Category Archives: Teamwork

Six reasons why winter mountaineering in Scotland is so hard-core!

I recently bumped into a French alpinist in Glencoe who explained that 10 top French Alpinists had come to Scotland in winter to train for a trip to the greater ranges. My own mountaineering career began in Scotland 30 years ago and, despite having climbed all over the world, it remains a very special place for me.
So what makes a day out in Scotland in winter so challenging?

Everest – An Enduring Legacy

Everest – An Enduring Legacy

The first ascent of Mount Everest in 1953 was an inspiring story of human courage, great leadership, teamwork and motivation. Importantly, it was also an example of a famous event leaving a lasting legacy for future generations. Following that successful ascent, theMount Everest Foundation was formed, initially financed from surplus funds and royalties, ‘to encourage and support ‘exploration of the mountain regions of the earth’. 60 years later the charity is still going strong, handing out thousands of pounds to pioneering climbers and scientists each year.

Survival tips for mountaineers # 1 – Get the Information!

A key part of reducing a team’s exposure to risk on a climb is the quality of the information about the mountain and the conditions they are likely to encounter.

Whether it is a day climb in Scotland or a Himalayan peak, time spent researching is an investment. Climbers are good at setting clear goals; successful ones are masters of making the right decision in view of conditions.

What can Everest teach us?

Although I am known for pioneering new routes on some of the world’s highest, most difficult mountains, I think I learnt some of the fundamental rules of survival much closer to home very early on in my climbing career. Aged 17, I spent a week with two mountain guides in Scotland, climbing and learning everyday. The guides were extremely experienced mountaineers, having climbed, among other things, new routes on Mount Everest.

Going Underground

It was a relief to actually start our expedition down Titan, Britain’s deepest cave shaft. It was an even bigger relief when our leader Tim announced the plan.

“I think we should ascend back up the ropes once we reach the bottom, rather than doing the Titan through trip”.

“Thank god for that,” I said.

I’d been fretting all week about swimming through freezing underground lakes and squeezing through tight passages.

Harnesses over waterproof suits, thick socks inside wellies, the five of us headed across fields laden with big bags of rope and smaller ones of flapjack, flasks of tea and spare clothes.

We gaped in awe as Tim unlocked and swung open the metal door to reveal the first shaft. It was like staring down a long gun barrel carved of rock. A 170ft abseil and a crawl through knee-deep water along a horizontal passage lead to the edge of the 460ft Titan shaft proper. My feet were sodden already, but I hardly noticed.

Trapped Chilean Miners and survival via mentors

Exactly one year ago today news emerged that 33 men were trapped in the San Jose copper-gold mine, Chile. Their rescue after 69 days spent underground is one of the most remarkable survival stories of our age. Jimmy Sanchez, one of ‘Los 33’, was just 19 years old. Another, Samuel Avalos, a father of three, had worked in the mine for a mere five months.

How do great teams work?

So you have a clear objective and the funds, now you need a team with motivation to achieve the common goal. First, you need to be explicit about the goal. Obvious, maybe, but it’s not always the case that team members are ‘singing from the same hymn sheet’. It is essential that everyone is clear about the over-riding objective.