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.
We don’t know how wrong we are, and for the nth time we learn this in the mountains: the unpredictability of the weather.
In the metro they look at us like we’re aliens. Pressed among people in suit and tie that are on their way to work to start a new week, we are totally and happily out of place with our Salewa hiking backpacks, braded M4810. “Just another day of work in Methodos,” I feel like answering the perplexed looks.
The trip towards Switzerland goes by through naps and chats. It’s funny that we’ll pass the border taking the street that will get us to our starting point, the Sempione hut, but that we’ll then see Italy from the top, since the destination, the Monte Leone hut, is exactly on the “border”.
Or at least that’s what we think. For one reason or another, neither I nor the rest of the group will see what we think we will see.
At the starting point, the mood is varied. There are people particularly worried about their physical condition after a month of relaxing on the sea side. Others, instead, spent the summer in the mountains and feel readier than ever. All of us, however, agree on one thing: it’s much colder than anticipated. A freezing wind cuts through us as we start to climb, and the lack of preparation of many manifests itself in having forgotten the indispensable neck warmers, gloves, and hats. We still have a lot to learn!
But that’s okay, because this isn’t just a series of outings in the mountains. This is a program that is absolutely innovative in the business world, made to stimulate – if there ever was a need for it – the mindset of its participants, and training it to always take on new challenges, to discover its own true limits, to remember how important it is to know the context in depth and prepare thoroughly to face it. This is the mindset that this team of consultants needs not only to support its clients and stimulate them to be ambitious, but also to face and overcome the business challenged that Methodos has. In this journey we travel twice: with our feet, which touch the ground and remind us that this is real effort; and with our heads, which bring us to thinking about organisational challenges and what it means to face a journey where you only know the final destination - where the rest is to be built. Even in this we can see that we’re more pioneers than mountaineers.
They say that the pace of the group, in the mountains, should be dictated by the pace of the slowest member. And this is also what the CAI instructors remind us today, what we all know, and what we continue telling ourselves at every outing, at every debrief occasion. But it doesn’t take much for the different paces to come out, and the slowest stays just that… the slowest. And it’s shared with whoever happens to be chatting with that person, in this case a small group of Methodos consultants and the president of CAI Milano. Of course, there is the desire of those who have a quicker pace to let out their energy and enjoy their love for the mountains; the cold air with each gust doesn’t stimulate a will to wait; and surely as a group that is facing a change there is a long way to go - it’s why we’re here.
The fact is that, at a certain point, we see the red and blue backpacks of the members that are closest to us disappear behind a crest, a couple of hundred metres higher up. A couple of hundred metres below, two members close the group. I talk to two of the team members that I’m with. They share this difficult moment with me: we need to make a choice, and quickly. It’s our last chance to catch up to the first group and end this day by reaching the top. Or we could let them go ahead and choose not to leave the others behind, especially seeing as one of the members had some physical problems on the way up and doesn’t seem able to make it to the top.
Actually, we don’t even need to talk about it, we know what we want to do: we put on all the clothes that we have in our backpacks to face the wind, and we wait, patiently sitting and chatting on a big rock in the middle of a field of flowers. The important thing is the journey, not the destination. And as not everyone will reach the top of the Mont Blanc in 2020, but we all want to participate in the journey that will bring some of us up there, even today we are with the other while we imagine them reaching the Monte Leone hut and resting their eyes on the glacier and on the view of the valleys.
At our pace - without pushing more than would have been needed - after having eaten our sandwiches, we start heading downhill, while the sky above us disappears behind the clouds. Who knows what our colleagues are seeing from the top.
We find out a few hours later, when we find each other on the walk back, through hugs and pats on the back, that almost no one made it to see the glacier! As they were climbing, the clouds were closing in on them. Having arrived at the destination, the cold and fog were so powerful that many took refuge in the small hut, the others hurried down where the weather was a bit more temperate. The few brief clearings of the clouds revealed the glacier and the beautiful alpine view around them, different from the ones seen in previous outings.
And only when we are reunited with the rest of the group, looking up to point out the various points of the journey that we reached, the clouds clear completely and show us the total splendour of the valley. The blue glacier shines under the sun, up there, far away from all of us. Ironic, no?
Maybe even the sky wants to remind us the next aspect of the preparation that we need to consider: not so much our nutrition, not just our training, but would capacity to enjoy the journey. Today the mountains, for the first time, showed us that it won’t be easy to stay together until the end in this endeavour. But there will be room, anyway, to stay together and to make everyone a protagonist in the adventure. Each trip and each phase of the program foresees an important phase of study and preparation, which in turn require commitment and dedication. Moreover, the M4810 program has as an objective not just the physical and mindset training of its Methodos participants, but also using the experience for social causes and the development of the teams that make up the organisations that choose Methodos as a partner in Change Management.
So, there’s a long way to go. In different ways and all together.