Five Business Lessons I Learned Climbing Everest
September 20, 2017
The author is a Trustee of The Asia Foundation.
Earlier this month, I began an exciting journey with Uber, joining the company as Chief Business Officer for Asia Pacific. I’m thrilled to become a member of the team at such a transformative moment in the company. I have lived and worked across Asia for the last two decades, and seen up close the impact that ridesharing is having on riders, drivers, and cities. The opportunity to shape how the region continues to move was impossible to turn down.
In between saying “yes” to the job and my first day, I took up another opportunity, taking a second crack at getting to the top of Mount Everest. After a failed bid in 2014, I was determined to try again. Thanks to an incredible team, we succeeded early on the morning of May 27. As you can see from the picture below, Uber and its mission were on my mind even at the top of the world. On my way home to Singapore, I began processing the experience. Here are five lessons I picked up on the mountain that I’m taking with me to Uber.
1. Look for New Approaches to Old Problems: I attempted Everest in 2014 on a traditional 65-day expedition, going up and down the mountain multiple times to acclimatize. The trip was unsuccessful due to a tragic avalanche. I decided if I came back, I’d do so in a different way. I used an innovative, Hypoxico system that allows people to exercise in oxygen-reduced air for the purpose of pre-acclimatization to altitude. That meant flipping truck tires in the back alleys of Chinatown with my Hypoxico mask on and hiking through Singapore’s nature reserves carrying a pack weighed down with hardback Russian novels. The approach paid off, enabling me to tackle the mountain in just 27 days.
2. Trust your Team and Your Data: I was led by two incredible guides, Panuru Sherpa and Zeb Blais, on Everest. They knew how to get up and down the mountain. We also relied on our experienced team doctor, Monica Piris. If Monica said turn around, there was no question, you turned around. The expedition was data-reliant, especially around weather. On Everest, as on any 8,000-meter peak, making a call on when weather conditions are stable enough for a summit attempt is the most important decision a team makes. We had to turn back on one attempt when the weather deteriorated, but ultimately hit a very narrow summit window.
3. Lean Means Speed: As part of my preparation, I tested the rapid ascent approach on Cho Oyo, the sixth highest peak in the world, and then skied down from the summit. I thought hard about what to bring on that trip, but still ended up taking an additional unnecessary duffel bag of gear and food. By the time I went back to Everest this spring, I had eliminated all my excess gear. That made the expedition much easier, faster, and safer because there was less to carry down off the mountain after our summit.
4. Preparation is Everything: Before a summit push on Everest, most people spend a few freezing hours in a tent at 8,300 meters, the highest campsite in the world. When the time comes to get rolling, you need to be ready for the elements: Water bottle close to the body so as not to freeze, batteries and radio charged, energy bars at hand, oxygen mask and tank flowing. The idea is to leave just one thing to do outside: put on your crampons in the one minute or so before your hands freeze, and get moving quick.
5. Celebrate Success and Then Get Back to Work: We summited via the Northeast Ridge on May 27th, and were thankful to be standing at the summit at 5:43am. While we were taking photos, the emotions of all the years spent thinking about, and training for, this moment hit me. But we were moving down within 20 minutes, mindful of the sobering statistics that most fatalities on Everest occur on the descent. The weather was changing, and we would spend the next 12 hours descending 8,000 vertical feet to the relative safety of Advanced Base Camp. For now, at least, I’m putting aside dreams of climbing any more 8,000 meter peaks. I’m now a proud member of the expedition team scaling Uber across the Asia Pacific region. That is quite enough of a challenge for this upcoming season.
This article was first published on LinkedIn.
Brooks Entwistle joined The Asia Foundation’s Board of Trustees in 2015. He is the chief business officer, Asia Pacific for Uber and is responsible for business development across the region. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and not those of The Asia Foundation or its funders.
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