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Wharton Leadership Ventures 


Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania

Tentative Next Trek:  April - May, 200

Prior Wharton Leadership Treks to the Himalayas

         Bhutan, 2005
         Kangchenjunga, 2004

         Mt. Everest, 2003
         Kangchenjunga, 2002

Mt. Everest, 2001
Mt. Everest, 2000

Mt. Everest, 1999
Mt. Everest, 1998


Past Participants  


Purpose of the Leadership Trek 

Leadership is a capacity that draws on all aspects of yourself and your organization.  Developing a vision, articulating it, and inspiring others to achieve it require not only careful analysis and technical knowledge but also a sense for what is important for the organization and for the people in and around it.  Mastering these abilities is a lifelong endeavor, and the Leadership Trek to Mt. Everest provides an opportunity to continue your leadership development, exercise your body and cross-train your mind, and reflect on your leadership with fellow graduates of the Wharton Executive MBA program and others amongst the awe-inspiring peaks of the Himalayas.  

Images of mountains resonate deeply in cultures around the world; they are symbols of patience and strength, effort and inspiration.  Mountain climbers, like the mountains they climb, hold a central place in modern business and society, a paradigm for how individuals striving for a goal can achieve what others label impossible.  Reaching a summit, however, is usually far more than a personal achievement, for it almost always depends on collective effort, with the contribution of each required for the success of all.  As the Japanese leader of a Mount Fuji society puts it, “The most important thing in climbing is the inner strength to help each other, so that not just the strongest but all the members of the group reach the goal.”“ 

The seminar trek uses mountains, mountaineering, and trekking as powerful cross-cultural metaphors to expand and deepen our understanding of leadership and teamwork: 

·        How have expeditions to Everest, Annapurna, K2 and other Himalayan peaks built the leadership and teamwork required to reach the summit – or to retreat safely when good judgment suggests they should?  

·        How do non-Western ways of approaching mountains reveal different possibilities of leading and working together as a team? 

·        Can the mysterious hidden valleys of Tibetan lore, some resembling the fictional Shangri-La of James Hilton’s novel, Lost Horizon, help us understand the underlying purpose of leadership and teamwork? 

·        What does it mean to reach a summit?  What have we achieved?  What should be next? 


We fly to Kathmandu, capital of Nepal, and then to Lukla in the Mt. Everest region.  From there, we trek by foot up legendary valleys toward Mt. Everest, visiting the Buddhist monastery at Tengboche and reaching a lookout at Chukhung Ri, a peak of 18,238 feet beneath Lhotse, the world’s fourth highest mountain (after Everest, K2, and Kangchenjunga).  The views from Chukhung Ri and points on the way are stunning. 


Edwin Bernbaum is author, lecturer, scholar, mountaineer, and experienced trek leader.  Ed holds a doctoral degree in Asian Studies from the University of California, Berkeley, where he is a Research Associate.  A member of the World Conservation Union, he directs the Sacred Mountains Program at The Mountain Institute with projects at Mount Rainier, Rocky Mountain, and Great Smoky Mountains National Parks.  He is the author of The Way to Shambhala: A Search for the Mythical Kingdom Beyond the Himalayas (Shambhala Publications, 2001), a study of Tibetan myths and legends of hidden valleys, and of the award-winning Sacred Mountains of the World (University of California Press, 1998), which was the basis for an exhibit of his photographs at the Smithsonian Institution.  A past instructor at the Colorado Outward Bound School and a member of the American Alpine Club, Ed has done extensive research on the role of mountain metaphors in leadership and has climbed, trekked, and led groups in mountains around the world.  He consults and lectures widely on mountains, creativity, leadership, and teamwork to organizations such as the American Museum of Natural History, AACSB (International Association for Management Education), the National Geographic Society, the Smithsonian Institution, and Sprint Corporation.  Tel.: 510-527-1229.  E-mail:

