Assignment written on Climbing Mount Everest

Introduction to this Assignment written on Climbing Mount Everest
Standing at a grand 8,848 meters, Mount Everest calls to those brave enough to scale her unforgiving slopes, beckoning them to claim the world’s highest of thrones if they dare. Climbers’ fight against the harshest of elements, and through pure will some reach the top. Hear their victory cry you will not, for in the midst of the death zone, one barely has enough energy to stand and reflect on the battle just won. Then it is time to make the long and treacherous descent with whatever strength is left. It is the determination to stay alive that eventually gets them down, but for some that is not enough. This was the case for some of the 1996 Everest Expeditions. CLICK HERE for our Everest Base Camp Video and join Ian Taylor Trekking to Everest base camp.
This report will examine the tragedy of the 1996 Adventure Consultants’ Everest Expedition through a project management scope. It is through the adoption of four lenses: planning, leadership, implementation, and risk management that a critical analysis will be conducted, followed be an in-depth assessment of the failures of the project. Recommendations and key learning supports are then offered for the success and safety of future high altitude expeditions.
“I will tolerate no dissension up there. My word will be absolute law, beyond appeal. If you don’t like a particular decision I make, I’d be happy to discuss it with you afterward, not while we’re up on the hill.” Rob Hall told his team in a meeting before ascent (Krakauer, 1997, pg. 216)
4. Analysis
4.1 Planning
Planning an Everest expedition is no easy task, even for experienced mountaineers like Rob Hall. Every piece of the puzzle has to fit perfectly for the climb to be successful. One misstep in the plan and people can be in serious danger. Hall and his staff at Adventure Consultants had a series of steps to take before beginning the trek to Base Camp.
4.1.1 Pre-climb planning
Evaluating the initial cost
Everest expeditions require high investment from both the project manager (Rob Hall) and the customers paying for the experience of climbing the world’s tallest mountain. Hall and company had to spend a considerable amount of time attracting an elite customer base to pay the large sum required for the expedition. Most clients spent up to as much as $70,000 to join the Adventure Consultants’ Everest Expedition. This money was allocated to cover necessary costs such as airfare, pre and post climb lodging, gear, food, climbing permits, supplementary oxygen, and the guiding services provided by the Adventure Consultants team and Sherpa’s. Logistics also had to be planned accordingly, including getting the oxygen tanks and gear to Base Camp along with the team itself.
Compiling the expedition team
The 1996 Adventure Consultants’ Everest expedition team was comprised of 12 members total: 7 clients, 1 journalist, 2 guides, 1 leading Sherpa, and Rob Hall as the team leader. The team consisted of people from diverse backgrounds and mountaineering expertise. Table 1 provides a full list of the team and each individual’s role.
Table 1: Adventure Consultants 1996 Everest Expedition Team Roster
Adventure Consultants Role
Rob Hall Founder & Team Leader
Mike Groom Head Guide
Andy Harris Guide
Ang Climbing Sirdar (Sherpa Leader)
John Krakauer Journalist/Client
Doug Hansen Client
Beck Weathers Client
Yasuko Namba Client
Stuart Hutchison Client
Frank Fischbeck Client
Lou Kasische Client
John Taske Client
4.1.2 A time dependent plan of action
Planning the acclimatization process
When climbing mountains to high altitude, an acclimatization schedule is crucial for the health and safety of all team members. Table 2 provides a standard Everest expedition acclimatization schedule.
