“Believe in Changeability”. One of the first things you can read about Methodos. A phrase that is everywhere, from their website to their email signatures.
One of the first time that I had spoken to Martina, we were in the bus, heading towards one of the many mountains that we have faced on this expedition up until now.
Chatting, I ask her one of the typical small-talk questions: where are you from?
She looks out the window, and with her hand gestures towards the woods of the mountains behind me. “Basically from here!”
We’re all tucked into the cabin, on this Friday morning that seems much like any other. Some of us are leaning with our hands against the glass, some holding on to the handles hanging from the ceiling. But today, on this workday, we’re not in the Milan underground, nor are we heading to the Methodos offices. It’s not the dark underground tunnels that we see when we look out the window.
It’s a Wednesday afternoon in the Methodos offices. I look around and smile.
It’s easy for anyone – even a trained mountaineer – to underestimate the complexity of the Mont Blanc. This is even truer for the large group of novice hikers that are training in this company. Some of the difficulties were not even imaginable when this idea started taking shape.
The preparation for this project - athletic, mental and physical - will pass many steps that seem small but that are all significant.
In order to transform this team of consultants into mountain professionals, scheduling mountain outings isn’t enough. We need to train and look after every aspect of this change: head, heart, legs, and stomach.
Looking at the photos from the first M4810 outing, she smiles. The image is out of focus – it seems to belong to a different time, to a different group. It was a time when there was no Salewa equipment, no coordinated colours, no brand for the expedition. Each person had put on their best sportswear – looking barely ready for a jog in the park, though. All smiling, all ready to give their best, but none with the awareness that we have today of what is it means to prepare for an ascent.
The story of a first reflection
Every face reflects the profile of a mountain. Every backpack holds emotions, experiences, and desires. All different. All moving. All in search of traces of a journey that is still unwritten.
Besides the rustle of the wind, the sound of the water torrents, and the rhythm of our boots against the rocks, there is always another sound that accompanies us on our M4810 outings. That of infinite chitchat which - no matter what height we reach – doesn’t cease.
And among this forest of voices, there is one that particularly struck me during this last outing through the power and the cheerfulness that it exuded.
One of the most interesting aspects of M4810 is seeing how Methodos can truly apply what they face in the mountains to what they do in helping clients every day. It’s “a vision that comes to life”, as it was once rightly said in a comment to the company. It’s a continuous stimulus to face the aspects on which they consult daily: resistance to change, the introduction of new habits, the sense of collective participation, leadership as a role model, and so on.
Everyone here is inevitably facing a journey that will have obstacles. Managing to prepare ourselves to reach the peak of the Mont Blanc with awareness, building the technical capacity and the necessary training, the physical preparation and the right state of mind, continuing to work and live life as if nothing has changed…
It’s a huge challenge for everyone.
Passo del Sempione
Another sunrise marks the beginning of this fourth adventure at high altitude with Methodos.
This time, with the sad awareness that summer is really over: at 6 in the morning, when many of us were heading towards the meeting point, the city is still dark. The days are getting shorter, and this opens a new chapter of the adventure – winter outings, though the snow and ice. But for now, that’s not the point. In fact, judging by the unlikely Milanese heat, we’ll have a beautiful day of hiking.
Towards the fourth outing
It’s strange seeing these by-now-almost-mountaineers dressed in office clothes, elegant and busy, as you would expect in a consulting company that counts some of the country’s biggest and most important companies among its clients. I watch them as, concentrated, they watch a presentation about the next outing, and I try to remember their faces when we’re in the mountains. Their eyes are the same, full of ambition and will to do it – it’s unmistakable.
Somewhere between iron and wind
When the alarm goes off, almost no one finds themselves unprepared. Most eyes are already open and have been for most of the night, despite the comfort of their beds. It’s one of the first effects of altitude over the body when you’re not used to it. We’ll add that the Genepy after dinner was much appreciated by some of us, so you can get the full picture!
Wooden animals and foot blisters
For once the team meeting isn’t at sunrise. It’s a warm Sunday afternoon in July, many are coming back from the seaside or from a small town, and stepping back onto the burning streets of Milan isn’t pleasant for anyone. Luckily, we’re not here long: we’re going straight up, to the Aosta valley.
It’s an important phase for a few reasons. First of all because it’s the first of two days, and there is almost school-like excitement in the air as names are called to board the bus in field trip style.