Michael Useem is William and Jacalyn Egan Professor of Management and Director of the Center for Leadership and Change Management at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.  Mike is author of Leading Up: How to Lead Your Boss So You Both Win (Crown Books/Random House, 2001), The Leadership Moment: Nine True Stories of Triumph and Disaster and Their Lessons for Us All (Random House, 1998), Investor Capitalism: How Money Managers Are Changing the Face of Corporate America (Basic Books/HarperCollins, 1996) and Executive Defense: Shareholder Power and Corporate Reorganization (Harvard University Press, 1993).  He has consulted on organizational development with companies, U.S. Agency for International Development, U.N. organizations, and other agencies in the Latin America, Asia, and Africa.  His university teaching includes MBA and executive-MBA courses on leadership and change, he offers programs for managers in the U.S., Asia, Europe, and Latin America, and he has climbed in the Alps, Cascades, Sierras, Tetons, and East Africa.   Tel.: 215-898-7684.  E-mail:   

Ang Jangbu Sherpa:  In Nepal, our trek is organized and supported by Ang Jangbu Sherpa, one of the most experienced trekking and climbing guides in the Himalayas.  He is a partner and director of Great Escapes, a premier trekking and climbing organizations in Nepal.  Educated at the Sir Edmund Hillary Schools in the villages of Phortse and Khumjung (we will visit both villages), Jangbu summited Mt. Everest on the 1990 American Everest Expedition.  His other expeditions include the 1981 American Medical Research Expedition to Everest, the first Belgian Expedition to Dhaulagiri in 1982 (where he summited), the 1983 American Men & Women’s Everest Expedition (led by Geographic Expeditions President Jim Sano), the 1986 American Everest Hang Gliding Expedition, the 1991 American Everest Expedition, and the 1992 British Makalu Expedition.  Ang Jangbu has climbed Europe’s Mt. Blanc and most of the 14,000 foot peaks in Colorado, and has served as instructor for Colorado Outward Bound.  In 1999, Ang Jangbu and Great Escapes provided support to the Mallory & Irvine Research Expedition that discovered George Mallory’s remains on Mt. Everest.  E-mail:   

Evan Wittenberg is the Director of the Wharton Leadership Program.  He has responsibility for the core MBA course Foundations of Leadership and Teamwork, and teaches in the MBA program.  Evan’s work focuses on change management and leadership development.  An avid world traveler and outdoorsman, his most recent summits include Kilimanjaro (Tanzania, 19,340 ft.) and Cotopaxi (Ecuador, 19,347 ft.).  Never shy of a good physical challenge, Evan is a black belt and instructor in full contact karate, and plays rugby with the Wharton Wharthogs.  He is an MBA graduate of the Wharton School.  Tel.: 215-573-0590.  E-mail:



Geographic Expeditions, one of the leading American outfitters for treks of this kind, is preparing and supporting the trip.  Sanjay Saxena and Vivi Mayer are responsible for our trip (800-777-8183,,, and Herbert Fong ( helps arrange travel to Nepal.  In Nepal, Great Escapes provides our direct trekking support. 


The trip entails much up and downhill movement on mountain trails for six to seven hours per day.  We begin at an elevation of 9,300 feet and reach more than 18,000 feet at our high points.  Participants should follow a good aerobic and stair climbing program or engage in frequent hiking in hilly country prior to the trip.  Extreme conditioning is not required, but a vigorous conditioning program should be followed to ensure that you comfortably master the terrain, and you must not be over-weight.  For the sake of the group and your own enjoyment, it is very important to be in good shape at the start.  The trek involves no technical mountaineering, and it does not use ropes, crampons or other climbing equipment.  


We emphasize continuous learning on the trail through daily pre-planned seminars and many unanticipated events on the trail.  Most days have a noontime seminar on a topic related to leadership and teamwork, and an evening discussion generally related to the day’s experience and plans for the next day.  We devote time to considering leadership and team dynamics on the historic climbs of Mt. Everest, Annapurna and other peaks, across organizations and cultures, and within our own trekking party, and we draw out the lessons for leadership and teamwork in our work and personal lives.   We meet with monks at the Tengboche monastery and officials of Sagarmatha (Mt. Everest) National Park, and engage with sherpas along the way.  We are sure to encounter a number of unanticipated events on the trail.  During the past four years, for instance, we have met a number of climbers who had just summitted Mt. Everest.  

From time to time our group is divided into sub-groups for trekking and discussion during part of the day to provide more opportunities for personal engagement, but we re-gather for all meals and evening events.  


