Alan is an international speaker, author and performance coach who is passionate about leadership and reaching new heights in all that we do! His unique philosophy of life revolves around empowering people and embracing an agile mentality focused on goals and results. By understanding what drives and motivates us, we are able to cultivate more innovative and effective ways of thinking and taking action.
Alan holds a degree in engineering from Queen’s University and a masters in psychology from Adler University, giving him a well-balanced approach to the outer and inner challenges we all face. Alan has worked internationally with large organizations as a professional engineer and project manager developing patents and solutions to complex challenges in the mining and metals industry. Living and working abroad has given him the opportunity to deepen his understanding of individual and team challenges, better appreciate cultural diversity and successfully adapt to different organizational structures.
Building experience through a lifestyle of adventure and challenge, in the spring of 2008 Alan embarked on the journey of a lifetime and set a world record on Mount Everest along with three members of his immediate family. It was a two-month expedition through some of the most exciting yet terrifying conditions imaginable and their success demanded an unwavering perseverance and resilience in the face of adversity. Alan delivers a number of exciting presentations and training programs designed to help individuals, team members and organizations reach new heights in the way we think and the actions we take in order to achieve breakthrough performance.
Transcription of Allan Mallory’s presentation.
Our speaker, Alan Mallory was introduced by Rick Brenner.
“It’s not the mountain that we conquer, but ourselves”, Sir Edmund Hillary
Alan comes from a family that loves adventure. Alan, his sister Laura, brother Adam, mother Barbara, and father Daniel always dreamed of climbing to the top of the world, which led them to the decision to summit Everest together in 2008.
To kick off this spectacular 2-month adventure, they flew into the very beautiful old city of Kathmandu, where they prepared for the climb by gathering some of the technical equipment they weren’t able to transport by plane. Then they flew over to Lukla, a small town in the Khumbu Valley where most folks start their Mount Everest ascent if they choose to take the Southern route. They began the 10-day trek into basecamp by following a route carved into the side of the Khumbu Valley, across many rickety cable bridges. Long and high, they proved to be quite scary in the area’s high winds, especially when you’re crossing with the yaks that carry in equipment for other climbers.
On the way to basecamp, the Mallory’s passed through the Namche Bazaar, where they met the oldest person ever to summit the mountain. They also stopped for a day in the village of Peroche where they met up with Barbara, who had started the hike earlier to give herself more time to acclimatize. Unfortunately, Barbara fell and tore her Achilles tendon. She had to abandon the hike, and she flew back home, but they did get to spend one day together as a family on the mountain.
After ten days of hiking and a 17,500-foot climb in elevation, they arrived at basecamp. The tents here are built every year on top of the ever-morphing Khumbu Glacier. The air is much thinner at this altitude, and Everest-climbers spend a lot of time here acclimatizing to the reduced oxygen levels. Most meals here consisted of spam, sardines, boiled vegetables and yak meat, not the best when the altitude levels have already resulted in a loss of appetite. Each of the Mallory’s wound up losing 20-30 pounds over the course of their whole journey because they just couldn’t eat enough to replace the calories they were losing on these very long days. In addition to suppressing your appetite, the altitude also weakens your immune system, so climbers are often sick during their hikes. At this elevation, the atmosphere is also really thin, and so many climbers get bad burns. The sun reflecting off of the snow even burns the inside of nostrils and the roofs of mouths.
The technical climbing begins just past basecamp with the Khumbu Icefall and the Valley of Silence, where dangerous and enormous chunks of ice called seracs fall and move unpredictably. There are about 50 wide crevasses in the ice that need to be crossed with aluminum ladders held together with climbing rope while wearing crampons and heavy packs. Some of the crevasses are so wide that hikers need to climb to the bottom and back up on the other side. To help with the acclimatization process, hikers climb up to a certain elevation and then return to basecamp for a few days to recuperate, which meant that the Mallory’s had to cross the treacherous Khumbu Icefall six times over the course of their journey to the summit.
In order to get to the subsequent campsites, Alan used a variety of mental strategies. In Grade 10, he was diagnosed with General Anxiety Disorder which really negatively affected his daily life. Eventually, he decided to study the human mind to help overcome his anxiety. He called this phase in his life his internal Everest. He was able to use some of the lessons he learned through this process to help him overcome the mountain.
The Mallory’s had two Sherpas accompanying them on the journey. By the time they reached Camp 4, most of the other groups were at each other’s throats. Most people interested in climbing Mount Everest have Type A personalities, which lead to high tensions in this difficult environment for many weeks. Unfortunately, most people don’t treat their Sherpas very kindly, especially near the end of the trip when everyone is exhausted and looking to take out their frustrations on someone. However, the Mallory’s made every effort to include their Sherpas as members of their team by inviting them to join in their more social activities as well throughout the journey. They knew this was important in order for them to succeed.
From Camp 4, they had a difficult 12-hour climb to the summit. They needed to hike at night in order to reach the summit in daylight. Successfully reaching the summit, the family was only able to spend twenty minutes taking in their success before starting their journey back down, which is considered to be even more dangerous than the way up. Having climbed for well over 30 hours with no sleep or rest, they were completely exhausted both physically and mentally. Their bodies were beginning to shut down, and both Alan and his father wound up running out of oxygen. Alan kept collapsing. His limbs were shaking, and he was afraid that he wouldn’t make it back down the mountain when one of his Sherpas let him use his oxygen tank.
Everest is as much of a mental challenge as it is a physical one. Over 70% of climbers talk themselves into turning back long before they get anywhere near the end of that two-month expedition. By taking on Everest as a family, the Mallory’s had a few advantages. They already had the trust and knew how to overcome conflicts and interpersonal challenges that destroyed the majority of the other teams. Most importantly, they were really able to look out for each other, much more so than a random climber who would join an expedition.
As they made their way through the Kumbu Valley once again, Nepal was entering into summertime. Trees were flowering, and wildlife was skittering about the landscape. With double the red blood cells now, the Mallory’s felt like superhumans! They hopped onto the first flight out of Lukla and treated themselves to a huge buffet at the hotel as soon as they got into Katmandu.
Alan doesn’t recommend that anyone climbs Everest. Instead, he wants us all to consider our own summits and apply this same passion, commitment, planning, resilience, agility and everything that’s involved in working through those challenges to make whatever you’re aiming for a reality: What is your Everest?
Jay Powell thanked Alan for his most interesting talk.
- The Family that Conquered Everest by Alan Mallory
- Summits of Self by Alan Mallory
Q & A session transcription to follow soon