Loners: Follow Shipton’s climb to the top

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in Leaders & Managers

Are you a lone ranger in this era of team players?

Don’t despair. You may be a loner, but you’re not alone. In 1952, Eric Shipton expected to lead the expedition that put the first men on the summit of Mount Everest.

He assembled a team and explored the base of the mountain, then appeared before Britain’s Royal Geographical Society, which, to Shipton’s shock, had chosen instead a skillful military organizer to attempt the summit.

Shipton, on the other hand, was a lone adventurer. He had begun climbing mountains in Kenya during the 1920s, developing a spare, streamlined style that required few porters and scant gear. He joked that he could plan an expedition on the back of an envelope.

The lesson for us today is that Shipton’s lean style of exploration, while far ahead of its time, did not go unappreciated. In readying for the Everest expedition, he’d already found greatness. In 1951, with younger climbers including Edmund Hillary, he found a path up the mountain’s steeper face and became the first to cross the Khumbu Icefall.

“There’s no doubt they wouldn’t have conquered Everest in 1953 without this groundwork,” says Peter Hansen of Worcester Polytechnic Institute told U.S. News.

Eventually, Shipton’s spare style became the rage among climbers. So, don’t worry if you’re out of step. You may be a step ahead.

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