Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Magic on the Mountain

(Photo credit: Mountain Guides.com)
"The most important thing in climbing is the inner strength to help each other, so that not just the strongest but all the members of the group reach the goal."~ Ida Hiroshige
Over the last couple of months, I have used Roger Snyder's Mt. Everest climbing experience as a backdrop for my blogs. I chose to share my experience with Roger because of the influence his story had on me.

Much has been written and spoken about the parallels between mountains, mountain climbing and leadership. I've heard Preston Cline brief the NWCG Leadership Subcommittee and L-580 participants about the power of the Wharton MBA Leadership Ventures treks where participants are placed under "authentic levels of stress and uncertainty in order to improve their ability to lead." I've read "Into Thin Air" and witnessed the leadership transformation of many L-380 students of fire.  I've shared other mountain climbing stories with you on this blog. But is was this experience with this Mount Everest storyteller that made an imprint on my soul.

There is something very powerful about hearing a person's story, especially when it is fresh in their mind and telling it for the first time. Roger had only been away from the mountain for about a week when I heard his story. He had lost weight and was still feeling the physical and mental effects of the climb. He hadn't culled his photographs into a logical sequence. It was a "raw," unscripted, and unrehearsed presentation; and I was swept into the story as if it were a dream.

Roger had never met most of us to whom he told the story. That didn't stop him from speaking from the heart. He talked of his strengths, his weaknesses, the team that helped him along the way, and the joys and sorrows of life and death on the mountain. His passion became my passion for telling a slightly different stories to you.

Mountain climbing is not something that I have much knowledge or interest in doing myself; however, Roger brought it to life for me. I may never scale the world's highest peak, but I am confident, the lessons I learned from my experience will be useful for when I need to tackle a problem that seems as impossible as reaching the summit of Mount Everest.

  • The "impossible" is possible.
  • With danger comes opportunity.
  • Fear limits our ability to conquer greatness.
  • Time may be needed to realize the power of an experience.
  • Personal accomplishment often takes a team effort.
  • Telling our stories can inspire others.
  • Respect one another.
  • Do good.
  • Be prepared.

When asked how it felt to conquer Mount Everest, Roger said, "It's all so surreal; it hasn't sunk in yet." I'm not sure the full effect of hearing Roger's story has been realized. It is the magic on the mountain that has forever changed me and the stories I share with you.

The magic was in the story, but watch what is impossible for most become the possible for members of Roger's expedition team...

Wildland Fire Leadership Challenge
  • Stories are powerful. Assemble a group of wildland fire veterans and leaders and listen to their stories. 
  • Do you have a story that others need to hear? Tell it. 
    • If you haven't already, be sure to check out this story from South Canyon that we all need to hear.
  • Attend or watch online leadership presentations featuring stories unrelated to the wildland fire environment. 
About the Author:
Pam McDonald is a writer/editor for BLM Wildland Fire Training and Workforce Development and member of the NWCG Leadership Subcommittee. The expressions are those of the author.

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