Gordon Janow is a founding member of Alpine Ascents International, an organisation with 35 years of experience supporting climbers and mountaineers. And this year alone, Alpine Ascents will be leading 30 expeditions. Gordon is a long traveller, with a keen interest in India, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh. His most recently pioneering took him to India on a remote trip to Arunachal Pradesh.
Gordan has a keen interest in business ethics, operational systems, and marketing. He is also part of the Education Staff at the Adventure Tourist Travel Association where he leads travel development in developing markets. See more about Alpine Ascents here:
The International Risk Podcast trascript
Hi. You’re listening to the international risk podcast. This podcast is for CEOs and board members, risk and compliance officers security advisors, and anyone interested in increasing operations on this podcast we hear from the traditional to the wacky from renowned risk management experts to Red Bull daredevils, there is something to learn about the way we perceive, manage, and mitigate risk from all of our guests. your host Dominic Bowen will ask the question that you all want the answers to if you know dominant then you know that he is well acquainted with his 20 year career students successfully established operations in some of the most complex environments around the world Dominic has spent most of his career establishing large and successful operations in places like Haiti, Syria, Sudan, Iraq, Lebanon, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and so many other high risk and medium risk locations, joined by our excellent guests. He’ll reveal innovative ideas on how you can ensure your organization’s thrives in areas with high reps,
welcome to the podcast right up here. Thanks for having us. Appreciate it. Regularly says the travel expert on Asia for media outlets including the New York Times, BBC, CNN,
MSNBC, and NBC coordinators a founding member of alpine a sense of internationals, an organisation with 35 years of experience supporting climbers and mountaineers. This year alone. Alpine ascends to completing 30 expeditions, Gordon is a lifelong traveller, with a keen interest in India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and many other locations. His most recent pioneering took him to a remote location in India would love to hear about during today’s conversation. Gordon has a keen interest in business ethics, operational systems and marketing. And he’s also part of the education staff at Adventure tourist Travel Association, where he leads travel development in developing markets. And look, it’s really great to have you here. Can you maybe tell us about how did you get into climbing and expeditions.
Well, more of the expedition side than the climbing, I, you know, simply put out a corporate job for a couple of years and I was staring at a National Geographic desk calendar for a year. I quit my job and went to the picture, which was the Lofoten islands in Norway, and started a life of travelling and writing and so on saying gosh, this is for me and started to make my way through Europe and Asia and around the world I became fascinated with the British Himalayan explorers of the late 1800s, early 1900s and started. In short, following the paths of these old explorers, is the famous sixth floor ninja that said, you know, let’s try to look at old journeys in new ways. So in doing that I travelled quite a bit and I go to Asia come back to New York or the States for a while, and during one of those intermittent times back in the States, I met a fellow friend mountain climber and we started up mountain climbing company together and thought well this will be fun for a year, he had the climbing background, I had the Himalayan history, ideas, turned into 30 and so we’ve been developing mountain climbers and tracks and travel around the world for a year 30 years right now, so that’s the short of it and many stories in size represent between.
Yeah that’s fantastic, and what a fantastic quite old journeys and new ways are to me reminded me of my first experience when heading overseas on a mission and that was to Kashmir responding to a big earthquake. And I was sitting on the plane we’re about to take off and my colleague and friend was beside me Do you swing. Once you’ve been bitten once you get bitten by the travel bug, you will not be going back and he was right up in from Pakistan from Indonesia and from Indonesia to Iraq and. And so the journey came of working overseas that’s really exciting.
Take a place like cashmere I mean there’s a, there’s a different cashmere, every, every year or two as these places change so when you go back and visit them they’re inviting and insightful in different ways you’re there during an earthquake when I was there it was, you know, a big time to go trekking, you’d sit on these houseboats and basically an aisle from a supermarket would go by on a boat and you wave your hand and biscuits or drinks would come up and down at an entirely different situation with keto you’re exploring the same place years apart so I have a fun feeling for for Kashmir, as well as the first place you brought up.