Two trek participants take responsibility for each day’s events.  They lead the mid-day seminar and the evening discussion, and they carry responsibilities for the day’s goal setting, special challenges, logistical issues, teamwork concerns, organizational dilemmas, and personal problems ranging from irritation to illness.  They meet with the venture organizers the day before their day of responsibility to review plans and challenges for the following day, and during the evening discussion prior to their day, they outline the next day’s departure times, itinerary, and preparations.   During the evening discussion of their day, they describe the challenges in the day’s leadership experience. 


Participants are encouraged to create plans for entrepreneurial ventures and development projects for the Khumbu region, and awards for the best plans are presented at the trek’s final dinner and celebration in Kathmandu on the final evening.  Among the projects proposed on past treks are the introduction of solar power for the spinning of prayer wheels along the trail and an investment in the development of athletic facilities of a primary school in the village of Phortse.  


Information on Mt. Everest and its region can be found at several web sites:

Mt. Everest News 

Mt. Everest in the Mountain Zone

Mt. Everest Net

Nepal Photo Index 

Nepal News Online

Nova Online | Lost on Everest
: The Search for Mallory and Irvine 

Tengboche Monastery 

Trekking in Nepal


Books and articles on leadership, teamwork, trekking, mountaineering, Himalayan lore, and Nepalese culture are usefully read as preparation for the trek.  Everybody should independently purchase and read Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster. (Villard/Random House, 1997).

The trek reader includes the following articles and book excerpts: 

Jamie McGuinness, Trekking in the Everest Region.  Surrey, U.K.: Trailblazer Publications, 1998 (3rd Edition), pp. 146-177.   

Edwin Bernbaum, Sacred Mountains of the World.  Berkeley, Ca.: University of California Press, 1998, Introduction (pp. xiii-xxii) and Chapter 1, “The Himalayas: Abode of the Sacred” (pp. 2-23)., The World’s 14 Highest Mountain Peaks., Quotes on Everest. 

National Outdoor Leadership School, Leadership Education Toolbox.  Lander, Wyoming:  National Outdoor Leadership School, 2000, pp. 30-32 and 40-42. 

Maurice Herzog, Annapurna: First Conquest of an 8000-meter Peak. New York: Dutton, 1997.  Foreword; Ch. 1 “Preparations”; Ch.12, “The Assault”; Ch. 13, “The Third of June”; Ch. 14, “The Crevasse”; Ch. 15, “The Avalanche”; Ch. 17, “The Woods of Lete”; Ch. 20, “There Are Other Annapurnas.” 

Arlene Blum, Annapurna: A Woman’s Place. San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1998 (20th anniversary edition), Chapter 7, “The Mountain Gods,” pp. 96-108.  

David Roberts, “Rewriting Annapurna?”  Climbing Magazine, December 15, 1997 – February 1, 1998, pp. 72-78. 

Edwin Bernbaum, The Way to Shambala: The Search for the Mythical Kingdom Beyond the Himalayas. Garden City, N.Y.: Anchor Press/Doubleday, 1980, Ch. 1, “Behind the Ranges”; Ch. 3, “The Hidden Valleys”; Ch. 5, “The Wheel of Time.” 

Excerpts from Buddhist Scriptures, Edward Conze, translator.  New York: Viking Press, 1959 reprint.  

Sherry B. Ortner, Life and Death on Mt. Everest: Sherpas and Himalayan Mountaineering.  Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999.  Chapter 3, “Sherpas” 

Christoph von Furer-Haimendorff, The Sherpas of Nepal: Buddhist Highlanders. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1964, pp. 281-283. 

Edwin Bernbaum, compiler, Mountain Passages. 

Thomas F. Hornbein, Everest, The West Ridge. New York: Mountaineers Books, 1998, excerpts.  

Trip Gabriel, “Scaling Corporate Heights Without Going Over a Cliff,” New York Times, June 1, 1997, p. F 10. 

Bowen McCoy, “The Parable of the Sadhu,” Harvard Business Review, September-October, 1983, pp. 103-108. 

Excerpts from The Song of God: The Bhagavad Gita.  Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood, translators.  New York: New American Library, 1987. 

