Thursday, June 20, 2013

Other Essential Skills

Post-Everest Press Conference
Learning how to speak the hard way
 Success in an expedition or even outdoor career in general, is not only dependent on one’s climbing or other outdoor ability (and luck). There are various skill sets that one has to hone to bring his or her mountaineering/ climbing/ trekking / exploration trips, or even career to the next level. Learning new things is a continuous process, and although I don’t have many of these skills perfected, I’d like to think that I got ‘basic’ on most and proficient on some.

Let me share my thoughts, opinion and tips;

1. Photography. Not only as proof or documentation - but one has to capture spectacular scenery or ‘moments’ perfectly. When shared – the picture itself may be enough to inspire others. Fortunately, with modern tools and technology, one doesn’t need to be ‘Pro’ in handling complicated SLR plus a ton of lens and filters among many other headache-inducing gadgetry. Not to mention the physical challenge of hauling the stuff. A simple point-and-shoot digital camera, or a small cam with zoom lens is enough to achieve great outdoor photography. Well, at times – a simple color correction in your computer helps especially if the camera can’t compensate for bright subjects typical of snow/ice scenery.  Start with the very basic - learn how to 'frame' or construct images. Lots of trial-and-error experiment will help.

2. Videography. Useful if you plan to produce your own ‘show’, or offer to a TV network, or offer as product to your sponsors. With the introduction of Go-Pro, this requirement just became too easy. With few grams of weight, 2-button operation, optional waterproof casing and super wide lens, high density video, high capacity card – capturing a ridge traverse, a fast downhill run or momentous summit climb just got easier! Of course, if one is shooting wildlife or wanted more flexibility – there’s always the handy cam, a little heavier but still small.

3. Project Management (PM). While some climbers get help from their outfitter or promoter, one still has to plan, execute and manage his or her trip. Going through the requirements for the climb, stakeholders (if any – ex. sponsors/ media), communication needs, survival /medical /emergency, and a ton of things are overwhelming if one is not equipped with basic planning and project management skills. When I plan my trip, I sometimes include complicating (but important) component such as tying up with charitable organization (typical of Climb for a Cause projects), or field-producing for a TV network. And managing tasks to ensure all requirements are planned for – and executed, both the climb and the ‘extra’ work are very daunting! In my case – PM is partly my ‘real work’ in the office so this is a comfortable area for me. Want to get some basics? Enrol in, or other PM course offering.

4. People skills. Travelling and doing trips in some remote parts of the world requires good communication and relational skills. Not that I’m an expert – but experiences in different cultures, and interaction with variety of people helped. It’s not uncommon to see a climber fighting with someone while in a trip – sometimes costing him/her trip itself. For me, the simple rule is – respect for the local tradition and culture. We’re visitors and we don’t want to offend anyone. Learn few local phrases - most will appreciate it. Understand, respect and be flexible with cultural, social and behavioural differences with both locals and co-travelers.

5. Cooking skills. While most climbers/ trekkers/ outdoor survivors can cook – sometimes with arguable quality, one should learn how to cook GOOD and nutritious food. Not to mention tasty lest you lose appetite. Most ‘outfitted’ expeditions will probably have a cook – sometimes one of the guides doubling as chef. But there will be times that either you were left ‘on your own’ (ex. resting long time in a camp), or you’re so pissed with the food/meal that is being served.  During my Everest days, I stayed in the base camp for almost 2 months - and after teaching my cook how to prepare appetite-inducing Pinoy dishes such as Tinola (ginger-based chicken soup), beef steak, adobo (soy and vinegar meat stew) etc.,  I didnt just survive the base camp life but actually enjoyed my meals. Morale boost from good and familiar food is a necessity when one is tackling a difficult objective, especially when far away from home.

6. Communication skills. Well, not so much if you plan to climb solo, or always have an assigned group speaker or always staying at the back scene. But if you’ll take the more complex route of getting sponsors’ support and consequently needing media interaction – it pays to have an (at least) acceptable level of communication and speaking skills. Even writing skills (ex. interview by email). One’s answer doesn’t have to be deep, super smart or comic – just enough to state a clear message about the climb, its purpose or whatever other things of interest about the trip, place or the people involved. I found it easier to verbalize my thoughts when I write about possible questions and their answers. So either start writing, or practice talking to the mirror. Haha!

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