Yeah, certainly. I mean I found the hospitality and the welcoming until certainly a lot of risks and it was a very insecure very but the hospitality from the Pakistanis and the Kashmiris was just beautiful. And I remember, you know, we’d sit there late at night, from where we were based in our base camp, we could actually see the foothills of the Himalayas as naturally spectacular view, and I understand that that less than 6000 people have actually been recorded as climbing Mount Everest. When we talk about you know one of the most well known climbs and climbing Mount Everest, what are some of the biggest risks that hikers and climbers that are attempting that climb really face.
Well, try tried to take Everest, in particular, as opposed to, I don’t know about daring in general which we can talk about. First you have a mountain that that’s so desirable for people to climb that it’s accessing the part of the population that might not have thought about climbing or they might not even be, you know that interested in in climbing peaks the rest of their life becomes can become a very single focus goal, maybe it’s climbing Everest or climbing the highest mountain in each continent which strays a little from somebody who says, I don’t know, I’m interested in mountaineering and make me a lifelong pursuit. So the first difficulty I think for somebody wanting to climb Everest is is obviously getting a basic skill set down, increasing your fitness to the level where they could be a competent climber, a decent team member, and, you know, climbing is a team sport so not putting other people at risk for a guide service, you know, step one is assessing the quality as the background and deciding whether this is a reasonable mountain guide in general, is really the sport of assessing risk. We’re taking the mountain and saying hey, our guys can make this less risky than if you went alone. So we do that on about a year we do that on Mount Everest and those assessments are certainly challenging. So the first step is determining, you know what a prerequisite for something like Everest might be. And obviously there are a lot of people interested there, but our prerequisite might be different than another company’s prerequisite, or a local de Polly outfitters prerequisite or an individual climbers prerequisite, so each of us kind of sets the bar and the risk level that we want in our own way there’s no, I don’t know, overriding mandate or the country de Paul itself doesn’t have rules for who can climb Everest and now even if they did, it’d be very challenging a to determine and be to apply so really that initial risk assessment is, let’s look at who wants to climb and who wants to climb with you.
Thanks for explaining that Gordon. So when we’re talking about an expedition, either in the USA or something further afield, but this guides and Expedition leaders like Alpine sense do to ensure that the risks to climbers are reduced to a satisfactory level.
Well initially it’s like we discussed every climb we do has a prerequisite so if you never climbed a mountain before you can’t go climb. Denali the highest mountain in America, you’d have to be go to a mountaineering school but guide has to check you off their climb a few more challenging elation at peak so basically you’re getting checkmarks. You know as you go up the ladder a more technical peaks, but a mountain like Mount Rainier which I would say as intermediate climb, becomes a beginner climb because we have very strong guides there, and a low climber to guide ratio. So for every guy that’s there, there are only two climbers so we guide mount Ranier which is a large glaciated peak here in Washington State, you’ve got a guide for every two climbers, that means if somebody needs to descend. There’s people to do that. That means if there’s a rescue or somebody does have a fall there are a group of people that can assess the situation and make decisions, and you also have four people making decisions for a group of eight, there’s always a triple leader, but you’re in constant, you know, discussion and determination. Should we go up the route should we go to the left, should we go to the right, should this person go up to this person go down. So it’s very, very axiomatic in terms of deciding when somebody should climb the mountain and not and the decisions are different every time the mountain is different every single day and the group of clients are different, so there’s not a single method for saying this or that has to happen. You’ve got to take each situation at hand, time of the year with a group of clients are even making the experience of your guides the lead, guide and some assistance and so on, that all helps to make a determination on the spot, and fortunately today guides can also call for weather reports check in with, I don’t know another expert, so we the amount of contact and whether and the modern technology has changed the guiding a great deal.
