I remember being really young when I first heard the word mountaineer. Somewhere around six years old in grade school at Everest Academy, I had a hard time understanding why on earth our school mascot was a mountaineer. From time to time, my friends and I would complain that we wanted a cool mascot, and that we wanted school colors that weren’t as ugly as black and gold. Surprisingly, here I am thirteen years later, having just completed my first true mountaineering expedition and proudly representing Michigan Tech Cross Country and Track in black and gold apparel.
While tentbound in Patagonia, I had ample time to reflect on all aspects of life. It was toward the end of the expedition when I suddenly made a connection to my mountaineering experience and the concept of an Everest Academy mountaineer. It wasn’t the color scheme associated with the school that struck me- it was the tagline on our crest, that read “Semper Altius,” Latin for “Always Higher.”
Through my Patagonia expedition I learned in a very concrete way what it actually means to be a Semper Altius mountaineer. To me, it has everything to do with cultivating exceptional leadership. Taking initiative to organize group gear, persevering through the worst of weather, being patient with teammates, planning ahead, and maintaining a positive attitude are all among the first things that came to mind as I scribbled thoughts in my pocket journal.
Something that becomes apparent to anyone who embarks on a mountaineering expedition is that you never get to take a break from being a mountaineer while in the field. Day in and day out, you have to constantly take care of gear, the other expedition members, and yourself. It doesn’t matter if you’re super tired, if the blisters on your feet are unbearable, or if your clothes are soaking wet. There are no time outs, no calling your best friend, and no eating your feelings in copious amounts of mac and cheese.
Translating that into everyday leadership, I think that becoming an exceptional leader means accepting that I never get to take breaks from becoming the leader I want to be. For me, it means trying to keep a simple “Semper Altius” awareness about my actions. I am now much more conscious about packing what I need for the day, how I interact with the people around me, and being flexible in situations I can’t control.
It’s without a doubt that mountaineers always want to reach new heights, but they know that enjoying a Snickers on the summit of a never before climbed peak would not be possible without maintaining a Semper Altius attitude throughout their journey to the top. Even though today I’m proud to be a Husky, I for sure remain a Mountaineer at heart.