Day one in our Caucasus Adventure
Climbers who conquered Caucasus
Climbing in the Caucasus will prepare you for anything. The majestic peaks have been enticing climbers from all over the world for a long time now. Their rugged beauty and promise of adventure keep on fascinating, despite the increased difficulty on some of these mountains.
Mount Elbrus (5642 m and part of The Seven Summits) is Europe’s highest peak surpassing Mont Blanc by 832 meters. It is an extinct volcano, which explains the conical shape, and it has two main summits. The Western summit, at 5642.7 meters, was first climbed in 1874 by a British expedition organized by F. Crauford Grove Frederick Gardner, Horace Walker and Peter Knubel. The East Peak was first ascended on 10 July 1829 by Khillar Khachirov, guide for an Imperial Russian army expedition.
From the Wehrmacht occupation during World War II, to the soviet days of mass climbing, this mountain has been through it all. In 1997, a team led by Alexander Abramov even made it into the Guinness Book of Records by taking a Land Rover up to the summit of the East Peak. The vehicle crashed on the way down and remains to this day stuck between the rocks.
Another example of what the region has to offer is Mount Ushba, also known as The Matterhorn of the Caucasus and considered one of the toughest ascents in the area. It is as beautiful as it is dangerous and it’s probably just that mix of elements that makes it so intriguing.
Its North summit (4690 m) has been climbed for the first time by John Garford Cokklin and Ulrich Almer in 1888 and the Southern one (4710) by a team of German, Austrian and Swiss climbers in 1903. Since then, hundreds of avid adventurers have been trying to conquer it, even though few managed to get to the very top. It is considered a great achievement to do so and, once there, you can find a memorial plate dedicated to the 70th anniversary of the renowned Mikheil Khergiani, or “rock tiger”. He was known as one the best and fastest climbers of his time, having the route “Mirror of Ushba” named after him, as he was the first and only to ever ascend it. Other challenging routes have been named after the first (and sometimes only) climbers who conquered them: Gabriel’s Route and Mushilav’s Route.
In august 2012, Andranik Miribyan got stranded on a ledge 150 m below the summit, after a heavy snowfall and thunderstorms. He spent four days trapped there, in a 50 cm space he had to dig, resulting in the loss of his ice axe. The powerful winds made it impossible for rescuers to reach him and his only choice was to try and descend by himself. He was lucky enough to make it uninjured and share his story. He recalled having spent two days lowering himself on his back and digging his crampons into the ice, occasionally slipping. His self-rescue was the result of incredible discipline and focus and, most of all, bravery. He descended 2000 m of ice crevices, scattered cliffs and snow banks that could have collapsed in an avalanche.
Setting goals is easy. Achieving them is harder. Facing the elements and your fears require extraordinary physical and mental strength when you feel like the odds are against you. The stories of those who made it through difficult situations should serve as an inspiration. Ready to make history?
The Caucasus adventure: 16 young leaders team up at over 3000 metres
Romania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldavia, Turkey and Ukraine are the 8 countries represented in the Black Sea Network Project. 16 young leaders coming from these countries will climb up to 3.000 meters in the Caucasus Mountains. Their objective: learn how to communicate, cooperate and find innovative solutions when facing an adventurous situation.
The Black Sea Network Project is the most recent mountaineering and diplomatic project, created and coordinated by Adventure Diplomacy. It will take place between 16th and 23rd October 2015 in Georgia with Kazbegi (100 km away from Tbilisi) as departing point.
Romanian and foreign officials and media representatives’ attended the launch event held in Bucharest and expressed interest in the diplomatic future in the Black Sea region and young leaders’ involvement.
„Black Sea Network Project” is the equivalent of a trip amongst different cultures and communication ways, geographical exploration and it helps participants test their diplomatic abilities in a young, promising context. The ones selected for the project are united by their willingness to contribute to the foundations of modern leadership. They are not experienced mountaineers, but are well aware that harsher conditions are needed in order to experiment being a leader and compromising in difficult events, so that in the end they will be able to make the right decisions for their teams.
The 16 selected young leaders represents their country’s values and promotes their own beliefs in terms of leadership and efficient communication.
The project is supported by the Black Sea Trust, part of the German Marshall Fund of the United States.
Starting October 16th their adventures will be broadcast on the website and dedicated Facebook page, with constant updates and media. Be sure to follow their expedition and transformation along the way!
The Adventure of believing in others – Encourage and Lead
Going through life alone is difficult. It has its ups and downs, peaks and what feels like abysses. Mountain climbing is just like that. It’s life to the extreme: big risks, huge rewards and powerful bonds.
Everyone needs a mentor, spiritual guidance, an example, someone to look up to and somewhere to belong to. Since the beginning of time, people have tried to conquer nature and overcome their fears and limits. They found safety and power in tribes, gangs, groups, teams or any kind of association. The one things they had in common? A leader. As a leader, you are usually born with a set of skills you need in order to guide and inspire others. The rest is something you learn on the way by dealing with difficult people and situations. You have to learn how to settle conflicts and how to accommodate people with each other, considering first of all that every single person is different and reacts in a specific manner and second that you will deal with members with different types of backgrounds and skills. The result? A mix of personalities, opinions and problems that you must understand and manage, but also guide through risky situations. Keep in mind that this mix is an important factor to having a powerful and well balanced team. Experts have identified six types of people included in a successful team: the adventurer, the stabilizer, the driver, the cheerleader, the perfectionist and the energizer. Each type of personality balances another and will give you a wider perspective on things and definitely more than just one way to solve a problem.