I’d like to point out that more guides can often mean which way it’s going it’s, I think, similar to risk framework across many industries about if we can increase the controls, and we can increase the risk mitigation, we’re actually reducing the risk so it’s quite extreme to use a similar methodology when climbing, it also like to point about no climb, end up being the same. Sometimes I get asked about what’s the risk level in Lebanon or what’s the risk level in a certain country around the world. And it’s really just one part of a multifaceted pie because no country is ever the same from one day to the next and similarly seed the city can change and then also depending on who’s going to be exposed, depending on what business is going to be exposed to that environment is also you can direct the ultimate risk level, which is a really great point. Climbing in Washington state might be different than climbing trips in all parts of the world, India, Iran, South Africa, South America, the point you mentioned your team. When we go to a country we’re looking at the risks that a certain country might have those risks come to us, what’s the environment like where are we eating, what types of neighbourhoods are we travelling to when we get to the mountain, the risk is in front of us. So then where it’s a more forthright type of decision than something when we’re in country and reacting to things. And as you mentioned, preparing ourselves to react to things. So those things are different and interesting for the traveller and the climate because we’re travelling and climbing so it’s both both types of risks one where we need to be ready. And what do we make to make decisions for the future.
Being able to respond to risk is critical. What is the highest risk expedition that you’ve been on Gordon and what’s the risk expected before you actually begin.
It’s probably more for me travelling in restricted areas, parts of Asia, without particular as parts of Pakistan, China during the Tiananmen Square and so on. So, those type of things are are high risk, but probably as you know, you fly to a country, you get there, Day one seems fine day two, maybe something was a little riskier, day three, day four, I mean the risk doesn’t come in in a big wave, you’re slowly getting more involved in a country usually learning about a country in that environment. So the risk level I think increases incrementally it’s not, you know, always that we’re flying into a very high risk environment. From a climbing point of view or being in the mountains, it’s it’s really, most of it is the same, assessing glaciers and mountain conditions on my on a snow bridge that might collapse, do I have the right skills to make it up this mountain, as the environment has changed all these glaciers around the world has broken up so a climb that might have been moderate 10 years ago now is suddenly a much higher risk because we don’t know the condition of the glaciers, especially when we’re using an ice axe and crampons to walk on there. So what we’re seeing environmentally is a real change in the condition of these mountains. And again, as I said before those risks are something that we’re looking at and assessing, which is different from a risk and maybe being in a country or an area that’s not, you know, so open to tourism, and you yourself have to be skilled maybe knowing some of the local language, knowing certainly enough about a culture where if there’s a precarious situation you could show your appreciation and understanding for that culture, and I’m sure you know, as a journalist or your travels sound sounds like the same thing. So preparation for a country is knowledge in a lot of ways, and preparation for mountaineering is being able to assess on the spot, knowing your your background in glaciology avalanche risk and so on.
You’re totally right preparation is just so critical and I speak to a lot of business leaders every day. And so often people want to talk about response mechanisms and support when a crisis or an interrupt occurs, and I’ve really got to see so many of these conversations back to, hey, how about we do some preparatory work, how about we do some assessment of the risks and when we do risk monitoring and how that we set the systems up so that we can try and avoid risk exposure, we certainly do need crisis manager and incident response processes so that we can respond once the unexpected risk emerges and we have to deal with that, but let’s do the preparatory work let’s do that planning and testing it of the actual incident occurring.
Absolutely and risk is different for me on a personal trip I would probably go places myself, due to my own interest, whatever projects I’m working on, but it wouldn’t necessarily mean I would take a group of people there, or do a guided trip or a luxury travel trip or a rough travel trip, the level of risk is, is different than an individual so what I would do for my company is not necessarily what I do for myself and vice versa.
Yeah, the data is very clear on that point that most people if they’re in a management position would accept much less risk than if they were actually travelling and in the same circumstances it’s quite interesting. Very sad nickname for Mount Everest is the world’s tallest trashcan. Now I know that difficult business operations are very important to you and it’s something you’ve spoken about in other fora, how do you ensure that your operations remain ethical and economical and avoid exposing local communities to risks that could otherwise be avoided.