Excerpts from The Way of Life According to Lao Tzu, Witter Bynner, translator. New York: Berkeley Publishing Group, 1986 reprint. 

Merck and River Blindness. 

We recommend reading John Gardner’s On Leadership (Free Press, 1993) and Mike Useem’s The Leadership Moment: Nine True Stories of Triumph and Disaster and Their Lessons for Us All (Random House, 1998) as general foundations for thinking about leadership.  We also recommend, time permitting, the full books by Arlene Blum, Maurice Herzog, and Thomas Hornbein cited above.  You may wish to purchase Ngawang Tenzin Zangbu and Frances Klatzel’s Stories and Customs of the Sherpas online or in Kathmandu (Kathmandu: Mera Publications, 2000). 


Himal jane bela ayo!
Nepalese: It’s time to go to the Himalayas. 

Tanda ngantso kangrila dro goyö.
Tibetan: Now we must go to the glacial snow mountains (the Himalayas). 

Day 1: Kathmandu (4,590 feet)     
Travel: Many trekkers arrive in Kathmandu by early afternoon, though some may have come a day or two earlier.  The afternoon is free to explore the winding lanes and ancient courtyards of Kathmandu.  Late in the afternoon we are briefed by Ang Jangbu Sherpa of Great Escapes on the logistics of the trek, with details on transportation, weather, and the Sherpa team.  Staying at the Shangrila Hotel, our first evening discussion is held over dinner.  

Reading: Jamie McGuinness, Trekking in the Everest Region, pp. 146-177. 

Evening discussion: Trekking, Leadership, and Teamwork 

Self-introductions, the purpose of the trek, personal reasons for joining the trek, and building a trekking team.  Future prizes are announced for participants who can name all of the world’s fourteen 8,000-meter peaks and who know the names of all of our sherpa guides by dinner of our first evening in the village of Dingboche.

day 2: PHAKDING (8,700 feet) 

Trek: Morning transfer to Kathmandu Airport for the flight to Lukla, a landing strip hewn out of the rocky mountainside at an elevation of 9,350 feet.  Due to the unpredictable nature of mountain weather, delays can occur.  The flight path is parallel to the Himalayas, and the great massifs of Gaurishankar, Men­lungtse, and Cho Oyu are visible.  The Sherpa team is waiting for us at Lukla, and when all is ready, we set forth on a broad trail leading down to the Dudh Kosi River.  From here, the trail leads along the east bank, gradually gaining elevation to the vil­lage of Phakding, where the first night’s camp is made. 

Lunch seminar: Mountain Lore and Metaphor 

Trekking and climbing provide natural metaphors for moving through a corporate environment and attaining personal and organizational goals.  By examining the variety of ways people approach mountains, we can use mountains as metaphors to help us find new and more creative ways of dealing with problems in the office or at home.  Discussion establishes a framework for relating experiences on the trek to issues of leadership and teamwork in the workplace.  We look during the days that follow to identify a mountain that best represents the work career and personal course that lie ahead for each of us. 

Reading: Ed Bernbaum, Sacred Mountains of the World, Introduction and Chapter 1, “The Himalayas”; Quotes on Mt. Everest.  

Exercise: We begin by focusing on our destination ahead.  During the next phase of the exercise, we focus on what is around us.  Finally, we imagine a place or activity where we would like to be or be doing if we were not trekking into one of the great mountain landscapes on earth.  With this experience, our evening discussion is devoted to issues of strategic planning, goal setting, process, personal inspiration, and responding to changing situations and evolving conditions. 

Evening discussion:  Setting the stage:  Debriefing on the day, what lies ahead, a report on the day’s leadership experience, a reporting by all on their physical and health conditions, and an introduction to all of the members of the Sherpa team (we present trek shirts to each).  

Reading: National Outdoor Leadership School, Leadership Education Toolbox, excerpts. 

day 3: NAMCHE BAZAR (ll,300 feet)   

Trek: A long and challenging day with many ups and downs from Phakding to Namche, with and extended and steep hill trail leading into Namche.  Along the trail are vil­lages ­interspersed with forests of rhodo­dendron, magnolia trees, and giant firs.  Towards the end of the day, about half-way up the final hill to Namche, we find our first views of the snowed-capped summits of Lhotse (27,916 feet) and Mt. Everest (29,035 feet).   The town of Namche is the largest and most prosperous in the Khumbu region of Nepal.  Historically, it was the trading center where grain from the south was exchanged for salt from Tibet, and it remains the main trading center of the region today. 

