CHAPTER 2 The VUCA world

Every year during April and May, upwards of 30 commercial mountaineering teams gather at the Nepali and Tibetan base camps of Mount Everest. With most climbers spending between $30 000 and $100 000 to be guided up to the summit, it's a lucrative industry for a region that is otherwise very poor and has over 50 per cent of its population living on less than $2 a day.

During April the groups progressively install camps and fixed lines on the route in preparation for a relatively short but predictable window of calm weather that normally arrives in mid to late May. Outside of these months, virtually no-one climbs on Everest, because extremely strong winds (known as the jetstream) rake the mountain's upper slopes. When (or if) the weather window comes, all of the teams jockey for their shot at the top, resulting sometimes in excess of 100 climbers summiting in one day.

This strategy has been tried and tested over the past decade and a half and has proven to be relatively successful in getting people to the top — the success rate today is approximately 50 per cent (in other words, five ...

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