Well, let’s take trash on Everest, I mean the first piece of trash and what is trash on Everest, it’s an oxygen bottle. It’s a tent. It’s an ice axe, this is not, I don’t know a rose up candy bar or a garbage bag. And so, you know, the companies like like Alpine the sense and other companies that have been going there for, I don’t know, 25 plus years. This is our home every year. So, I mean probably as you’ve seen around the world places you’re going back to each year, you’re not rooting for yourself, you want to keep that pristine. So I would say that the companies that go and return every year are on the forefront of keeping it clean. The question is really you know, why is the trash occur, why are people leaving. I don’t know, 10 parts are old boots or an oxygen regulator up on the mountain and putting them in a pile. Most of those situations are people that have gone to climb Everest, they are in over their heads, they’re feeling their lives are at risk, they’ve got to get down the mountain. And to do that they’re leaving stuff behind, and that’s the short of it. They want to move quickly, they don’t want to carry any weight, they could be hypoxic, meaning their thinking mechanisms might be off. And the only thing they’re thinking about is getting down they’re not thinking about the environmental concerns. At the time when their life is at risk, how do you prevent that, having more prepared clients, having guides that will turn clients or climbers around before they get to that point where they’re at, life risks from overextending themselves or going up in a storm that they should be. So it’s sort of the same risk management is probably the key to environmental management because it’s, it’s stopping people from putting themselves whenever possible. In these precarious situations. So we go and hire other local Sherpa or some of our guides take things down all the time you can see there’s a cleanup every year and there’s a base camp cleanup at the end of every season, but we’ve got on the mountain, it’s that people are witsand Basically to get down the mountain, and at base camp that garbage is for people who are probably there once and never coming back and unfortunately I don’t know, leaving it to the Sherpa or leaving it to the guidance services or or leaving it to other people to clean up. So it’s a mentality unfortunately that that exists and I don’t know like all the tools that we have in life and the environment, it’s another one that we’re taking on, but the Sherpa plays a big role in that, I mean we say Sherpa as a as a group of people, but they really are co climbers, they are from the Paul Sherpas ethnic group that moved from Tibet to this Naipaul area 350 years ago. They are extremely strong at altitude, many not all have taken an interest in mountain climbing, so those groups of people have come together. The first summit of mountains around the world like in they call Mount Everest Condon 53 Tenzing Norgay Sir Edmund Hillary, there’s a local population that helped them in this case Sherpa staff when Tillman and then other famous explorers of the 1920s and 1930s in India always grabbed local people, these are the people who knew the roots were strong at altitude and had the most familiarity so any type of exploration, I would say is always more successful when we’re when we have local people involved. But now, as we’ve discussed Mount Everest has become popular and it’s become a job to be a climber guide and assistant guy Porter cook a base camp manager and assistant cook all these jobs have come into play with the volume from Mount Everest. Initially it was just Western guide service that we’re doing this, but now there’s a lot of local Nepali guides and services that offer the same service. I think when we started in 1992, there was one or two other outfitters on Everest and now there must be, you know 40 or 50 at varying levels of competency and prices and different services.
