Leadership Skills

Those who died left a life-changing message. How personal leadership matters and can save your life.

By March 8, 2013 3 Comments

Man wants to be where his thoughts drive him. On the moon, Mars, Venus, in the oceans, caves, abysses, deserts and mountains. This is what winter mountaineering is all about. The desire to be and go where man has not yet succeeded, and it is because of this that one day Nanga Parbat and K2 will also be attempted, and climbed, in winter. This is no inner drive motivated by dynamics of convenience, of usefulness, of danger levels. No one wants or believes the world can be changed by climbing in winter. Just like those who at first did not think they would, but then in reality actually did, change the world.” – Simone Moro

High risk taken to achieve a dream, can mean a giant step forward or death.

Both states change you forever. Even when experienced just by watching it, but felt on a deep emotional level.

People who dare losing everything to fulfill their passions, desires… strip you bare from the excuses you may have had to abandon your own dream. If they went out to a hostile environment, a no-man’s land, coped with the unbearable problems, showed endless human heroism, emotional and physical power, we would be able to breakthrough too…

And there a different world on the other side once you cross a bridge of fear, limiting decisions like…”I am too old to go to school”…

However, there is a primary master of fulfillment. Time.

When it is gone, it is gone for good. The doors close, and the handler is gone.

If you don’t take your chances now, you may never have any more.

Something happened on the 5th of March 2013. There was a mixture of ecstasy and drama, to such extent, that people kept searching for the news instead of sleeping, eating, going to the bathroom. Some of them were late at work too, because they just needed to know what was happening up there…

The world news were hit by a message from the base camp of Broad Peak (a mountain of an altitude of 8047 meters above sea level), placed in the Karakorum range, deep into the Asian continent, on the border between Pakistan and China. It is one of the fourteen eight thousand meters peaks. The highest and most dangerous mountains on Earth. A group of Polish climbers went to the top of it to reach it during winter, for the first time in history.

Winter is a clue in this story. I will explain in later.

On 5 March 2013 four climbers Maciej Berbeka, Adam Bielecki,
Artur Malek and Tomasz Kowalski, were high up on the ridge, close to the summit. World held its breath as they moved slowly toward the top. There was silence for a few hours, until… the message arrived: They reached the top, and did the first winter ascent of Broad Peak in history.

Broad Peak. Photo credit http://www.polskihimalaizmzimowy.pl

Broad Peak seen from a base camp. Photo credit http://www.polskihimalaizmzimowy.pl

But it was already 6 pm, and getting dark. They had no tents to bivouac in during night. With temperatures as low as -35 or -40 degrees Celsius, low oxygen in the air, it is an unbelievable risk… Two of them reached the camp 4, placed at an altitude of 7 400 meters, but the remaining two were slow… it took them 8 hours to do 150 meters. Exhaustion and darkness had taken their toll on them.

They didn’t manage to reach the pass only several hundred meters away, or camp. In the morning there were signs coming from both of them, and then … stopped.

They ventured into the unknown, and two of them stayed there forever. A place that is like a sleeping giant, a predator, eager to give you everything or take everything away.

During winter, in the mountains above 7000 meters, the wind can blow as fast as 250 km per hour, and according to Adam Bielecki, a Himalayan climber, it sounds as if 10 jets were flying just above your head. It may last for days, during which you need to fix your tent to a rock, because the wind can push you as easily as a leaf. Last year climbers staying in a base camp of Gasherbrum (another eight thousand meters mountain) saw weighing a few tons helicopter wreckage, moved 40 meters by the wind.

“You can’t really imagine the conditions. As how can you know the experience of temperatures as low as -70 or -60 degrees Celsius, with the wind that makes it worse, with 1/3 of the  oxygen in the air we are used to.”

When the Sun shines, it is so bright, that your eyes go blind. But during winter, you can’t wear sun glasses, as cold makes them opaque.

Artur Malek i Maciej Berbeka climbing to a camp III (7000 m), photo taken by Adam Bielecki. Source: http://www.polskihimalaizmzimowy.pl


Any problems with the equipment, or your own mistake, lack of movement for a longer period of time that means even 1 minute… and you may be dead.

