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Pushing my limits to trek to Everest Base Camp (EBC) was always on my bucket list. So when an opportunity to join a trekking expedition to EBC came by this year, I took the plunge. Amidst the impending pandemic crises, there was definitely a lot of hesitation on whether this is the right time to pursue this goal. But safe travel arrangements, assurance by our trekking organizers #TrekNomads & the promise of clean mountain air in the lap of nature gave me the courage to bring this dream to fruition last month.
As I reflect on the 12-day trek and the month-long preparation that made this happen, I am very grateful of the valuable trekking lessons that made this expedition a success. Not only did they make me fitter & mentally strong on the trail, but also naturally unfolded as Leadership Essentials that anyone can espouse and fall back on during a Career or even Life Span.
Sharing below a snippet of these essentials with a glimpse here & there of the wondrous Everest Base camp trekking trail….Hope you enjoy the read!
1. Know where you are heading: Preparation is key
Over the course of 2020, as has been the case for most of us, the extended time working from home had benefitted me by bringing a balance to physical fitness & well-being. I had evolved from someone who felt lethargy towards workouts to becoming a fitness enthusiast who felt incomplete without a daily dose of movement – be it a jog, yoga, or sometimes just a brisk walk in between meetings.
But was that enough to climb at higher altitudes with low oxygen & steep terrains?
To be honest, I wasn`t fully confident and latched on to the fitness routine & tests we had to endure to qualify for the trek. Knowing beforehand that a mere step count & fitness endurance at ground level is not a sure shot qualifier for an altogether different terrain & atmosphere, was key to our preparation. So what helped me immensely was staying close to this awareness & gap I had to fill, @ home preparation for a month before the trek, and most importantly sound guidance from co-trekkers through the course. To simulate a high altitude experience at home a simple routine I followed was climbing a flight of 50 floors up & down in 20 mins flat.
It goes without saying, even in a career span, the 1st step really is to know where you are, where you aspire to be & prepare on the areas that will help you navigate the climb
P. S – Sometimes what we are looking for is right under our gaze & we miss it. While preparing for the trek @ home I was amazed at the simplicity & effectiveness of stair climbing as an activity & till date keep wondering why I hadn`t explored this earlier! It now continues to be a routine activity to stay in motion & energized even at home!
2. Climb High, Sleep Low!
The 12-day trek to EBC entailed gaining altitude every day and resting at a new place every night. We started from Lukla, Kathmandu which is at a height of 2860 meters above sea level on Day 1, and by Day 8 were at our destination – Base Camp which is at an ambitious 5500 meters above sea level. The trick was to acclimatize our bodies to altitude & drop in oxygen levels by gaining as much altitude as we could during the day & resting at a lower altitude by night. This helped us adapt to the demands of the terrain & atmosphere while ensuring a steady climb on a daily basis.
To read a guide on the Everest Base Camp trek, click here.
Drawing this as a leadership analogy, one cannot refute the subtle yet profound impact you can make as a Leader by continuing to climb to higher echelons of Leadership while ensuring to stay humble, nimble footed & grounded. So as our local guides & Sherpas advised us to Climb High & Sleep Low, aspiring leaders should lay clear focus & sincere effort on their next career move or next project, not withholding the humility to count their blessings, stay grateful & grounded – Become a curious learner on the journey..
3. 20 Steps, 3 Deep Breaths always on your Ascent : Trust your Pace, do not make it a Race!
Without a doubt everyone would agree that an ascent is always more taxing as essentially we are in anti-gravity motion. Ironically though, & true to the nature of my astrological symbol – Capricorn : the Mountain Goat, I find it easier to climb up an ascent, when well paced. Mountain goats are said to find solace in climbing high peaks for 1) there is a height to be achieved & 2) slowly but surely this can be achieved. So equipped with this armor, I found it even more beneficial & less exhausting to climb an ascent when I used the simple rule of 20 Steps, 3 Breaths as advised by our Trek Guides. Ensuring deep breathing in a regular interval while on a steep trail, gave us the much-needed short bursts of excess oxygen flow, energy & most importantly a sense of a short victory in a short span of time.