So many risks around the world, across different industries are reduced by partnering with trusted local communities. I understand that managers many ascents would actually not be possible without shippers, why is that,
I’d say that not only mounted Everest many ascents around the world right look at, let’s take let’s go to Washington State back to Mount Rainier a simple climb. If you didn’t have the guides, supporting you, it would be an entirely different client for you to assess the route conditions. Take care of yourself 100% Without the guides input. So now we go to Nepal to move up this large mountain you would be taking gear, probably to a higher camp, coming back to a lower camp carrying it again, maybe two, maybe three times. So now you’re going up and down the mountain of series, a series of times, with the assistance of Sherpa, or even porters in Africa Kilimanjaro, much easier about you’re taking a complex environment and reducing the task, distributed between different people to make it approachable, you travelling as an individual climber is almost an entirely different sport than a guided climb. They’re both in my eyes both valid both interesting and they each have a place in the world, but let’s use travel an example I like to travel independently. Other people like to go with it with a group or a tour guide, they’re both interesting they’re just, they’re just different types of things and and approaches, different interesting people climbing is no different. There are people that only climb, individually or with CO climbers, They’re not taking guides they like assessing the route themselves. Hopefully they have the wherewithal to turn around when things are not good, but other people, you know, want to support the safety of an experienced climber to be with them back to your original question, the Sherpa providing such a high level of support your gear is lighter because it’s being carried food is being made for you. Tensor being set up, and it’s not that these things are elite in a way where, oh, I need to have somebody set up my tent for me, you are exhausted when you’re getting to these camps, or it’s very challenging at base camp, to you know make, I don’t want to say elaborate meals but make more than, than simple meals. If you eat simple meals for 3035 days at base camp, you are probably going to be less red that would be with a variety of meals. So sometimes we confuse things of being elite with, We want people will fit, you know that there’s the circus that the media offers for rent and Tuesday is Chinese food day and Wednesday is Mexican and Thursday is Thai food. That’s true, but there’s a reason for it because we need people to be eating well have a high caloric intake and be prepared for the next day’s climb, and from what like I mentioned carry the loads preparing the meals, the local de Polly’s Sherpa staff are key in making this happen without it, it would be an entirely different expedition. And I would say without the Sherpa there. These type of expeditions like Mount Everest will be accessible to maybe 10 or 15% of the people that climb now.
Thanks for explaining that Gordon. I understand that in recent years, there was one the power lead Sherpa have been striking more frequently due to accidents, which have resulted in people losing their lives. Can you tell us about the risks that have resulted in the increasing amount of accidents.
Well, travelling up a mountain, more as opposed to less is your increase in accidents, but also as the support around base camp becomes larger because there’s more people doing it, you have more people that you’re hiring, and they might be of different different skill levels. There’s going to be one day where there’s a new nail polish Sherpa, and it’s his first time on Everest, everybody has it, is that person going to have the same skill level as the other people who has to have 20 years experience, of course not. You learn a lot on the mountain. There’s a climbing programme that we all support in the Paul the Cooper climbing school where Sherpas are taught to taught to climb, learn technical skills crampon itself arrest for bass rescue advanced glacier techniques, ice climbing, so we try hard to train people beforehand, but it’s very different to be on a climb. Making decisions at the time about the conditions on the mountain. As you’ve all probably read, you have a base camp and then after base camp is this area called the icefall, and we always as a rough model. Think of a Scotch glass filled with ice cubes that’s what you’ve got to manoeuvre your way across, how am I going to get from one cube to the other. Oh, make a left turn here go up here, up there’s no way to get across here, let’s put a 20 foot ladder there great ladder said go to the next Ice Cube and make your way to the next part of the mountain where it’s, you know fully glaciated and there’s snow. So all those assessments are done by the by the Sherpa, they go up first. They’re called the icefall doctors, and they fix the icefall as the term goes. And that, that’s certainly you know high risk higher risk than other parts of the mountain, certainly at