Part I: The Cost of Conquest

A series on learning from Everest

Over recent weeks, Mt Everest has again been in the headlines due to the tragic loss of life of Australian woman – Maria Strydom.

Climbing Everest has gained in popularity with many foreign tourist operators seeking to make the dream of reaching the summit a reality for many climbers. The climbers are aided in reaching the summit by the Sherpa who are local Nepalese nationals known for their expert mountaineering and knowledge of the area.  The work is lucrative for the Sherpa, making a year’s wage in a matter of weeks. Pretending it is safe, they continue to traverse very risky terrain through the perilous icewall which has been described as nothing short of a ‘huge horror chamber at an amusement park’.

For one of the Sherpa, a man named Dhurba, 2014 was to be a year like no other, providing the opportunity to scale the summit for the 22nd time and break a world record. 2014 ended up being a year that Dhurba would never forget as 16 Sherpa from another team lost their lives through a catastrophic icefall. After a review of the situation, Dhurba’s team cancelled the rest of the climb. Dhurba said:

            I would rather a healthy body and a happy family than the record or the money

It would be only one year later that 22 more lives would be taken at base camp as a result of the Nepal earthquake. 

In communities and organisations, those charged with the role of governing do not only steer others towards a destination, but ensure their well-being and safety. Sometimes this may require suspending or terminating the climb to the summit so as to ensure the health and well-being of those participating in the climb. Sometimes leaders need to ask themselves ‘what is the cost of conquest?’ It is worth thinking about – other people’s lives may depend on it.