Lunch seminar: Leadership, Decisions, and Risk  

We use excerpts Maurice Herzog’s and Arlene Blum’s books on Annapurna to discuss the extent to which the leader should become directly engaged in the daily work of the organization, and how they make decisions and manage risk.   

Maurice Herzog’s climb of Annapurna is unusual in that it offers one of the few examples of the leader of a large expedition actually going to the top and making a first ascent.  Given what happened to Herzog and others on the way down, would they have been better off if he had stayed below in a better command post where he could have communicated and coordinated evacuation efforts more effectively?  On the other hand, did his act of leading to the top prove critical in motivating and guiding the team on the way up?  

In Arlene Blum’s expedition, she does not go for the top for herself, but four others do succeed in reaching it.  Then, two others set out for a second ascent despite Blum’s misgivings and her cautioning against it.  The two never return.  Should – and could – Blum and others on the expedition have prevented the twosome’s fateful decision to go for the summit?  

Readings: Chapters from Maurice Herzog, Annapurna, and Arlene Blum, Annapurna:A Woman’s Place 

Exercise:  Today the two leaders experiment with walking at the front of the group, in the middle, and at the rear, focusing on the pros and cons of each for team leadership, both on the trail and in the work world.  On succeeding days, the two leaders experiment with this and other approaches, and the day’s experience becomes part of each evening’s discussion.  

Evening discussion:  Divergent Participant Accounts of Shared Events 

Why was Maurice Herzog’s account of his historic climb of Annapurna different from the memories of some of the other expedition members?  More generally, what explains why participants in the same set of events often have such different memories of them or create such different accounts of about them?  

Reading:  David Roberts, “Rewriting Annapurna?”  

 Monastery at Tengboche

 day 4: TENGBOCHE (l2,670 feet) 

Trek: After a level stretch, the trail from Namche drops down to the Dudh Kosi, a gushing river.  Crossing the river at Phunki Tenga, we climb a long, hillside trail to the saddle at the top of the hill to Tengboche Monastery. 

Tengboche offers one of the most stunning panoramas in the Himalaya – Tawoche (2l,463 feet), Nuptse (25,843 feet), Mt. Everest (29,035 feet), Lhotse (27,9l6 feet), Ama Dablam (22,493 feet), Kangtega (22,235 feet), Thamserku (2l,806 feet), and Kwande (20,806 feet).  Founded some fifty years ago by Lama Gulu, the monastery is the main spiritual center of the Khumbu.  The main temple was destroyed by an earthquake in l933, was reconstructed and again destroyed by a fire in 1989, and, with the assistance of many trekkers, the monastery has once again been rebuilt. 

Buddhism is believed to have been introduced into the Khumbu towards the end of the 17th century by Lama Sange Dorje, the fifth of the reincarnate lamas of the Rongbuk Monastery in Tibet on the other side of Mt. Everest.  According to local legend, Sange Dorje flew over the Himalayas and landed on rocks at Pangboche and Tengboche, where he left his footprints. 

Lunch seminar and evening discussion: The Buddhist Path to Awakening 

A survey of the nature and history of Buddhism as preparation for understanding and appreciating our experience of Tengboche, and as a basis for approaching Eastern conceptions of action and leadership.  

Readings: Ed Bernbaum, The Way to Shambhala, Chapter 5, “The Wheel of Time,” and selections from Buddhist Scriptures 

Exercise: We become acquainted with basic techniques of relaxation and meditation and explore their possible applications and benefits for those in stressful leadership positions.  We also examine their relevance for doing business in Asian cultures, such as Japan, China, and India.  

day 5: TENGBOCHE (l2,670 feet) 

Morning:  Weather permitting, a climb at dawn up the lower slopes of Kangtega for a commanding view of Tengboche and the surrounding peaks, including Khumbila, Ama Dablam, and Mt. Everest.   

Meeting:  Tibetan Buddhism and Spiritual Leadership.   