Table 2: Standard Everest Expedition Itinerary with acclimatization schedule
Activity Elevation in Meters
Two weeks trek to Base Camp 5,300m
5 day training and preparation 5,300m
Hike to Camp I and back to Base Camp 6,100m
1 day recuperation at Base Camp 5,300m
Hike to Camp I ““ stay overnight 6,100m
Hike to Camp II and back to Base Camp 6,500m
2 day recuperation at Base Camp 5,300m
Hike to Camp I ““ stay overnight 6,100m
Hike to Camp II ““ stay overnight 6,500m
Hike to Camp III and back 7,300m
2 day recuperation at Base Camp 5,300m
Hike to Camp III and back to Camp II 7,300m
2 days at Camp II 6,500m
Hike to Camp III ““ stay overnight 7,300m
Hike to South Col and back to Camp III 7,900m
Stay overnight at Camp III 7,300m
Hike down to Camp II ““ stay overnight 6,500m
1 day recuperation at Base Camp 5,300m
Further recuperation leave Base Camp to lower elevation  < 4,000m
Final summit push 8,848m (peak)
Hall’s acclimatization plan was known as being one of the best and most effective. He followed a similar pattern to what is shown in the above table. Elmes and Barry (1999) note that through Hall’s emphasis on safety, his team made three trips above Base Camp “climbing about 2,000 feet high each time” (Krakauer, 1996a, p. 53) to assist in gradually acclimatizing their bodies to the dangerous lack of air they would experience above 8,000m ““ the death zone.
The perfect summit
After acclimating to Everest’s hostile environment the plan was then focused on the final push to the summit via the South Col. Route.
Map 1: South Col. Route
There had been three teams that pushed to Camp IV during the final summit bid on May 9, 1996. The leaders of each team, Hall, Scott Fischer (leader of the Mountain Madness expedition), and Makalu Gau, the leader of an “unguided” Taiwanese team (consisting of three Sherpa’s and one climber), met to strategize the final ascent. Gau agreed not to climb May 10, allowing Hall and Fischer’s teams the right-of-way. From there the plan was simple, as Scott Fischer referred to the climb as “We’ve got the Big E figured out, we’ve got it totally wired. These days, I’m telling you, we’ve built a yellow brick road to the summit” (Krakauer, 1996a, p. 84).
The Adventure Consultants team would start the 18-hour final ascent as soon as the sky was clear, followed by the Mountain Madness group after a 30-minute lapse. The lead Sherpas from each team, Ang and Lopsang, would leave ahead of time to fix the ropes, as was standard practice. By leaving around midnight the team would ideally get to the South Summit by 10:00am, reaching the summit around noon. This plan allowed some leeway for a strict turn-around-time of 1:00pm and no later than 2:00pm. The turn-around-time was the critical event within the plan, as it accounted for descent in the daylight as well as the limited supplemental oxygen supply available (Kayes, 2004). Hall assumed responsibility for quickly turning his clients around once reaching the summit. After recuperating at Camp IV the Adventure Consultants team would then head back to Base Camp, triumphant.
4.2 Leadership
4.2.1 Rob Hall, Founder and Leader ““ Adventure Consultants
In summiting Everest a grand total of 4 times and successfully leading 39 clients to the world’s highest peak before 1996, Hall was known as a world class mountaineer and guide. John Krakauer further illustrates Hall’s experience when noting in his article in Outside magazine that Adventure Consultants “was responsible for three more ascents than had been made in the first 20 years after Hillary’s inaugural climb” (Krakauer, 1996a, p. 52). Such statistics added to Hall’s credibility as a leader and aided in building an unparalleled brand image for his company, Adventure Consultants.
Establishing the leadership role
Hall assumed responsibility as leader of the expedition by organizing the climb, developing the acclimatization process for clients, taking care of any injuries, and planning the logistics related to the overall project (Elmes and Barry, 1999). Hall’s leadership style is characterized as legalistic, as he believed in setting strict rules and following them. In doing so he believed error could be prevented or in the least reduced, which ensured the safety of the clients and overall success of the mission (van Dyck, 2009). It was by Hall’s leadership style that an environment of dependence was formed . Hall established a sense of reliance upon himself for the rest of the team including his assisting guides, Andy Harris and Mike Groom.