times but, you know, you could be in a storm up at, you know, the highest camp, camp for on Everest, I don’t know what that’s more or less risky than the icefall doctors it’s again it’s mountaineering with, With every step, meaning its own you know risk assessment, but when you have a lot of people waiting to cross the icefall, it’s pretty hard to say up, not this year, we can’t get across it. So, you know by hook or by crook. These guys do. Always so far, find a route, and you know we fought, we follow up that route but it’s a, it’s risk and it takes a lot of assessment, and, and it changes, you know where they weren’t Evers for two months, the icefall could change in that two months so we’re constantly looking and seeing if this is safe. If this is the best way to go. Should we fix the icefall Should we go left or right and so on. Again, having competent climbers, is a key part to this. You’ve seen those pictures where there’s lines of people on Everest, and you’re like, gosh, how can I get on that line. Why is that line so long. Well, a the lines long because there’s a lot of people there, but if you’re a competent climber, you move, you know, more quickly there’s a series of ropes and you clip into these ropes, if something that takes a competent climber five seconds, takes a less competent climber 30 seconds. Think of all the time you’re adding to that line, So yes it’s a one line because there are people there and a lot more, maybe that should be, but also if their skills are not as high as we’d like, you might be doing a task that normally takes five seconds that turns into 20. Now this 22nd task is done. 50 times while you’re on that road, it’s going to make a make a big difference. So, all these things come into play, we start looking at, you know, risk assessment. Alpina sense as always, we never go on that long line. So now we’ve waited three days, maybe the weather’s not going to be as good in three days maybe the level of support is different so it each decision you’re, you’re always adding, you know, one, one risk for another, with the understanding that there’s some inherent risk in mountaineering and if the risk becomes too great, we’re hoping and, so far so good the guide say hey, this expedition is over. We had a team this year go up to high camp on Everest camp for waiting for a summit attempt. There was supposed to be a change in the weather, it never came. We waited four days at high camp and call the expedition we never had a summit attempt. I’d rather have the people upset that we didn’t make a summit attempt than dealing with some doubleness or, you know, potential fatality.
Yeah that’s good you had experienced guides it must be must be hard though for the climbers, how long is the climb from where you were to actually attempting to reach the summit.
Well I mean you’re at average for close to two months you go up and down the mountain a series of times you’ve worked really hard to stay healthy, especially during COVID This year, another story which I’m happy to discuss, and so now you’ve, you’ve put in your, you know, four or five weeks of time going up and down the mountain staying healthy at base camp staying fit that can mean both physically fit, you know, not not catching an illness not getting a stomach problem. Now it’s time to go up the mountain, there are groups of people that submitted before you but we didn’t want to get on that long line and here we are in the guides like the risk is too high, we’re not going to have a summit attempt this year so obviously it’s it’s very disappointing, but a good guy, and the right clients which is you know, not always, always a perfect combination has to trust in their guides in their feeling. Well, if there was a legitimate summit attempt to go up there this guy would have taken us so people are disappointed but they had a climbing experience they were on the mountain, they learned a lot, and you know if they want they can come back as we say, the mountain isn’t going anywhere for so I mean the high school doctor clearly has an important role and what a wonderful adventure an opportunity and as we know that the other side of opportunity is risk, you know it’s opportunity versus, versus risk, but it’s great that you’re supporting a local capacity of Nepali communities and developing these great skills. How does Everest, and the industry around Mount Everest actually evolved since you first got involved in 1992,