I find that even at work when you are faced with a challenging new situation when you are at crossroads or are a new Leader uncertain about how to proceed, it is quite effective to break things down as quick wins to infuse confidence on your journey & stay mindful with meditation & deep breathing regularly – It`s important to pace yourself & not Race yourself – A valuable leadership lesson more so in the uncertain times that we live in…
4. Enjoy & make the best use of your surroundings: Journey is more gratifying & beautiful than the destination
Truth be told, by Day 3 on the Everest Base Camp Trail one can catch a gorgeous glimpse of the mighty Everest. What ensues on each day is a steady climb and a hope in the heart to try and catch a glimpse of the scenic wonder once again. But what is more astounding is the pristine & breathtaking views one can witness at every moment on the trail, even aside from the Everest peak – be it the vast expanse of snow capped mountains in the entire Solukhumbu district, the very sturdy & joyous rides on the steel suspension bridges that we witnessed ( such as the famous Hillary Suspension Bridge in the pic ), the colourful & welcoming Buddhist flags all along the trail or even the thriving flora & fauna around. I realized the biggest motivation to complete an arduous task of walking 6-8 hours everyday on the trail were the views …. and the journey : If we just paused to take note & pay attention. And the returns of this momentous investment of time & attention are something that will be etched in my mind for a lifetime.
Needless to say, leaders & teams can enrich themselves with a lot more learning by focusing in the moment & not getting bogged down by the end goal or task completion at hand. Keep refining your course, stay inquisitive, observe & learn from each other & thoroughly enjoy yourself on the journey!
5. Stay Resilient: Potential & Possibility always outweigh Problems!
Apr-May is considered a good time for a Spring Trek, although we witnessed unexpected snowfall by Day 4. It did make the trek a lot more treacherous to complete as the trail gets slippery, but what definitely outweighed our challenge was having the opportunity to witness a ‘snow-trek’ in spring, glistening snow capped mountains & trails at our disposal & well….. some ‘snow-ball’ wars to add to the fun.
Point being, there are always two perspectives to any situation- And in my view, a potential / possibility is always bigger than a problem – there are Perks & Peaks always up for grabs! Leaders & teams can benefit a lot from this simple principle – Look at any Problem as a Potential to something even better..
6. Every Ascent has a Descent. Find your sweet spot & be @ Play
The best part of a mountain trek is that an Ascent always has a Descent 🙂 What goes up has to come down & this is an organic way in which Mountains enable a balancing act. So while the ascent is a slow climb & more taxing it gives an opportunity to Pause Reflect & enjoy the views – take a rest. And the Descent gives you the opportunity to see things from a Height – See the Bigger Picture and take the advantage of gravity to come down faster & gain time!
Leaders & teams can benefit by viewing every task as having potential ascents ( learning curves) & descents ( productivity gains) that will come along – The key is to stay cognizant of the fact that it will not always be a steady course & that with the right pacing & awareness, anything can be accomplished..
7. Take a break, stay hydrated, seek friends & mentors all along!
Lastly, a journey is more enriching, more alive & more meaningful with the right Comrades along the way… Personally to me, the dream of completing an Everest Base Camp Trek started with a discussion that I had with a fellow trekker who had similar interests & took fruition when I was coached & encouraged by a mentor. Which made me realize the importance of having the right support system & dedicated Mentors to coach & guide you when testing new waters ( such as the trek in my case) or when on a new terrain.
Here are 10 reasons why you MUST do the Everest Base Camp Trek!
Leaders undoubtedly can expedite their Leadership Potential & soar to new heights by being more self-aware of what they want to achieve early on & tapping on the right sources from time-to-time to help them navigate their Climb 🙂
(…………… pun intended )
About the author:
Priyanka Murthy is a Talent & Organization Development Leader at Novartis & an amateur trekker.
For more details and for her profile, click here.