Ruling with a hard thumb
One of Hall’s most famous rules was his strict turn-around-time. John Krakauer in his personal account of the 1996 Everest attempt, Into Thin Air, quoted Hall saying, “To turn around that close to the summit”¦ That showed incredibly good judgement”¦ I’m impressed ““ considerably more impressed, actually, than, if he’d continued climbing and made the top” (Krakauer, 1997, p. 147). Others have also noted that Hall coached his team time and time again on the turn-around-time. The problem was that he never clarified whether the turn-around-time would be at 1:00pm or 2:00pm on this particular occasion.
Hall established another stern rule with his team before the final push to the summit. All clients were to submit to his authority as leader once in the death zone, of which Camp IV marked the entrance. He prided himself on getting all of his clients to the top. As was mentioned before, prior to the 1996 expedition Hall had successfully led 39 clients to the -top of the world’. This meant that when client Doug Hansen, a postman from Seattle, WA who had attempted Everest the year before and failed, wanted to turn back before achieving his goal yet again, Hall was seen encouraging Hansen to continue the climb to achieve his dream of reaching the summit. Though no one knows exactly what was said between the two climbers, Hansen changed his mind and, with the assistance of Hall eventually reached the peak.
Figure 1: Path reflecting Rob Hall’s leadership style
4.2.2 Scott Fischer, Founder and Leader ““ Mountain Madness
Scott Fischer was a highly regarded climber in the mountaineering world, summiting Everest once before without using supplemental oxygen. The 1996 expedition was meant to be his big break into the commercial high-altitude guiding business for his Seattle-based company, Mountain Madness. Though lacking in experience in comparison to Hall, Fischer was said to be -the new kid on the block’ with plenty to offer, attracting high paying clients.
Fischer’s leadership approach can be characterized as the polar opposite of Hall’s authoritative style. He believed in providing support to his clients, but also allowed for maximum freedom on how they chose to make the climb (Elmes and Barry, 1999). This form of leadership is classified by van Dyck (2009) as a situationalist approach, wherein emphasis is placed on personal responsibility and self-reliance as opposed to following a strict set of rules.
Some would argue Fischer’s choice of leadership was better suited for situations that arose during the final summit, as his entire team reached the summit and returned back to Camp IV alive, excluding himself. This point can be argued however, as it was observed that Fischer was overburdened with stress, both financially and physically, which distracted him from team dynamics and consequently took away from his overall leadership abilities.
4.2.3 A race to the top
With an established, fully accredited mountaineer, Rob Hall on one side, and a youthful, energetic new comer, Scott Fischer on the other, the stakes were high for both expeditions. The adventure guiding business was an up and coming industry with little room for expansion, leading to fierce competition for the elite clientele that could afford such an exquisite experience.
It was also a time where making it to the top of Everest was a romanticized notion, thus people who actually attempted it were being closely watched around the world. Both Hall and Fischer had big names on their expeditions, including John Krakauer, a writer for Outside magazine and Sandy Hill Pittman, a reporter for NBC Interactive Media. Therefore, it is safe to assume that in order to gain competitive advantage over one another, Hall and Fischer were very much engaged in a race to the top.
4.3 Implementation
4.3.1 A perfect plan gone askew
Upon leaving Camp IV late May 9, 1996 Hall’s rock solid plan to get all of his clients to the top appeared an easy feat. However, it was only a matter of time before errors began to surface. The first problem presented itself when disagreement and mis communication between Ang, Lopsang, and the leaders caused the ropes that were to be fixed at the Balcony (the first technical part of the summit bid) prior to the team’s arrival, to simply be left unattended. This ensued in four of Hall’s clients returning to Camp IV, the others idly waiting as precious time slipped away.
A bottleneck soon formed as Fischer’s team arrived at the Balcony, spurring a series of significant errors in the original plan that depended so heavily on timing. A second bottleneck followed at the Hillary Step, the most challenging part of the climb, as more delays in fixing the ropes arose (van Dyck, 2009). At 1:45pm (45 minutes after the standard turn-around-time) the first climbers reached the summit and many did not begin their descent until well after 3:00pm. Hall, determined to get Doug Hansen to the peak, did not reach the top until after 4:00pm. The timeline Hall had diligently followed the four previous ascents was suddenly in complete disarray.
Due to the multiple time delays, disorganization, and some noted instances of hypoxia , several climbers ran out of supplementary oxygen early on in the descent. Then between 4:00-7:00pm one of the largest storms ever recorded to hit Everest during peak climbing season struck with full force, shattering all that was left of Hall’s plan.
Unfortunately, the -Oz’ like road to the top of the world was not so easy a feat. Hall’s plan to successfully get his team to the top and back safely, rapidly spiraled out of control, resulting in the loss of two of his clients, Yasuko Namba and Doug Hansen, one of his guides, Andy Harris, and his own life at only 35 years of age. Scott Fischer also lost his life, his own plan failing him in the light of health issues and unpredictable circumstances. Other climbers suffered severely from the aftermath of the storm, such as Beck Weathers who experienced extreme hypothermia and frostbite ensuing in the amputation of multiple body parts. In counting the costs in lives lost, it is safe to say that the implementation of the Adventure Consultants’ 1996 Everest Expedition plan was a complete failure.
Map 2: Aftermath of the May 10, 1996 Mt. Everest storm
 “Four of my teammates died not so much because Rob Hall’s systems were faulty ““ indeed, nobody’s were better ““ but because on Everest it is the nature of systems to break down with a vengeance.” John Krakauer
5. Assessment
5.1 Failure in planning
5.1.1 Planning for money, not for experience
1996 saw a time where the popularity of high altitude climbing was on the rise. The giant of the Himalayas intrigued people. It was also a time where experience was not a requirement to join expeditions like that of Adventure Consultants’ (Elmes and Barry, 1999). As was mentioned earlier, the fee to join Hall’s expedition was $70,000, and those that could afford it, and were willing to commit to the several agonizing weeks required to complete the -Everest experience’, were welcomed with open arms. This openhearted spirit would end up causing multiple flaws in Hall’s plan.
Prioritizing income over fitness and experience leads to a lack of trust. “There has been an erosion of mountaineering values. It used to be a team effort. Nowadays, it’s much too -everybody-for-himself.’ This can get you killed” (Dowling, 1996, p. 41). This was certainly the case for the 1996 disaster as Anatoli Boukreev, a guide for the Mountain Madness team noted, “people were willing to pay a cash price for the opportunity [to climb Everest] but not a physical price for preparedness” (Boukreev and DeWalt, 1997, p. 93). This reliance Boukreev alludes to ended up being a critical factor in the overall failure of Hall’s plan, as Hall was forced to assist inexperienced and/or less fit climbers instead of focusing on the team as a whole.
5.1.2 Deviating from the critical path
Another error in Hall’s plan was that he never decided on a turn-around-time for his team. He told them time and time again that the turn-around-time would be either 1:00pm or 2:00pm, but never determined which of the two it would be. Therefore, the team did not know the limit to their ascent, which allowed them to continue upward well after 1:00pm. This lack of definition also resulted in Hall breaking his own rule, ignoring his latest deadline of 2:00pm by assisting Doug Hansen to the top two hours behind schedule.
The two bottlenecks that formed at the South Summit and Hillary Step also caused valuable time to be lost. Hall should have taken this into account, and realized that there was a good chance his team would not make it to the summit on time.  Admitting defeat this early in the climb would have been hard, but when time controls a plan such as this, it is vital that the leader stick to the critical path. Any deviation can cause a major breakdown of systems (Hallgren, 2007), as was the case for the 1996 expedition.
5.2 Failure in leadership
5.2.1 Authoritative dependence
Rob Hall assumed an authoritative leadership role. In doing so, he felt he could more effectively turn people around and manage the organization, and inevitable risk of the project. However, many argue it was this authoritative leadership style that led many of the team members to hold back valuable opinions and potential life saving actions. An example is given in John Krakauer’s compliance to wait for Hall (against his better judgement) at the Balcony because, Hall had specifically instructed all clients to wait there until the whole team had arrived (Elmes and Barry, 1999).
To this day Hall is referred to as a great leader in the adventure climbing industry. It appears Hall’s intentions were to ensure the safety of his clients through establishing strict rules to follow, however this method broke down when intrinsic teamwork was needed to successfully complete the project, and lives were lost as a result. If Hall had established an environment where opinions and independence were welcomed, the expedition may not have ended as a tragedy.
No man left behind
-No man left behind’ was yet another leadership characteristic Hall possessed that contributed to his death. Hall stayed with Doug Hansen to ensure the achievement of Hansen’s goal to reach the top of Everest. Unfortunately Hansen was too weak to continue the descent and Hall refused to leave his client even when friends and co-workers communicating with him via radio urged him to continue on. Speculators feel with Hall’s skills and experience on Everest, if he had left Hansen early on in the descent he may have survived the storm.
However, some would argue it was Hall’s own determination to get as many clients as possible to the top that became the Achilles heel for the two men. Hansen had expressed concerns of his abilities when the first bottleneck occurred, but Hall encouraged him to continue on. It was due to Hall’s advice that Hansen persisted, thus leaving Hall responsible for his decision to summit against his better judgement.
5.2.2 A question of competing forces
While Hall’s leadership style has come under high scrutiny, another factor may have played a large role in the failure of the project. Alongside Rob Hall and his Adventure Consultants team was the up and coming mountaineer Scott Fischer, who served as a catalyst of competition for Hall.
It is understandable for a project manager to want to out-perform the competition, but did this competition breed negligence on the leaders’ behalf? Scott Fischer was suffering from a chronic illness that was blatantly noticeable on the final assault of May 9 and 10. If he hadn’t been so consumed with beating Hall would he have made it back to Camp IV safely, and in doing so ensured the safety of his team? If Hall hadn’t been so caught up in getting more of his team to the summit, as to maintain some level of competition with the Mountain Madness team, would he and Hansen still be alive? Many speculators agree that the level of competition between the two leaders became their biggest downfall.
5.3 Risk Management
In assessing failings of the plan and leadership within the Adventure Consultants’ 1996 Everest Expedition the risk management aspect of the project can now be evaluated.
5.3.1 Identifying the risks
Many would consider climbing Everest one of the most (if not the most) risky adventures anyone could ever embark upon. The risks of a typical Everest summit outweigh the benefits ten-fold. So why do people like Hall and Fischer choose to partake in such a reckless endeavour? George Leigh Mallory (1922) explains:
“So, if you cannot understand that there is something in man which responds to the challenge of this mountain and goes out to meet it, that the struggle is the struggle of life itself upward and forever upward, then you won’t see why we go. What we get from this adventure is just sheer joy. And joy is, after all, the end of life.”
Risk Breakdown Structure
Despite the risks, people attempt to climb Everest every year. Therefore, a risk breakdown structure (RBS) has been created for the purpose of identifying the main risks within the expedition to help future leaders plan for and manage the inevitable risks of such a project.
 Figure 2: Risk Breakdown Structure of Adventure Consultant’s 1996 Everest Expedition
The risks acknowledged in the RBS are the main risks that have been assessed throughout this report as having major impacts on the project.
5.3.2 Risk assessment
The consequences of negligent risk management are extreme in this particular project, and can result in the loss of life. Through identifying the main risks of the expedition, evaluation of the severity each risk had on the overall project can now be conducted.  It is important to note that with such a high risk project, each individual risk is directly correlated with another in what Roberto (2002) explains as complex systems which need to be understood in order “to examine the nature of the entire high-risk system involved in climbing the mountain and evaluate the complex interconnections among many different elements of an Everest expedition” (p. 147). For example, the external risk of -Other Teams’ directly impacted the organizational risk of -Poor Time Management’. The result of the relation between these two risks then affected -Deteriorating Health’ as -Supplementary Oxygen’ ran out. As you can see a domino effect occurred due to key risks not being accounted for and managed properly. Keeping such complex systems in mind, an assessment is now given of the severity each risk had on the overall project, which is measured in the following table.
Table 4: Risk Assessment of the Adventure Consultants’ 1996 Everest Expedition
Risk Identification Qualitative Rating
Risk Probability Impact Risk Score
Inclement weather 4 5 20
Deteriorating health 4 5 20
Lack of teamwork 4 4 16
Poor time management 3 5 15
Sunk cost effect 3 4 12
Leadership style 3 4 12
Supplementary oxygen 2 5 10
Guide/Sherpa ability 2 5 10
Inexperience 2 4 8
Faulty climbing gear 2 4 8
Other teams 2 4 8
Lack of Skill 2 3 6
Reputation/competition 2 3 6
Risk Severity Matrix
Every organization should know what its risk tolerance is (Turner, 2005). In order to determine whether a risk is major, moderate or minor the risks identified above can then be ranked based on their probability and impact on the project. They can then be plotted on a risk severity matrix. This matrix allows us to chart the project’s gravest risks, permitting expedition leaders to plan accordingly.
Figure 3: Risk Severity Matrix of the Adventure Consultants’ 1996 Everest Expedition
Weather is indeed a major risk on any high altitude expedition. Though the expedition leader may not be able to manage Mother Nature, since the 1996 disaster, devices have been created to track weather patterns, giving climbers a more accurate prediction of when big storms are rolling in. If this technology had been available in 1996, Hall may very well have delayed the final summit bid or at least turned his team around much earlier on May 10.
Reputation/competition falls within the green zone on the severity matrix, but is still considered a key risk to consider in cases like this. Referring back to the leadership section of this report, we reviewed the stresses associated with building a strong reputation for climbing companies and leaders. In the 1996 expedition, Adventure Consultants planned to get all members to the top to prove that Hall was the best leader to hire for the job. The fact that Fischer was trying to establish himself as a successful Everest leader, and assume market share in the industry meant the stakes had been raised. The environment of intense competition between the two companies added strain to Hall’s project, which thus became a risk assumed by the leaders of both teams.
5.3.3 Application of risk management to the project
When Rob Hall and his team at Adventure Consultants were planning the 1996 Everest Expedition it can be assumed that through previous experience, risk management was incorporated in the pre-climb plan. However, in assessing the project from launch to finish we can see that the risk management process broke down quickly, and that many major risks were not considered, and thus contingency plans were not created in the chance that major disaster struck. Had Hall completed thorough due diligence on these major risks, the result may have been one of triumph over tribulation.
“To cite a specific cause would be to promote an omniscience that only Gods, drunks, politicians, and dramatic writers can claim.” Anatoli Boukreev (closing thoughts about the Everest tragedy)
6. Recommendations
6.1 Plan for experience, not for profit
Every company aims to turn a profit. However, in businesses where lives are at stake, ensuring that the client’s capabilities are advanced enough to effectively use the services provided should be the number one priority. This may mean limiting spots on teams to only those who have met a specific set of criteria. Though this will turn the less experienced away, it will allow for a more successful result, which will build upon the company’s reputation, thus attracting a more experienced customer base. It will also allow for the organization to establish a new sense of value for the expenses of the trip.
6.2 Implement a concrete timeline and stick to it
Most Everest climbers know the standard 1:00pm turn-around-time today, due in part to the events that transpired when Hall ignored the clock in 1996.  Regardless, the leader should establish the turn-around-time well before the final summit bid. Making this time clear to all team members is vital, as it will aid in the circumstance of having to turn people around early due to time constraints.  By concreting this critical event, the team leader will also have a set goal in place to account for major delays, such as the bottlenecks that arose for Hall’s team in 1996. As Taylor recommends, “They (the client) are paying you to make the right decision, and therefore I (the guide) don’t get paid to get them to the top, I get paid to make the right call.” By implementing a concrete timeline and sticking to it, the project will stay on its critical path, avoiding deviations and resulting in effective decision-making, safety and the overall success of the project.
6.3 Plan for disaster
There is no doubt that Rob Hall had a solid pre-climb plan in place for his 1996 Everest project. He had successfully led four other teams to the top in previous years, and therefore had proven that his plan worked. However, in the case of the 1996 expedition Hall failed to incorporate and execute effective risk management skills, leading to a tragic failure of the project. Turner (2005) cautions that for all projects involving medium to high risk, contingency plans should be developed in dealing with problems that arise. Therefore it is the recommendation of this report that thorough risk identification and assessment be conducted before every expedition. Through this analysis, guiding companies and team leaders can then create contingency plans that can easily and effectively be implemented in the case that disaster strikes.
6.4 Lead a unified team
Rob Hall led his 1996 Everest team by establishing laws and ordering his subordinates to comply. Though this method may have proved effective in prior expeditions, it was a prominent cause to the downfall of his final expedition. Leaders of high altitude expeditions should adopt a more cohesive leadership style, incorporating team participation and establishing trust within the group well before the final summit bid. A leadership style recommended for this particular project is transformational leadership, in which strong personal identification is recognized along with the ability to accept other viewpoints from within the group and transform followers to the visions of the entire team (Keegan and Hartog, 2004).
It is also recommended that the team be established before attempting any high altitude summit. Additionally it is important to build trust within the team, as Jones and George (1998) propose, “When unconditional trust  is present in relationships, organizational members are more likely to cooperate and develop synergistic team relationships” (p. 542). An environment of trust, confidence and respect should be established within the team, which are characteristics missing in the 1996 expedition. By building strong teamwork skills prior to climbing any high altitude mountain, the leader can distribute responsibility more evenly, establishing cooperation and respect among individuals.
6.5 Establish self-reliance in the death zone
In an interview conducted with the founder of Ian Taylor Trekking, Ian Taylor, a professional high altitude guide and experienced Everest climber, explained that once in the death zone, people can really only be accountable for themselves. “Even climbing experience can’t help you for what happens over 8,000 meters” Taylor explained, and went on to note, “When you move into the death zone, you have no control over what happens.” Therefore, it is recommended that clients assume responsibility for themselves upon leaving Camp IV and not rely too heavily on their guides. In acknowledging this, upping the Sherpa to client ratio may also serve as an alternative, as Sherpa’s have extensive experience high atop Everest, and acclimate to the extreme conditions much better than the leaders of expeditions tend to.
6.6 Leave competition in the office
Competitive forces are a common driver to success, but when they impact the leaders responsible for other’s lives, such forces should be left in the office. Hall and Fischer lost sight of the number one priority when leading teams on Everest, safety. They got caught up in beating each other to build upon their own brand image for future expeditions. This highly competitive attitude clouded their judgement, resulting in the loss of both of their lives, as well as the lives of innocent bystanders. Leave it to business development, marketing and advertising, and success stories to do the competing for you. When on the mountain, the goal should be to get your team to the top and back as efficiently and safely as possible.
“It’s never going to be risk free, climbing Everest. If you want to be safe don’t climb mountains, don’t go in the first place.” Lene Gammelgaard
7. Concluding Comments
This report has been created for Ian Taylor Trekking as a tool to use for managing future high altitude expeditions. In critically analysing the leadership of the project, Mr Taylor and his guides can compare their own strengths and shortcomings to that of Rob Hall’s style. The recommendation of self-evaluation will aid in building effective leadership characteristics, which will have a positive impact on expeditions to come.  Considering the plan formulated by Adventure Consultants for the 1996 expedition, future plans can be adjusted around that of Hall’s to ensure a concrete strategy is adopted. By utilizing these two analyses (leadership and planning) major risks can then be identified, and contingency plans can be created to warrant the overall safety of the team. These are necessary preliminary steps to take, but without effective implementation, will be considered useless. Therefore, guaranteeing each step is met and executed properly is key in managing high altitude expeditions.
