pursue their dream and who goes home without seeing the summit. Send up a climber suffering from illness or injury and you could wind up with two or more dead climbers.

On one day this past May, over 100 climbers assaulted Everest's summit on the busiest day ever on top of the mountain. One error here, one misstep there and one miscalculation in base camp and the day could have turned out tragic. Fortunately for all involved, the day was a success.

Trial work is also about handling the details, managing those around you and coping with the things you can't control. Do it properly and the most unmanageable matter becomes manageable. Do it wrong and the consequences can be no less catastrophic for your client.

No comments: