The mountains are great teachers. They care nothing about our ambitions or goals. Each time we venture into them, we measure ourselves against them, and this forces us to make judgement calls. Make the right decisions, and we come home safe and sound, make the wrong decision, and the consequences can be life-threatening.
The very characteristics that enable us to fulfil our ambitions and reach high goals are the very same qualities that can be our undoing in the mountains. Ego and ambition can quickly get you in trouble. Let me explain with a couple of examples from my recent trip hill walking in Snowdonia with my brother.
Day one of our trip saw us attempt Snowdon. We walked to 700m (The summit is 1085m) where we encountered the snowline. We struggled, slipping and sliding another 30m upwards. We sat down for a break. The weather was cloudy but still, a good day for walking and both of us wanted to reach the top. Without crampons, the ascent and subsequent decent would only get harder and more dangerous.
We decided to turn back. Both gutted but knowing we had made the right decision. Our feelings about the decision were made even harder as the sun came out and the summit came into view in all its majesty, Snowdon looked so beautiful. We walked down with heavy hearts.
Day two saw us walk up Carnedd Moel Siabod which is 872m. Higher than we had reached the day before but with no snow. So, despite gale force winds, driving rain and freezing temperatures we walked for 6 hours along a ridge to the summit. We asked ourselves many times during the route how we felt and were we comfortable continuing. Both of us were.
These two mountain days illustrate the importance of judgement. On day one we had great conditions but lacked the necessary equipment. So, we turned back. On day two we had diabolical conditions but had no problem continuing to the summit.
Life can be like this too.
Are you facing a decision that requires you to make a judgement call? You probably don’t have a complete picture either. Are there plusses and minuses to both options? Making choices in these circumstances is tough.
But a decision is what you must make. Don’t sit on the fence procrastinating. Leaders take responsibility for themselves and their team. Weigh up the options. What are the risks attached to each option? What are the rewards? Is the risk worth it?
Then when you have as complete a picture as you can create. Make your choice. Trust yourself and go with it. Remember, we climb the mountain, not in giant leaps but one small step at a time.