8. Works Cited
Altitude Research Center (2009). Altitude Hypoxia Explained. Available at: (Accessed 2 April, 2013).
Boukreev, A. and DeWalt, G. (1997). The climb: Tragic ambitions on Everest. New York: St. Martin’s.
Casimiro, S. (2011) -Everest Pioneer George Mallory on the Meaning of Life’. Adventure Journal [Internet]. Available from:
[Accessed 6 April 2013].
Climbing the Hillary Step (2012). Brad Jackson [online image], Available from:
[Accessed 7 April 2013].
Dowling, C. (1996). -Death on the mountain’. Life, August: 32-46.
Elmes, M. and Barry, D. (1999) -Deliverance, Denial, and the Death Zone: A Study of Narcissism and Regression in the May 1996 Everest Climbing Disaster’. Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 35 (2): 163-187).
Hällgren, M. (2007) -Beyond the point of no return: On the management of deviations’. International Journal of Project Management, 25: 773-780.
Jones, G. and George, J. (1998) -The Experience and Evolution of Trust: Implications for cooperation and teamwork’. Academy of Management Review, 23 (3): 531-546.
Kayes, C. (2004) -The 1996 Mount Everest climbing disaster: The breakdown of learning in teams’. Human Relations, 57 (10): 1263-1284.
Keegan, A. and Den Hartog, D. (2004) -Transformational leadership in a project-based environment: a comprehensive study of the leadership styles of project managers and line managers’. International Journal of Project Management, 22: 609-617.
Krakauer, J. (1996) Into thin air. Outside, 1996a (September): 46-163.
Krakauer, J. (1997) Into Thin Air. New York: Villiard.
Late April, 1996, Mt. Everest Base Camp: Rob Hall’s team poses for a group portrait at 17,600 feet. (2012). John Krakauer [online image]. Available at: [Accessed 27 March 2013].
Madson, J. (2003) -The Deadliest Day on Everest’, Glide Magazine [Internet], Available from: [Accessed 27 March 2013].
Mountains of Travel Photos (2010). John Krakauer [online images]. Available at: [Accessed 27 March 2013].
New Zealander Rob Hall on top of Mount Everest in 1990 (2010) Jeremy Page [online image]. Available at: [Accessed 7 April 2013].
Rob Hall, leader of the Adventure Consultants expedition (2011). Adventure Consultants [online image]. Available at: [Accessed 27 March 2013].
Roberto, M. (2002) -Lessons from Everest: The Interaction of Cognitive Bias, Psychological Safety, and System Complexity’. California Management Review, 45 (1): 136-158.
Scott Fischer, head guide of the 1996 Mountain Madness expedition group. Neil Beidleman [online image]. Available at: [Accessed 27 March 2013].
Taylor, I. (2013) -A professional’s experience: An interview with Ian Taylor’. Interviewed by Jessica Brierley, Skype call, 3 April.
Van Dyck, C. (2009) -The tragic 1996 Everest expedition: a tale of error culture’. Netherlands Journal of Psychology 65: 22-34.
9. Bibliography
Goleman, D. (1998) -What Makes a Leader’. Harvard Business Review: 82-91.
Into the Death Zone. (2012), YouTube [online video], Available from: [Accessed 25 March 2013].
Kadefors, A. (2004) -Trust in project relationships ““ inside the black box’. International Journal of Project Management, 22: 175-182.
Larson, E. and Gary, C. (2011) Project Management: The Managerial Process. New York: McGraw-Hill/Irwin.
Müller, R. and Turner, R. (2010) -Leadership competency profiles of successful project managers’. International Journal of Project Management, 28: 437-448.
This assignment written on Everest was part of Jessie Brierley from the United States. Jessie was studying at University College Dublin in 2013 when this article was written. I had to the pleasure of being interviewed for this segment.