By Les Karpluk
April 5 2013, Yorkton, Sask. - The Saskatchewan Association of Fire Chiefs conference in Yorkton is well underway, with networking, fellowship and exchange of ideas occurring over the next two days. It also turns out that today is my anniversary date in the fire service and tomorrow I begin my 32nd year in the profession.
By Les Karpluk
April 5 2013, Yorkton, Sask. – The Saskatchewan Association
of Fire Chiefs conference in Yorkton is well underway, with networking,
fellowship and exchange of ideas occurring over the next two days. It also
turns out that today is my anniversary date in the fire service and tomorrow I
begin my 32nd year in the profession.
As usual, the trade show attracts the attention of those in
the market for new equipment or apparatus, and (shameless plug for my blog
employer!) I found myself hanging around the Firehall Bookstore booth and
trying to prioritize the books and DVDs that I want to buy.
The keynote speaker today was Dave Rodney, who is the only
Canadian to have reached the summit of Mount Everest twice. This feat unique in
itself, but what really caught my attention was the fact that Rodney grew up in
Saskatchewan, and we all know that the hills in Saskatchewan are few and far
between. Hearing the story of a Prairie boy successfully climbing Everest not
once, but twice, was inspiring.
Dave described how as a young boy he dreamed of climbing
Everest after looking at a picture that his grandfather had of the Swiss
mountains. While Dave was explaining how he overcame the challenges of
recovering from a skiing accident in which he broke his back (in four places),
and caused significant trauma to his knee and shoulder, I was trying to get a
feel of the path Dave wanted us to follow during his presentation.
The aha movement occurred when Dave quoted Charles Darwin:
“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent
that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.” At this point
Dave explained that in order to pursue his dream of climbing Everest, he needed
to take care of himself so he could see his vision and dream of reaching the
summit come true.
The climb required significant funding – more than $60,000. One
can only imagine how easy it would have been to get discouraged knowing that
this was the baseline cost for the expedition.
Dave embarked upon a campaign to educate potential stakeholders
and propose business partnerships, and after 245 times of hearing “No thanks but
I wish you luck,” he continued to push forward with his dream. At meeting 246,
he got the “yes” and, as the saying goes, the rest is history.
In 30 minutes, Dave explained the hazards of climbing Everest
and the dangers of the low oxygen levels, 300–kilopascal winds, mountain
sickness, and the fact that as climbers progress up the mountain, blood becomes
thicker and the risk of a heart attack, stroke or swelling of the brain and
lungs increases substantially. I have to admit that at this point I was trying
to figure out why anyone would want to climb Everest. Then, the pictures of
Dave standing on several aluminum ladders tied together and being used as a
bridge over a 400 foot crevasse convinced me that maybe one had to possess a
crazy gene to want to challenge the mountain that claims lives on every climb.
I found myself mesmerized by the aluminum-ladder bridge and the voice in my
head kept saying, “This would blow our OH&S committee’s mind!”
Dave explained how some climbers would turn around and
descend the mountain when they were within a short distance of the summit. Get
this: the summit would be within reach, but climbers had to chose if they would
have the physical energy to make it down the mountain. Many climbers realized
that if they took the next steps to reach the summit, they would achieve their
goal, but would not have the physical energy to get back down and would die on
the mountain. Climbers had to make the choice.
I have spoken in the past of Eric Weihenmayer, who was the
first blind person to reach the summit of Everest, in May 2001. I spoke to Dave
after his presentation and as fate would have it, he knows Eric and their camps
were side by side during one of the climbs.
I have always been amazed by the challenges that a blind man
would face when climbing Everest. Hearing Dave speak today of the challenges
faced by climbers who are fit really drove home the point of the keynote to
“Continue to climb beyond your next Everest.”
We all have our mountains to climb in our lives and we need
to have a vision and a plan to successfully reach the summit of our personal Mount
Everests. As Dave concluded his presentation he emphasized the learn, do,
pass-it-on theme. If Dave Rodney could face rejection 245 times and then move
forward to success, I wonder if I gave up too soon on some of my past
Until next time, lead from within and grow.