Finding an inspirational objective

“>Portraits of Alpine Club presidents

Portraits of Alpine Club presidents, pioneers of early Alpine ascents.

Incontrovertibly, a leader must be capable of conceiving a vision and then gathering together a team and the resources necessary to achieve it. As a leader of expeditions in the mountains the challenge is the same: how do you first discover and then clarify worthwhile objectives? Well, you could do a lot worse than spend time at The Alpine Club, Charlotte Road, London. It has one of the best mountaineering libraries, with over 25,000 books and past expedition reports, maps and photos. Visiting lecturers report on expeditions from all corners of the globe. I was invited there recently to give a lecture on my exploration in Patagonia.

When I arrived, the buzz was palpable. People mingled, many suited, straight from the city, chatting about where they had been skiing this winter and which mountain range they hoped to visit in the summer. I listened enviously to one group recounting their recent expedition to Antarctica; I long to go there one day. Another conversation involved current research into high altitude medicine.

As tradition dictates, the master of ceremonies struck the gong to announce the start of the lecture. The gong in question is an oxygen cylinder used during the first ascent of Mount Everest in 1953. Clearly, this wasn’t an audience that tolerated fakes: speakers have to walk the talk. My speech was warmly received and there were lots of questions around future possibilities in Patagonia and my next objectives.

It is an honour to be invited to speak to the oldest mountaineering club in the world. Outside the lecture theatre, the portraits of past club presidents line the walls – Bonington, Evans, Shipton and Collie to name a few stretching back to John Ball, the first president when the club was formed in 1858. One of the highlights of my visit was spending the afternoon in The Alpine Club Library, trying to formulate plans for my next expedition.

I always start this process by looking at what other people are currently doing. Recent expedition reports are invaluable for this. The Chinese authorities are starting to allow expeditions to visit virtually virgin mountain regions, such as the Chinese Tien Shan. The MEF reports of the first expeditions to these areas are crucial to anyone planning a trip there.

Fortunately for expedition leaders, details of these reports are now available online at The Himalayan Index, detailing 2850 peaks over 6000 metres is another source of inspiration. Reports are also available from the Royal Geographical Society, London, the BMC and Sheffield Libraries.

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