in a lot of ways I mean one is, you know your relationship with the local sharper, you become closer they’re your business partners. So where I think, you know, in the early 90s There wasn’t that many lead, lead guides that were sure but now we have, I mean, half of our, our, let’s say, lead, guide team at our Basecamp management. Our Sherpa being paid Western wages, and also the expectations of what you might have to be an assistant guide is very different than to be a lead, guide, So Genbu Sherpa and Ben Jones, they are our two lead guides on Everest. This year we take small teams with a lot burried a Sherpa who’s a famed climber the first year but to climb the Seven Summits runs Basecamp. I think years ago it would have been considered here’s a, I don’t know, a local job where you, where you help the Westerners, but now it’s fully integrated obviously we also have a large Sherpa community Nepali community Asian community in America so it’s a much more integrated situation, not just on the client as well but they’re, They’re also the decision makers just as just as all of us are so they have a lead capacity management capacity, and that relationship has greatly changed. And as more and more people have come to Everest, as we discussed before, there are a lot more people doing their jobs. So like anything you need to reassess the pay grades for everybody it makes sure you know compensation is, is just across the board and I’m sure it’ll always be discussion with everybody’s wages mind and you’ll just be included, but, you know you’re trying to make an attempt at that. Now, That shot up. It’s not as incredibly profitable that say, as, as some might think it’s something that we like to do, it’s a big part of our business. But if we’re gonna charge $80,000 Next year forever, there will be companies charging $40,000 How can you be $40,000 Less you’re providing less services, maybe the climber to guide ratio is different, the meals are different, the amount of oxygen. So I’m not trying to say which is which is right or wrong, that’s for the individual to decide, but there’s a great disparity in the in the types of climbing and level of support these days as compared to 25 and 30 years ago, when all of us pretty much tried to provide, you know what we thought was a high level of support. Nowadays with the technology, it’s different. Way back when we used to strap, a satellite dish on a yak and take this up to Everest base camp, and those of us at home which is wait for you know for the fact that you will be able to set up a fax machine and hey the following people somebody, you know, we’d get a list of names and we’d be out of touch for two months. I mean, now it’s a Skype call or WhatsApp call, you know, whenever we want to contact Basecamp everybody’s in communication with their own, whether they’re reading. I don’t know the Herald Tribune or the New York Times or the local magazines and newspapers. He just no longer have a group that’s isolated and doing this thing they’re very informed, not just with the news but maybe with their businesses, loved ones, family and friends, it’s changed the environment and your, your mindset is very different when you’re in contact I’m sure like you experienced Well, I remember you know going to India said you go into their post office and book a call at 400, people would be around you and you know, beyond with a friend or loved one asking you know what place are the Yankees in and, and that was it I get some news get some family and talk to you in three months, but with this level of communication, it’s changed the environment a great deal with the different types of guide services for more expensive to less expensive. It’s changed the environment a great deal, it’s a much different level of service with the types of weather reports that we get, you don’t have to guess at when the weather window might be, we might not get by the day like this year. But before we used to go up to high camp and just say, gosh, I have to book the wind stops tomorrow. Let’s give it one more day, there were no weather reports coming in and now everybody’s got weather reports, that’s changed mountaineering a great deal to know when to go to Summit, and it’s changed, Everest in particular because it’s the type of climb where we’re sitting at a base camp waiting getting this information up weather window six days away. Let’s go up the mountain no weather window we just stayed Basecamp, which is very different than mountains where we, we start we go up there, we never stay at base camp, a mountain like Denali in Alaska, you’re moving up, you know, for four and five camps progressively over a period of three weeks it’s very different. So Everest has these advantages where the technology like weather reports make a big difference in the level of safety and when we go climb the mountain.
It’s fantastic to hear about those developments and I know there there has been, you know, for a couple of decades, that fear about, you know how technology and automation might be replacing jobs but I think we’ve moved to that next step of recognising that technology is actually adding value and man and machine if I can say that it’s actually working better to actually increase productivity as opposed to forcing people to lose their jobs so it’s great to hear that that’s having a positive impact around the world.
Yeah, certainly, certainly in our industry, not just the weather reports to look and look at, you know, obviously the gear from 1960 to today that we can keep people or they have, You know, boots, batteries to keep your feet, hands and toes cold I mean that’s one of the main things that guide us concern themselves is frostbite and making sure people don’t get frostbite through hydration and keeping them warm and the, the tools that we have are are fantastic as compared to 19 even 20 years ago.