Adam Bielecki says:

“in those conditions, the only thing you do is to FULLY CONCENTRATE on the task you need to do right now, a slightly mystical state, you create a narrow focus that excludes everything else from your thoughts and eyes.”

During the early morning hours of 6th of March, there were no signs from two climbers. The giant icy slopes of Broad Peak were silent

They disappeared.

The other two reached the base camp safely, in good health.

All four, made their decisions independently. Whether to go to the top or back to the camp. they decided in a split second whether they were strong enough to survive, to face the exhaustion.

Their choices were based on their previous experience, knowledge, intelligence, personal leadership that showed up in a form of an ability to make that crucial decision in a life defining moment.

two survived, two died.

four strong men, with samurai-like emotional and physical power. yet, their actions were a bit different, and that tiny details meant life or death.

personal leadership helps you know what is the most important issue for you, who you are, and how to get it.

Those who survive, or watch… are changed forever. Deep passion, achieved result, a personal barrier crossed, risk taken, opens a new world… of endless human possibilities. Where no small life troubles are big enough to conquer your attention. It shows what matters,

safety of sleep, good health, warmth, love, food, water… “ everything else is a bonus that we should cherish. “Adam Bielecki says…

When you cross your personal borders: speak in public for the first time, go school when you are 40 or 60 years old, even when all of your neighbours think that you are nuts, climb an eight thousand meters mountain during winter, even when nobody has ever done that before, and they think that it is impossible… you realize how powerful you are. You did it. Most borders, comfort zones exists in our heads only, and they seem to be big, just like the giant mountain in the Karakoram. The climbers prepared day by day, by climbing, walking to get used to a different environment. They climbed for years prior to this event, some of them for over 40…

You cross them by doing small improvements, every single day. You still have no guarantee, but if you prepare, and do the right things, your reward may astonish you.

How to do it?

  • Find those who have already been where you want to go, and learn about them, discover their way of thinking, see how they train, meet them. The thing is to learn from those people, but not to become their copy. Examine their thinking and see what features of character they mastered. If it is climbing, it would most likely be strength of your mind, well-trained body, ability to stay focused and calm in the eyes of deadly danger, if it is business, it would be your personal leadership- being able to think independently, ability to understand the numbers, cooperate with people.
  • Get to know yourself. Work on your own personal leadership. When you understand better what rocks your boat, you will easier make the important choices, for example what job to do, what to focus on, a partner to seek, a goal to pursue. It will help you be determined, disciplined. I would suggest reading and devouring Tony Robbins’ book “Awaken the Giant Within”. It is like a mirror that shows you where you are, who you are, what you want and how to get it, even when you have not been able to reach or set up your goals in the past, or to be happy on a consistent basis. Both are possible, I know it from a personal experience. I love this book, and recommend it to you. There is a special promotion too, you can save $ 5.42 when you buy it now.

  • And discipline… is like a wild horse, dangerous enough to break your neck if you don’t know where you are going. But once you do, it becomes your best friend who takes you where you want to go.
  • Do the things, take action. The climbers in order to even dream about climbing in the Himalayas, had to start small. With 1000 meters high mountains, climb them and learn from the experience. Time is essential, when your chance is gone, it may be gone for good.

Once you know yourself, set up a destination, know what you love doing, and start doing it.

It may push you into the scary unknown, where great pleasures exists…

You can ask about the two who died… was is worthy? It is not for me to answer that question, I leave it for your own judgment.

the stunning photos come from a website of Polish Winter Himalaism http://www.polskihimalaizmzimowy.pl   http://polishwinterhimalaism.pl/



  • I really love this topic. It really touched me. The courage of the four persons who climb that mountain on winter is no joke. I definitely agree with this that “High risk taken to achieve a dream can mean a giant step forward or death.” Before I do anything else, I have to think over and over again if I could make it. I bet these people were well prepared but this is life.. Some make it, some never.. Thanks for this article. I really love it.

    -Keep safe everyone!

  • I guess extreme adventure merits equally extreme risks. I wouldn’t expect anything less from mountains that high. This incident drives home one very clear message: if you’re not prepared to go high, don’t go at all.

Leave a Reply