Discussion with the Tengboche Rimpoche, abbot of the monastery, and his monks on life at a monastery and the role of spiritual leadership in business and society.  We visit the gomba or temple and discuss Tibetan art and its relationship to Buddhist thought and practice.  We also look at cultural, educational and other projects at Tengboche funded by the Himalayan Trust and the American Himalayan Foundation.  Later in the day, we make an optional visit to a medical clinic and a nunnery in the nearby settlement of Deboche.  

Lunch seminar and evening discussion:  Divergent Conceptions of Leadership and Teamwork. 

Sherpas traditionally elect people to serve as village heads only if they do not aggressively seek the position.  Anybody who wants the job for personal benefit is viewed as unfit to serve the community.  Discussion with sirdar Ang Jangbu Sherpa – our sherpa leader – on sherpa conceptions of leadership and teamwork, and how they differ from Western ideals.  This leads to a more general examination of divergent conceptions of leadership in non-Western cultures.  During the evening we discuss the meeting with the Tengboche Rimpoche and our impressions of the Tengboche Monastery.  

Readings:  Christoph von Furer-Haimendorff, The Sherpas of Nepal, excerpt; Sherry Ortner, Life and Death on Mt. Everest, Chapter 3, “Sherpas.”

Exercise:  Each of us selects an inspirational passage from "Mountain Passages" in the reader -- or a passage of our own choosing -- and goes off in the afternoon to a scenic spot to contemplate the view in light of the chose passage, going back and forth from mountain to text.  We discuss our impressions afterward and relate the experience to the role of inspiration and renewal in leadership. 

day 6: DINGBOCHE (14,150 feet): 

Trek:  Passing through Deboche, the path climbs gradually to Pangboche, the location of a gompa built some 300 years ago at the time Buddhism was introduced into the Khumbu.  Climbing steadily, the route follows the Imja Khola high above the river.  As the valley opens, we cross a tributary stream coming from the Khumbu Glacier and hike straight on to the stone village of Dingboche surrounded by fields of wheat, one of the highest year-round settlements of the region.   

Exercise:  Teams are formed for the day’s hike, and each team creates a name, slogan, logo, theme, joke, and song for a dinner-time presentation.

Lunch seminar: Alternative Paths to the Top  

In Thomas Hornbein’s Everest: The West Ridge, an account of the first American ascent of Everest and the first-ever ascent of its West Ridge in 1963, we see two objectives and two kinds of leadership and teamwork at work: those who choose the unclimbed but less certain West Ridge and those who choose the previously climbed but more certain regular route via the South Col.  The former is achieved by a small group in “alpine” style, the latter through a large team effort in “siege” or “assault” manner.  What are the distinctive styles of leadership and teamwork required to make small teams and large organizations successful? 

Reading:  Thomas Hornbein, Everest: The West Ridge, excerpts.  

Evening discussion:  Reaching the Summit and Getting Back. 

Did George Mallory and Andrew Irvine reach the summit of Mt. Everest on the afternoon of June 8, 1924?  What accounts for the immense interest in whether they did reach the summit?  What defines reaching a summit, and why is that so important in mountaineering – and in management?  What are the pitfalls and dangers of getting to the top and then down from it, both in climbing and business?  How can we better anticipate and plan for problems? 

We plan our goals and logistics for the next day.  Some trekkers will aim for the summit of Chukhung Ri, others for other destinations.  How can teams within your organization seek alternative route to the same – or perhaps even different goals – without undermining the objectives of one another or the whole?  

Prizes are presented to those who identify all fourteen of the world’s 8,000-meter peaks and all of our Sherpa guides. 

Readings: David Roberts, “Out of Thin Air: 75 Years Later, Everest Finally Gives up Mallory’s Ghost.” 

day 7: DINGBOCHE TO CHUKHUNG (15,514 feet) AND ABOVE  

Trek: The trail from Dingboche is ill‑defined but follows the main line of the valley ascending gently.  We see Ama Dablam and the high ridges leading to the Amphu Labtsa pass on the right and the massive southern flanks of Nuptse on the left  Leaving by 3 AM, we requires several hours to reach the high village of Chukhung.  As dawn breaks, the trail leads across mixed rubble and grassland, and the famous south faces of Nuptse and Lhotse loom above.  After a brief tea and coffee break at Chukhung, many set out for one or both of the two summits of Chukhung Ri (the 17,772 feet and 18,238 feet).  Others set out for vistas on a high plateau along the way up to Chukhung Ri. 