Towards the third training outgoing
This group really doesn’t stop surprising. Even before being in the mountains, I realise this on the occasion of a feedback session on the previous outing and preparation for the next.
Another sunrise gives start to this day. It’s something that you learn quickly when you hike: you have to wake up with the sun, there’s no way around it. A long road awaits us today, we’re going to Val Masino for the second outing in preparation for the M4810 project. We’re crossing the whole eastern side of Lake Como, up towards Switzerland, and the mountains become higher and higher as we approach our starting point: the slopes of Monte Disgrazia.
Towards the second M4810 training outing
The first outing in preparation for the M4810 project was a powerful experience. As always, when we walk off the beaten track - when we try to do something innovative for the first time - we navigate a rudderless course. It’s a long trial and error journey, in which sometimes we learn from the past and improve as a consequence.
Let the challenge begin!
Early in the morning, we arrive in the Milan parking lot that we set as a meeting point with the rest of the group. It’s just past 7, and the May sun is already high above: it promises a beautiful but hot day.
There’s still no mountain in sight, but the tension in the air is undeniable. At the bottom of what these people are about to do – what we’re all about to do – there is something incredible.
It doesn’t happen often that a whole organization, all the employees of a leading business management company, find themselves in a room talking about how to reach the top of the Mont Blanc. It’s neither what one would define as a normal working day in Milan, nor a typical business goal.
Mont Fallère is found in the Grand Combin Alps in the Aosta valley.
Mont Fallère is found in the Grand Combin Alps in the Aosta Valley.
Found between the Gran San Bernardo Valley and the Valdigne, it’s a great introduction to the magical world of the 3000s. Mont Fallère, situated in the heart of the Aosta valley, proposes a 360° panorama of all the Aosta valley peaks. Its rather challenging layout is not the be underestimated, but overall it doesn’t present great difficulties, and only in the final stretch of the crest.
Petit Mont Blanc
One of the classic panoramic collective ascents of the Mont Blanc.
The charming basin of Lake Combal, the foot of the Miage glacier, the steep climb of the rocky canyon followed by an easy crest, snowy and icy for the final bit. This is how we arrive to the most accessible peak of the Mont Blanc chain. Here a superb panorama of the range leaves us speechless: particularly the west wall of the Mont Blanc “giant” and the extraordinary glaciers that stud its rugged cliffs.
The itinerary can also be broken down into 2 days.
Crossing Vallée Blanche on foot
Though it may seem like a “panoramic hike”, the Vallée Blanche should not be underestimated in how much it constitutes a trek entirely on ice and with delicate passages through its crevices. Hikes must be accompanied by a mountain guide that knows the route very well and can read the dangers it may pose.
2 full-immersion days of technical alpine skill training on Monte Rosa
The Monte Rosa is a mountain range that is found in the Pennine Alps, along the watershed line between Italy (on the border of the Aosta valley and Piedmont) and Switzerland. It gives name to the Monte Rosa Alps supergroup, which in turn is composed of various important groups and subgroups, east of the Cervino and south-east of the Mischabel range. It is the most extended range in the Alps, and second in height after the Mont Blanc. It is the highest mountain in Switzerland and the second in Italy, and has the highest average height, containing 9 of the 20 highest peaks of the chain.
The Gran Paradiso is the only mountain over 4000m that is fully on Italian territory
The Gran Paradiso is the only mountain over 4000m that is fully on Italian territory. A classic and fascinating climb: after a first part on ice, to be able to reach the peak marked by a statue of the Virgin Mary, you must pass some simple rocky crossings.
Mont Blanc (Monte Bianco in Italian) is a mountain situated in the North-occidental Alps, in the Graian Alp range, on the watershed line between the Aosta valley (val Veny and val Ferret in Italy), and Haute-Savoie (the Arve valley in France), in the territories of Courmayeur and Chamonix, which give name to the Mont Blanc Massif, belonging to the subsection of the Mont Blanc Alps.
It’s 4808,72m (the last official measure was taken September 13, 2017) make it the highest mountain in the Alps, in Italy, in France, and in general in Europe if we exclude the Caucuses. This is why it’s called the King of the Alps. It shared a spot on the list of the highest Seven Summits with Mount Elbrus in the Caucuses.
Primarily granite full of peaks and crests, cut by deep glacial valleys, it is internationally renowned for its climbing and, from a historical point of view, the birth of mountaineering coincides with its first ascent: August 8, 1786.