Leadership and learning opportunities are created by involved parents, dedicated teachers, and skilled bosses. My first lucky break in leadership and learning came from working with my father and my uncles in the family painting business. They taught me to hustle, to solve tough problems, and to stay resilient, even when things go wrong. I carried those prized skills into my mountain climbing.
During my formative mountain years, several savvy veteran climbers taught me more. In New England, my climbing partner Patrick taught me situational awareness and dogged determination. Out in Colorado, my friend Mike Price showed me how to always give your best to the partnership. At Colorado State University, trip leaders Pat and Daryl took me on my first high–altitude expedition where I learned about leadership and team dynamics.
As decades tick past, the student becomes the teacher. After 33 years of climbing, it’s now my duty and honor to help carry the torch of knowledge and experience that upcoming mountaineers need. Crusty old climbers like me must keep the flame burning by improving safety and building skills in ourselves and in others. We need to nurture the flame higher by creating learning opportunities for young people.
As temporary torch carriers we must solidly prepare the next generation for their turn soon to guard the flame. We’ll do this by carefully guiding young people out of their comfort zones so that they can build the experience and resilience they will need later.
When you’re lucky, you can see when the flame of leadership and learning flares higher within a young person. I got to see it two weeks ago at 19,000 feet when the confident eyes of my daughter, Jess, burned brightly from under her frozen clothing. It was dawn, just before we summited Kilimanjaro.
In two days, I leave for Mexico to serve as co-leader of a new climbing expedition. With my two co-leaders, Rodney & Andy, and our eight young teammates, we will attempt to summit three tall peaks in Mexico:
La Malinche (14,640 feet)
Iztaccihuatl (17,159 feet)
Pico de Orizaba (18,490 feet)
In life and in climbing, there are no guarantees. I cannot promise our young teammates that they will get to stand atop these high volcanoes. But I can promise this: We will push ourselves hard, and we will push ourselves high. We will watch out for each other.
And, no matter the outcome, I promise that when this trip is over, they will be better prepared for their turn to carry the eternal torch of leadership and learning to even greater heights.
P.S. You can get the latest updates from our January 2-12 Mexico expedition on right at this blog and through my social media. Also, you can follow our summit attempts real time via this GPS tracking map. Watch us climb La Malinche on Jan. 4; Ixta on Jan. 6; and Orizaba on Jan. 9, 2015.