Evening discussion: Leadership, Teamwork, and Responsibility When It Really Counts 

What went right – and what went wrong – on the fateful day of May 10, 1996 when three climbing expeditions, simultaneously nearing the summit of Mt. Everest, are hit by a violent storm?  

The evening discussion is also devoted to a reporting of the day’s experiences by the various groups, and a planning for the next day’s several options.  

Readings: Jon Krakauer, Into Thin Air; Trip Gabriel, “Scaling Corporate Heights Without Going Over a Cliff.”   

day 8: exploration of dingboche region 

Trek: Following decisions made at dinner the evening before, groups may set out for several destinations, including Nangkartshang Peak above Dingboche, lakes nestled at the foot of Ama Dablam, the base camps for Island Peak or Taboche, or toward the high pass of Amphu Labtsa.  

If the weather is not clear the day before, we reverse the itinerary and do the preceding on May 10 and climb Chukhung Ri today.  This increases the likelihood of open vistas on the high point of our trek. 

Evening discussion:  What is our obligation and responsibility for assisting those who are faltering around us?  Arlene Blum writes about her discomfort in unloading tons of goods and expensive equipment in front of children with bare feet.  Is there an obligation of the fortunate to aid the less fortunate, and if so when?  Did Buzz McCoy do or not do the right thing when he encountered the freezing Sadhu near the high pass not far from Annapurna?  Did Anatoli Boukreev, Rob Hall, Scott Fischer, and others take the right actions in assisting others in distress as the storm enveloped Mt. Everest late on the afternoon of May 10, 1996? 

Readings: Bowen McCoy, “The Parable of the Sadhu”; Jon Krakauer, Into Thin Air.  


day 9: PHORTSE (12,467 feet): 

Trek: Pass through Pheriche and reach the village of Phortse, the home of our sirdar (lead sherpa), Ang Jangbu Sherpa.  Along the way, we visit sacred forests that have enjoyed greater protection than other forest areas in Khumbu and examine why this has been the case.  During the evening, we visit a nearby school assisted by Sir Edmund Hillary and to which prior Wharton trekkers have made financial contributions (see   

Lunch seminar and evening discussion: Leadership in a Multi-Cultural World 

Starting from our earlier of Sherpa conceptions of leadership and teamwork, we go on to explore these issues in Indian, Chinese, and Japanese cultures and how they influence the way we do business across cultures in general.  What relevance do the Bhagavad Gita’s conceptions of selfless action and Lao Tzu’s ideal of invisible leadership have in today’s world, both in our work and personal lives? 

Readings: Excerpts from the Bhagavad Gita and from The Way of Life According to Lao Tzu.  

day 10:
NAMCHE BAZAR (ll,300 feet) 

Trek: Traverse several trails to Namche and the surrounding region, with some groups possibly visiting the villages of Khumjung and Kunde (the location of the region’s main medical clinic), the Everest View Hotel, and the hostel for Phortse students that is under construction with donations from participants on prior Wharton treks.     

Lunch seminar: Divergent Concepts of Mountains, Money, and Responsibility 

Westerners often view mountains as an objects to be conquered, while many Nepalese see mountains as sacred places not to be disturbed.  U.S. companies operate across national boundaries, and they frequently encounter enormous disparities in wealth and wage rates.  How well should you compensate your factory or office workers in a third-world country?  Do you have an obligation to assist people who are destitute?  Did Merck do the right thing in committing itself to donating Mectizan for treating river blindness forever?  

Reading: Merck and River Blindness 

Evening meeting and discussion: Conservation and Environmental Leadership 

We may have a visit from the warden and others at the headquarters of Sagarmatha National Park (a World Heritage site).  We examine questions of sustainable development, environmental protection, and the differing roles of national parks and conservation efforts in developing countries and the U.S.  We also consider the role of culture in preserving the environment and how business leaders can contribute. 

day 11: LUKLA (9,350 feet) 

Trek: The track is the same trail used on the first day from Phakding to Namche.  We check into a hotel adjacent to the airstrip.    

