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.
I look around, looking for mountain equipment, and I find the team. They’re all dressed in sportswear, but not specifically for hiking: many of them have never hiked in the mountains and obviously just put on what they already had. From the next outing onwards, things will change: our outstanding sponsor, Salewa, will supply us with last generation equipment – they will look like a real team of mountaineers, and some will actually live up to the role two years from now when they reach the Mont Blanc summit.
They’re immediately recognisable not only for their clothes, but for each of their gazes. It’s usually there that they chat, but today their eyes are bright: they’re about to face their first challenge. Today this slightly crazy but beautiful dream called M5810 becomes real. It will go beyond just words to become a challenge made of sweat, sacrifices, individual training and team work.
Anyway, the beauty of this adventure is in that they’re all a bit unprepared and they know it. But they’re also all energised by their will to do it! It’s a long and winding road that starts today, a monthly appointment that will take up various days a month of the next 24 months. A continuous challenge to be accompanied by athletic preparation and an established diet – and, obviously, with office work. Anyway, not exactly what is expected from a company, a whole team of 40 or so people, on a working Friday!
We leave, divided into smaller groups in the various cars. The destination: the mountains of Lake Como - Moggio, to be precise. Our objective in this first outing of “acquaintance” to the challenge, is the Sodadura mountain – the Nicola hut in particular, found in the Artavaggio plains. At 1900 metres above sea level, it’s a good challenge for the group, considering that we’ll take off from Moggio at just over 900 metres.
Before leaving, I can feel the contrasting emotions in the air. I hear worried voices and excited voices, fears about the difficulty of the route, anxiety about the steepness of the climb. 1000 metres of elevation gain isn’t too much, but it’s a lot for those who haven’t ever been in the mountains. I understand the difficulty whoever organised this outing – that is, the members of Methodos that have hiking experience - must have had. They couldn’t choose something too difficult as to not risk discouraging the group. On the other hand, they couldn’t opt for something too easy and risk others underestimating the challenge that awaits over the next two years.
The prevailing feeling, though, is a positive one of personal competition. And above all of fun, of spending the day outside, a working day with colleagues that are becoming friends and adventure partners! They’re all preparing: some are stretching, some are making phone calls, some are even smoking cigarettes. And then the ascent begins! The pace is rhythmic, quick – it belongs to a group that wants to do it. Their faces are smiling and they’re chatting as they walk in the shadows of the woods. Everything is going well, even better than expected!
But the mountains are never as straight-forward as they seem, and fatigue starts to set in after a few kilometres. The group starts to separate, with a part that leads the way and another that falls behind. Then the cramps kick in, the blisters, the fatigue of those who aren’t used to such trying activity for long periods of time… and the second group starts to split apart. The group that finds itself ahead has a moment of uncertainty when they approach the hut where lunch is scheduled. Should they all stay there and give up reaching the peak? Should they wait for the rest of the group and continue after lunch?
I feel uncertainty for the first time. Not because someone thinks they wouldn’t be able to do it, and not because there was a change of mind about the foreseeable difficulties, but simply because it’s never nice leaving team mates behind. They are a team, and as a team they should achieve their goal as much today as in 2020. But we also know that not all of them will make it. And this is the point: that they must find a way to work as a perfectly smooth mechanism in which they collaborate to the best of their own abilities. Not all will physically arrive at the summit, but they all have to get there morally. It’s exactly what Filippo said when he introduced the project, and it’s what they are all coming to understand now.
We reach the rest of the group on the walkie talkies, exchange some jokes, and decide to keep going, with everyone’s support, even those who aren’t there physically. And so, we continue!
Now the terrain is different, we’re really in the mountains. The ascents are becoming more draining but the landscapes more beautiful, as if they were trying to make up for the fatigue. Even the dog that accompanies us begins to get tired and gets closer to its owner, asking to be held. But we’re getting closer and closer to the peak! The final effort is paid back by the view of the Nicola hut, which reminds us of the one from mount Sodadura… yoohoo!
Arriving at the destination is always a magical moment. It’s as if all the fatigue suddenly pours over our muscles. It feels like we can’t move even a step further. Everyone collapses as soon as they touch a bench, some even directly on the ground. But I look around, and I don’t see a single face that isn’t smiling! Panting, but radiant smiles. And, obviously, the biggest ones are on the faces of those who were hiking for the first time, who were afraid of not being able to do it, who discovered that they underestimated themselves!
The smiles get wider when lunch arrives: local pizzoccheri pasta, together with many other delicacies from the area. I’m not sure if this is what Luigi, the expedition doctor, was talking about when he mentioned a diet, but it’s what it is for now. It’s important to treat ourselves.
On a full stomach, we allow ourselves a bit of time to relax: some play frisbee, some examine their blisters as if they were battle wounds, some smoke again. As a smoker, I can confirm that few things give as much satisfaction as a cigarette at the top. Our doctor can forgive me for saying this, I hope!
The time to go back down comes quickly. The descent seems shorter and easier, but it’s often here that we can hurt ourselves, so it’s important to be careful.
When we get back to the valley and find the rest of the group, the excitement is almost tangible. People get together as if they hadn’t seen each other in weeks, not hours. Hugs, handshakes, laughs, stories. We all share our battle wounds: some proudly showing their blisters, others getting their foot massaged, while others self-diagnose sprains or other injuries. They’re the classic souvenirs that we take home after a hike in the mountains, especially if we’re not trained. But everyone, even the most exhausted, smiles proudly. They all have a clearer idea of what will await over the next months. They all understand that the mountains are not to be underestimated, but that – when faced with respect and preparation – they can be very satisfying. It’s a matter of changing mindset, what else can it be for the change management company?