Now you’ll have to work with all of them and the first thing you’ll need is authority. You can impose your views and ideas using force and fear- that’s the easy way, or you can inspire people towards a common goal. Keeping your position intact while making others feel valuable and empowered too can seem tricky but, in the long run, it’s one of the keys to an inspired and accomplished team.
When starting a new project or climbing new mountains, everyone is enthusiastic and excited, but, as nothing ever goes smoothly, you will likely face challenges or some kind of failure and might need to re-evaluate and make changes along the way. It is your responsibility to keep your members from getting discouraged or panicked. Humor is a powerful weapon, being calm is also essential, but confidence is the ultimate tool to getting you and the team through anything and everything.
When starting any kind of project, organizing is something you can’t succeed without. From planning your steps and setting milestones to predicting anything that could go wrong and every obstacle and variable, it is essential to control what you can, but you should also accept that nature and life are unpredictable and that sometimes you need to step back in order to protect your team. Other important aspects to keep in mind are prioritizing your goals and assigning the right tasks to the right people, considering their abilities, reactions in different situations and the way they interact with the others.
From dealing with daily struggles to surviving extreme situations, the recipe is simple: stay strong and genuine and never forget what makes you a leader. It’s your charisma and confidence. What else? Your knowledge of people and skills. The fact that you know how to do something that people want to learn. You already know the way because you’ve been there and they want to follow. You have the patience, the open mind and the resources to take them somewhere different.
“A leader is a person who takes you where you will not go alone.”, says Susan Ascher, Leadership Coach in Communication. Still, what happens when you, a great, responsible leader don’t know which way, how to take the best decision for the group but you don’ t want to install pressure or insecurity? Well, breathe and read on because there’s always something new to learn.
How to encourage fellows to express their ideas and feelings in a constructive way
The basis of any relationship is trust. Trusting that you won’t be left behind, trusting your life in someone else’s hands and allowing yourself to be vulnerable, knowing that you won’t be judged or loved any less for your actions and thoughts. This is relevant also for groups that have a common mission like breaking a record or organizing a risky trip. When you open up and create such a bond, the thrilling situations and risks that you’re exposed to during climbing mountains will only reinforce it. It has been scientifically proven that emotional connections are strengthened when doing physical group activities that require intense effort. You are also more likely to bond when performing activities that get your adrenaline pumping.
Mountain climbing is an exciting activity that requires psychological resources, a risk seeking personality and careful planning. All these have to be paired with the support of a group of climbers for a chance of success or better results. Any kind of group has its own dynamic, but one of the things that is most likely to appear when exposed to social interaction is social pressure. It can keep a lot of people from voicing their ideas or feelings and this will lead to frustration and eventually conflict.
As a group leader, the first thing that you should aim for is to create a safe environment where members understand that no judgements should be made about what others communicate. Another helpful trick is to encourage them to express themselves clearly, to say something and back it up with explanations and to always be aware of their tone of voice. Sometimes it’s not necessarily the message that hurts or offends, but the way that it is delivered.
Are you facing a problem? Make sure your fellow climbers know that when trying to solve it, stating ideas and feelings can generate empathy, while accusing someone else will only generate defensiveness. Expressing emotions can have a positive impact not only on the way they will interact, but also on building their confidence and trust in each other. Acknowledging mistakes and accepting feedback, rather than becoming defensive is also something that can help when dealing with an issue.
Being part of a group is both challenging and rewarding. Just make sure you all understand that each and every single individual is valuable and make them feel like it and never forget to practice what you preach while on the climb to your best selves.
The higher you go, the further you see
Climbing is a mental game. Great climbers remake themselves. Every time you go up there you change a little. Your attitude determines your reaction to what the mountain hands you, your feelings and emotions keep you going or turn you back, safely.
You are maybe born with that fire that keeps you going up, higher, sometimes you develop it in early childhood, in any case facing adversity up there changes and improves you. The challenges up there are for the fittest of the spirit, not for the fittest of the body.
Climbing to a higher peak means starting at night, in complete darkness and cold. It’s frightening up there, to go out alone and be just you and the emptiness around you. It’s overwhelming. When you know there is nothing that can stop you from what you want, you push forward. Step by step, breath by breath, until sunrise – when everything changes and you are already higher that the ones you left behind.
Lionel Terray, one of the great climbers of all times put it 50 years ago almost in a perfect way for our days: “If the conquest of a great peak brings moments of exultation and bliss, which in the monotonous, materialistic existence of modern times nothing else can approach, it also presents great dangers. It is not the goal of grand alpinism to face peril, but it is one of the tests one must undergo to deserve the joy of rising for an instant above the state of crawling grubs. But soon we have to start the descent. Suddenly I feel sad and despondent. I am well aware that a mountaineering victory is only a scratch in space But in spite of this, how sad I feel at leaving that crest ! On this proud and beautiful mountain we have lived hours of fraternal, warm and exalting nobility. Here for a few days we have ceased to be slaves and have really been men. It is hard to return to servitude.”
The silence around you lets the inner voices be heard. Listen to them, listen to yourself . Understand.
The mountains are the places where everything is possible and permitted. People get rid of their masks at difficult times, work together, die together and most important, live together.
Climbing a peak is a special connection with your rope mate. There are moments when you know one of you could fall and the rest will have to hang on and maybe help you out. That rope has to always be tight, not to close, not to far, and your footsteps have to be exactly at the pace and length as they should be. This sync is every manager’s dream in his company or department.
After a few hours you begin to feel this rhythm, to imagine the heartbeats of your partner, his breath, and to take it step by step. It’s a long way up and even a longer way down. They say that “it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon”. It’s not a marathon, it’s climbing a mountain with all the formidable efforts required to do so.