Brooke’s Note: I wrote the headline of this article, not Skip Schweiss, and I happily accept the editorial risk that readers will see how much of it is tongue-in-cheek, double in meaning and how much is straight reporting. But I’m pretty sure I’m unwilling to take on the level of risk encompassed by this climb, one that even guides questioned the sanity of. I’m quite sure I didn’t go — and I was invited. Of course, part of my reluctance had nothing to do my fear of becoming the subject of a Jon Krakauer-style Outside magazine article. I had little doubt that this group would return for dinner. But I am also aware that these people, most of whom I know from my days of covering the Tiburon CEO Summits (safely inside luxury hotels), are only happy when they are on the envelope-pushing edge of misery, whether with their businesses or a conference agenda that goes to all hours. These are type AAA characters comfortable with risk — even high risk — if managed properly with agreement on a plan that allows for plans B and C. I can’t wait to read next year’s version — from my armchair.
Monday 6.13.16 by Guest Columnist Skip Schweiss
A year ago, after our fourth adventure scaling Four Pass Loop in Colorado, we announced our destination for “Excellent Adventure 5.0”: Mount Shasta, a 14,167-ft. snow-covered mountain in Northern California.
Our standard approach to these challenges is to take them on in one day — one long, arduous day. On these four adventures we traversed a combined 80 miles and 23,000 vertical feet. We like challenges, and we have fun taking them on!
We chose Mount Shasta in part because it presented the type of outdoor adventure that we seek, and in part because it presented a new challenge: a 7,000-foot, six-mile (one-way) ascent of a snow-covered peak that would require crampons, helmets, ice axes, and roped team travel. These special skills we felt would best be tackled with professional guides.
Chris Riggio, Scott Hanson, Skip Schweiss, Zohar Swaine, Scott MacKillop, Jon Olver and Aaron VanReenen prepare to climb as mere mortals sleep. Chris Riggio, Scott Hanson, Skip Schweiss, Zohar Swaine, Scott MacKillop, Jon Olver and Aaron VanReenen prepare to climb as mere mortals sleep.
We contacted each of the three guide services on Mount Shasta, inquiring about guiding our group up the mountain in that time frame. Two of them told us we were crazy, and refused our business. The third — SWS Mountain Guides — at least engaged us in conversation, and eventually agreed to guide us under two conditions: that we guarantee to arrive in excellent physical shape and that we would begin our ascent at midnight. We agreed.
We set about arranging logistics and getting in shape for the climb. Initially we had 30 people commit to the adventure; we arrived in California with 17 determined souls.
On the day before the climb we spent several hours under the expert tutelage of our guides, learning essential safety skills on the mountain. Unfortunately, and right at the very end of that training session, one of our team members experienced a mishap that resulted in a badly broken ankle. His climb would have to wait for another year.
That evening, we rested and made final preparations for the next day’s climb even as we worried about our teammate’s condition.
Arriving at the trailhead that night, we geared up and hit the trail, headlamps ablaze, just after midnight. The guides were keenly attuned to a volatile weather forecast, and when lightning and thunder accented the valley below, we saw the concern on their faces and in their voices over the walkie-talkies as they stayed in touch with the base camp leader below.
As we reached the steeper section of the mountain, we paused to rope up, a guide leading each team of three to four climbers. Gradually a few turned back, overcome by fatigue, altitude sickness, and the rigors of the climb. A guide accompanied hikers down to ensure safety.
Fighting strong winds and snow at the higher elevations, with a storm in the valley below and another blowing in from the north, our summit bid looked in jeopardy.
But at just after 9 a.m., one rope team reached the summit, tired and exhilarated. About the same time, guides on the other teams just below made the difficult decision to turn around; the weather was deteriorating and the risks were rising.
We all returned safely to the base of the mountain, then to town. After a bit of rest and a welcome shower, we gathered in the hotel lounge to watch an NBA Finals game (Go Warriors!), then headed to our traditional celebration dinner.
