The conversation changed from pleasant to awkward within only a few minutes. Our expedition group had just completed the trek up to camp 1 and was now discussing our schedule. As the expedition leader, I told the group that we should descend to base camp to properly rest for the climb that lay ahead of us. As soon as I stated my case, one client immediately disagreed. That client went on to explain his point about how he felt fine and didn’t want to waste his energy going all the way down to 17,000 ft. He didn’t think it was worth the physical effort and thought he’d be sacrificing his opportunity to reach the summit.
I patiently explained to him the reasons for descending and that it would provide crucial rest for his body. His rebellion of this topic sparked another client to agree. The two were determined to continue up the mountain. They truly believed that they were untouchable and seemed to have forgotten that I was the expert on this expedition.
As this slight dispute was taking place, I had been simultaneously checking the weather report for the upcoming days. Although it showed forecast with little concern, a sly idea suddenly came to me. Since I was the group leader, I could use my access to useful information to help me in this situation. As this idea came to me, I had been glancing at the weather forecast. The argument was getting heated and I knew I had to come up with something or else they would leave. I told the two clients that I had received a weather warning and that it wasn’t safe to continue up for now. Base camp would get us out of the weather and provide us with additional rest.
The clients took my word for it and agreed to come down now that they knew their personal safety might be in jeopardy. I was aware of other expeditions in which failure occurred because of group dynamic problems. The situation in Into Thin Air with Rob Hall and Doug Hansen is a great example. Hall was a loyal leader and refused to leave Hansen. All of his extra effort that he put into helping Hansen could have been put to use in other ways and maybe things could have ended better for both of them.
I felt bad about lying but I would feel even worse if the two continued up without any assistance. I’m not proud of doing this but I knew the dangers that the mountain encompassed and had to make sure they stayed safe.