Starting to write about this project again is a bit like putting an old pair of hiking boots back on after not walking in the mountains for a while.
At first you look at them warily, they look big, heavy, uncomfortable. How did you ever walk in them?
Then you slide your foot in: it feels a bit tight, like maybe they are the wrong size. But in the end...voilà. Your foot fits in and the shoe supports your ankle.
It’s your good old boots. Your good old boots are back.
Indeed, the analogy of the hiking boots is more fitting than ever.
Not only have two years gone by since we last wrote on these virtual pages: it has also been two years since the M4810 project was unexpectedly put on hold.
We all know what happened in this long interim.
Yet Covid reminded us of the importance of change-ability, that we have always been a spokesman for. And to never leave projects on hold that could otherwise allow us to exercise this concept.
Where were we
It was the summer of 2019. A summer that coloured the peaks around Mont Blanc red, with the many and great aims of Red Week. And which culminated in one of the most beautiful and challenging outings that we had done until then: the Vallée Blanche.
Challenging not only for altitude and climbing height, but for many especially because it was the first experience with REAL high elevation.
It was the culmination of a journey that began one year prior, with a mixed and colourful group of business consultants who got together, in good spirits yet slightly under-prepared for the sheets of Mount Sodadura, at Piani di Artavaggio.
I smile when I think of that first group. It seemed impossible, like a joke: do we really want to climb Mont Blanc? Do we really want to put our change management skills to the test, and become mountaineers?
After many meetings at the office in preparation, many individual outings or with Mountain Guides of Courmayeur, countless Power Point and Excel files created with names and dates…we reached the peak.
On top of Aiguille du Midi, 3,842 metres in altitude, looking straight at our final objective: Mont Blanc. 4,810 metres of mountain, almost one thousand more than what we had already climbed...and yet it suddenly felt almost doable.
And this is why, at the next outing, in Val Porcellizzo, I called it “the last of the first outings”: it was a turning point, a rite of passage to get us to the next level of this adventure. Up to that point we had been testing our limits...from that point onwards we had to overcome them, 4810 times.
We all know how it went.
Forced to put on hold
In March 2020, just when our preparatory outings should have become more frequent, individual, challenging...lockdown happened.
And we knew that 2020 would not be the year that we had imagined, not for anyone in the world.
M4810 was a project that taught us a lot, the very thing that helped us face the changes brought by the Coronavirus. To react quickly, conscientiously, unified.
At the beginning of the pandemic, M4810 was obviously the last of our problems: there were processes to reorganise, events and activities to handle online and completely re-invent. Not to mention the fear, the uncertainty, the pain.
Keeping the flame alive in this project for a while was also an attempt to stay united, to exercise, to have fun together, even at a distance: we organised a few virtual workouts, each person arranged things as they could, doing them from their own home. But we soon realised that we were not going to be able to do it as planned, in the year that we had even written in red on our chests, printed on our matching Salewa jackets.
And thus Mont Blanc temporarily disappeared from our radar, taken over by a new way of working and the life we had to adapt to.
2020 slowly passed, with re-openings and new waves, hope and frustration.
Then it was 2021, which didn’t seem very different, but with the stinging irony that only life could have given us snow. A lot of snow.
So much snow that we dared to think that “it would be the perfect year to climb Mont Blanc”; but it was not possible, there were none of the other conditions.
And so, captives in our houses again, we watched that snow melt in the sun and another year went by.
In a way there is an unexpected parallel between the need to face the coronavirus in 2020-2021 and the chance to climb Mont Blanc.
Not quite a challenge (the pandemic is challenging but it is not a challenge...) but a mental attitude.
Both cases required - and require - the willingness to face a completely new context, to test our capacity to change. To walk differently, with unprecedented mental strength and training.
Maybe: in a way, the toughest phase of the coronavirus could be called “our Mont Blanc 2020 and 2021”.
Now it’s 2022, and things have changed yet again
It is never the right time
I don’t really know when we understood that we were ready to get back on track.
Maybe when chatting in the halls at work, which are finally full of people again, at least for those who have decided to come back in person. Maybe at an aperitif after work, when our social lives feel like they are almost back to normal.
In any case, a time came when the idea turned into a suggestion: 2022 could be the new 2020 for M4810.
Our fears, our doubts and worries were replaced by a certainty that a project like this could not be left mid-way.
We had put too much into it to simply leave it hanging, and our desire to finish the project was stronger than any qualms.
We want to see how this story ends, whatever it may be.
There are many challenging aspects: the world is still in a middle ground between a slow return to normality and new habits that we are trying to integrate into our old lives. Time is scarce, there are less chances for organising a complete path that gets us to the peak of Mont Blanc than two years ago.
This time the road is much steeper, autonomous and requires greater awareness. The collective objective is based on the commitment of the individual.
The group is very diverse.
Some people have chosen to follow the path in a different way; while supporting the group they have decided not to climb. Time is scarce and priorities are many. Choosing which ones to dedicate our energy to is and must be a personal decision.
Plus there are new faces, enthusiastic eyes - and “brave” legs - that see all of the beauty of the project in M4810, the flagship of a company that does not give up and decides to pursue high and symbolic objectives.
It will not be easy, it will not be linear, it will not be the “right” time.
But it is never the perfect time. If it is, it is the time when we decide to actually pursue our objectives.
It should have been 2020, but a pandemic cut us off the road.
It could have been the snowy 2021, perfect in all other ways, but still impossible.
2022 could be many things, and we are open to anything. But we don’t expect it to be anything other than what it is.
We are picking up where we left off...let’s see where this takes us.