Monday, August 5, 2013

Convergence on Hillary Step

(Photo credit: USAF7Summits.com)

I recently wrote a blog on listening inspired by a presentation from mountain climber Roger Snyder. In May 2013, Roger become one of highly-determined individuals that can legitimately claim he conquered the summit of Mount Everest. Roger's experience of the gridlock on Hillary Step inspired this blog.

Hillary Step is a 40-foot wall of rock and ice near the summit of Mount Everest that presents the ultimate a challenge for most climbers. Named after Sir Edmund Hillary, first confirmed climber with Tenzing Norgay to reach Mount Everest's summit, the Hillary Step pathway is only wide enough for one climber to pass at a time. As you might guess, this presents a problem for climbers pushing to the top and those returning from the summit who may be in desperate need of medical care and oxygen. Rescue is nearly impossible at this point of the journey. Gridlock on Hillary Step can be as much as 2 to 4 hours. The politics and strategies to manuever the step are as varied as the climbers who make the attempt.

In "Everest Beyond the Limit," we share in the adventure and experience the climbers frustration as they hit the gridlock on Hillary Step (from 29:30 -33:40).



As the numbers of climbers wanting to conquer Mount Everest increase, the gridlock will also. There is only a small window of opportunity to conquer the summit. The Expedition Operators Association has proposed installing permanently fixed ladders as a means of reducing congestion; however, many oppose the idea. Some want to maintain the climb while others recognize a bigger problem: overcrowding on the mountain.

A Wildland Fire Reflection and Take Away

What can we take away from climbing Mount Everest and the Hillary Step gridlock  analogy?

Wildland firefighters, like mountain climbers, are determined. What some refer to as a "can do" attitude can be a strength and a weakness. We do what it takes to get the job done. We push ourselves to the limit to accomplish the mission. Either of which when taken to the extreme can produce negative results. There are areas (gridlocks) in our operations and within our organizations that limit our ability to reach our goals. Knowing where these areas exist and developing a plan to traverse them can help us avoid the gridlock at Hillary Step.

Fireline Leadership Challenge
  • Identify the Hillary Steps within your organization or operation--those places that limit your ability to operate safely and efficiently.
  • Develop a contingency plan for when you encounter a gridlock.
  • Ensure that the plan you develop addresses the real cause of the problem.
  • Share the lessons learned from those who faced gridlocks and paid the ultimate sacrifice on the fireline.
  • Vow to bring everyone safely down the mountain.
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