So it has been a fantastic development, I think we all appreciate them. You mentioned before the impact of COVID I think you know a lot of us have been justifiably and understandably focused on how COVID has impacted our workplaces how it’s impacting our children’s school how it’s impacting frontline health workers and then those people that don’t have to turn up to work at restaurants and supermarkets or pharmacies, etc. But what about the outdoor adventure industry How is COVID impacted you over the last 18 months. First of all, country countries are closed down, and rightly so, in most cases. And you as an outfitter have to decide when it when it’s right to go back to a country, and those decisions are not so clear always and they’re different for every country. So let’s look at the main policy you can read in the paper, there’s a lot of controversy about COVID Basecamp New York Times article from a couple of days ago. And then, you know, criticism about should people have gone to Everest this year knowing, you know, knowing there’s COVID and first and foremost, obviously nobody has this figured out. Scientists countries, they’re providing recommendations on how to contain a virus, how to use vaccinations when people should travel, but these, these are recommendations because we don’t know the outcome we didn’t know there’s a Delta variant coming and now a gamma variant as well. So we prepared for that a year ago, you can’t. So taking a look at Mount Everest which again I think was criticised by some, and others were obviously supported the day that you’re making a decision about, you know, we’re going to go to Mount Everest it’s January the trips in March, things seem pretty good in April. Well that decision seemed pretty seemed pretty wise, we have a group of climbers that want to go. We have a group of local people that want to work, and we have guides that want to go. So, all three facets for each for each trip, whether we’re travelling to Everest or anywhere. We have clients who want to go, people who want to work locally and guides who want to go, which is in my mind, enough to make a decision to go forward, as long as there’s no larger risk. So now we’ve done this in January, March comes around, it’s time to go to Mount Everest, things may be worsening in a Paul, but not yet, there wasn’t really the outbreak in India, so getting on the plane seemed reasonable, And for the most part our team was vaccinated, including a number of the Sherpa that live in the US and went over there. So now you’re taking a vaccinated group of people over there, and it seems like that’s pretty good risk mitigation, and my worry is gosh they’re going to go and stay in all these tea houses, Going up to Everest and that seems nerve racking. I know we’re vaccinated, but can we carry the vaccine. I really don’t want to take it into the name Polly population. So we make a decision to stay and no teahouses, we’re going to travel independently as a pod with our group, and get to Basecamp, we’re testing before we have tests with us we can test people at any time. And now we make our way all the way to base camp without a cough or a sneeze or people having trouble breathing, and you felt like, gosh, we did it, and then all of a sudden right, there’s a huge outbreak at base camp, from where from who why I don’t necessarily know, and we’re still staying in our pod and people are getting sick and we had a Sherpa who did leave early didn’t want to get tested, but for the most part our group just stayed independent again the vaccinations helped. And we had some practice on Mount Ranier we’ve been guiding for a while and we did feel that the virus is not transmittable outdoors, and now we have seen other groups where 10 people are getting sick 15 people are getting sick. If you told me that was happening, and I was going to decide to go to base camp, then it might be a different decision. The point being that with COVID and return to travel, you need to make the best decision with the information that you have and you have to know that decision might not be the same what you make, a month later, you know, pivot, pivot, pivot, you always got to be ready to move. If you have to stop a trip, the day before it’s going to go, then do so for a more established company like ours, it’s certainly easier. Most of our clients have travelled with us multiple times and hopefully there’s a level of trust there but a younger company or newer company, it’s going to be hard to pull a trip at the last minute. But back to your question about COVID and making decisions. You got to take all the information that you have make a decision on that day. New information might might change your decision, like it might have been Mount Everest. Again we fared well, nobody got sick, we were vaccinated, we kept in a pod. We weren’t allowed to associate at night you know that’s a hard thing in a culture where people like to play car tonight or visit other base camps, we were able to contain that, but as things happen, we just we have our first trip back to Africa now they just got on the mountain yesterday, there’s not a lot of reports about COVID situation in Tanzania. Luckily our clients that are going there are vaccinated and the guide is and we’re staying in a pod. And I don’t know, we’re comfortable and everything is going well. That trip goes well, we’re going to do the next trip. If an outbreak occurs maybe in between trips or something in the area that might change the decision making so it’s not a it’s not a single decision when to go forward, it’s basically just constantly gathering information and a willingness to change gears if need be, especially as a guide service when you’re making decisions for others, which again would be different from, from a personal decision and such…