We were happy to be accompanied by our injured teammate, freshly released from the hospital and beginning his recovery from surgery. And it was obvious at dinner that our setbacks had done little to tarnish the spirit of our Excellent Adventures.
At dinner that evening we celebrated our effort and achievement, while recounting the day’s events. Several lessons were revealed:
1. It is worth setting high goals, and there is value in reaching for those goals even when we fall a bit short.
2. Nothing beats preparation. Conditioning, logistics, and communication are essential to these endeavors.
3. Teamwork is critical to success. No one reached the top of Mount Shasta alone. We encouraged, supported, and inspired each other on the mountain, and our injured teammate received excellent support along his difficult journey.
4. Do not be afraid to reach out for professional help. Our guides taught us, prepared us, and positioned us for success.
5. Seventeen of us ventured to California for this adventure; six of those for the fifth straight year of this series of excellent adventures. Top-performing teams are made up of experienced veterans as well as newcomers. See: How a formerly homeless Vietnam veteran became a big-time RIA.
6. External circumstances beyond your control will sometimes determine — or at least influence — outcomes. Deal with it. A number of our teammates were disappointed at having to turn back due to the weather, but remained positive and continued to live by our values. See: Beltway-area advisors are rocked by the snowstorms of the century.
7. Set values and live by them. Ours continue to be, in priority order: 1) return home safely; 2) have fun; 3) attain your goal.
Chip and Skip recognize a few teammates for special effort. This year’s honorees were:
1. Mountain Man (strongest performer) – Scott Hanson See: What they do teach at Harvard Business School that’s worth learning even after banking monetary success.
2. Rookie of the Year (strongest performance by a first-time attendee): Dave Umstead and Rob Umstead.
3. Senior Stud (oldest teammate, strongest performance) — Dave Umstead
4. Purple Heart – Steve Sanduski, whose summit attempt was cut short by a broken ankle, said: “I was sliding down the hill practicing a self-arrest, my right heel got caught in the snow, my body kept sliding while my right leg didn’t, when it finally popped out, my ankle was broken in several places.” says Sanduski by email in an RIABiz Interview. And what a great attitude he showed through that painful incident! See: The top LPL producer has a second RIA-related company that could eclipse the stature of the first one.
5. Excellent Adventure Spirit Award (to the teammate who shows up prepared for his/her own success, and sets that aside to help others) – Zohar Swaine and Clark Barber, who spent hours helping Steve deal with his injury. See: Could inStream be the Next Big Thing in RIA technology?.
EA 5.0 Adventure team members:
1. Clark Barber (Calif.)
2. Scott Hanson – Hanson McClain Advisors (Calif.)
3. Lori Kahn — TripAdvisor (Calif.)
4. Scott MacKillop – First Ascent Asset Management (Colo.)
5. Jonathan Olver – TD Ameritrade (N.J.)
6. Alex Potts – Loring Ward (Calif.)
7. Chris Riggio – Brightscope (Calif.)
8. Chip Roame – Tiburon Strategic Advisors (Calif.)
9. Jason Roberts – Pension Resource Institute (Calif.)
10. Steve Sanduski – Belay Advisors (Wis.)
11. Skip Schweiss – TD Ameritrade (Colo.)
12. Zohar Swaine – Mink Hollow Advisors (N.Y.)
13. Dan Tobias – Davidson Capital (N.C.)
14. Dave Umstead – Cape Ann Capital (Mass.)
15. Rob Umstead — Three-time Paralympic skiing medalist (Utah)
16. Bill Van Law – Raymond James (Fla.)
17. Aaron Van Reenen — Point B Management Consultants (Wash.)
It’s become our tradition to announce the next year’s trip at our Sunday celebration dinner. Excellent Adventure 6.0 will take place in Kauai, on the Kalalau Trail hike, and on the Napali Coast in kayaks. Inquire if seriously interested.
Skip Schweiss is responsible for TD Ameritrade Institutional’s Retirement Plan Services platform and is also the managing director of Advisor Advocacy & Industry Affairs.