And as extreme as scaling Everest and other huge peaks might seem, it's not exactly a rare hobby among founders. Just ask Adrian Ballinger, an alpinist and CEO of Alpenglow Expeditions, a leading provider of guided expeditions to the world's most fearsome mountains.
When I asked him whether he often leads fellow entrepreneurs on climbs, he responded, "All the time," explaining, "I think entrepreneurial types are naturally drawn to the challenges of big mountain climbing. They like the uncertainty, the intense physical and mental effort, the team aspect, and the clear goal."
But according to Ballinger the sheer thrill of reaching such a summit isn't the only reason entrepreneurs should consider trying out this most extreme of extreme sports. (The biggest fallacy about mountaineering, according to Ballinger? "That climbing Everest is now easy, and anyone can do it.") Despite the sometimes deadly challenges, mountain climbing has incredibly valuable lessons to teach business owners, Ballinger contends.
The toughest test of decision making
"The decision-making process that happens in the mountains has so many similarities to business," he says, continuing:
"We have intense personal goals (summiting), a key team goal (getting everyone home safely), and everyday small things go wrong that if not dealt with will cause failure. We have to make daily decisions big and small, usually without all the information we wish we had for a clear picture. Making decisions in that environment takes confidence and experience, but also the ability to acknowledge being wrong, and when we need to correct course."
A great team is the difference between success and death.
There's also nothing like an ascent of a monster mountain like Everest to teach you the value of a great team, Ballinger insists. On such an expedition your "team makes and breaks your success. There is no way to accomplish big climbs in the Himalayas without a support team," he stresses.
"Finding the right partners, and then building trust and experience with them so we understand each other's strengths and weaknesses, is key to succeeding. I've found the same thing in business."
Setbacks can be energizing.
Finally, Ballinger points to his own experience as a business owner to highlight one of the biggest lessons entrepreneurs will learn from mountaineering-- you will fail sometimes, but you have more resilience than you'd ever imagine.
"In 12 years Alpenglow Expeditions has grown from just me guiding a few clients to dozens of trips every year around the world. My strength to stay true to our company's values and pour energy into an amazing team of guides, support staff and clients comes from experiences I've had on the world's tallest mountains. Setbacks and failure don't stop me like they used to. They motivate me," he says.
Oh, and it's fun.
Plus, in addition to these serious personal-development and business-boosting reasons for facing off against the likes of Everest, there's also one more important reason entrepreneurs often take up mountaineering, according to Ballinger.
"The fun of it is key," he underlines. "Having stellar experiences in a beautiful place with like-minded people is pretty sweet."
What's your personal take, is mountaineering death-wish lunacy or a sublime test of human will? And would you personally like to try climbing Mt. Everest?