Lunch seminar: The Myths and Mysteries of Modern Life  

Beliefs and assumptions, both true and false, underlie almost every facet of modern life, functioning for us as myths do for people in traditional cultures.  Elaborated in the form of stories, theories and ideas, they shape the ways we think, feel and perceive ourselves and the world around us.  We explore Himalayan legends – including Hilton’s Shangri-La – and the myths of our own work world to examine the ways they shape our behavior and the ways in which they can be used to shape the behavior of others. 

Reading: Ed Bernbaum’s The Way to Shambhala, excerpts. 

Evening discussion:  We review our experiences during the trek, focusing on the leadership and teamwork implications our work and careers back home. 

Evening celebration:  Most of the sherpas remain in the Khumbu region, and we celebrate the end of our trip with them through sherpa songs and dance – and American songs and dance.  


Travel: Morning flight from Lukla to Kathmandu.  Due to the unpredictable nature of mountain weather, the flight may not depart on schedule, but if it does, afternoon options include swimming at the Hotel Shangrila, exploring and shopping in the Kathmandu, and biking in the Kathmandu valley. 

Evening discussion:  A representative of the Mountain Institute in Kathmandu may lead an illustrated discussion of the Institute’s varied programs in Nepal and Tibet, including the creation of an international wildlife preserve around Mt. Everest.   

day 13: KATHMANDU 

Day:  An early morning flight over Mt. Everest may be taken very early today or tomorrow morning.  Optional visits to old Kathmandu and drive to the Buddhist stupa of Swayambhunath – the mythical origin of Kathmandu.  We can roam the city’s medieval streets, bargain for arts and crafts, and visit Durbar Square, Hanuman Dhoka, the Royal Palace, and the Temple of the Living Goddess.  Visits to the nearby towns of Patan and Bhaktapur, shopping in Kathmandu, and mountain biking in the hills around Kathmandu valley are among the other options.  

Evening celebration: Lasting lessons from the Himalayas, and awards for the best entrepreneurial and development plans prepared during the trek.  

day 14: return to the u.s.  

Morning tour:  Breakfast at Mike’s Café and further touring and shopping in Kathmandu. 

Travel: Many of the trekkers depart in early afternoon for Bangkok, while others remain in Nepal or travel to India, Tibet, or elsewhere. 


Most of the suggested books are available through online booksellers. 

Leadership, Teamwork, and Mountaineering 

Conrad Anker and David Roberts, The Lost Explorer: Finding Mallory on Mt. Everest.  New York: Simon & Schuster, 1999. 

Warren Bennis and Patricia Ward Biederman, Organizing Genius: The Secrets of Creative Collaboration.  Reading, Ma.: Addison-Wesley, 1997.   

Edwin Bernbaum, Sacred Mountains of the World.  Berkeley, Ca.: University of California Press, 1998.

Anatoli Boukreev and G. Weston Dewalt, The Climb: Tragic Ambitions on Everest. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1997.  

David Breashears and Audrey Salkeld, Last Climb: The Legendary Everest Expeditions of George Mallory.  Washington: National Geographic Society, 1999.    

Jim Collins, Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t. New York: HarperBusiness, 2001.

Roger Frison-Roche and Sylvain Jouty, A History of Mountain Climbing. New York: Flammarion. Trans. Deke Dusinberre, 1996. 

Lene Gammelgaard, Climbing High: A Woman’s Account of Surviving the Everest Tragedy.  Seattle: Seal Press, 1999.   

Howard Gardner, Leading Minds: An Anatomy of Leadership.  New York: Basic Books, 1995.  

John Gardner, On Leadership.  New York: Free Press, 1993.

Jochen Hemmleb, Larry A. Johnson, and Eric R. Simonson, Ghosts of Everest: The Search for Mallory & Irvine.  Seattle: The Mountaineers Books, 1999. 

Thomas F. Hornbein, Everest, The West Ridge. New York : Mountaineers Books,  1998.   

Jamling Tenzing Norgay, Touching My Father's Soul: A Sherpa's Journey to the Top of Everest. New York: Harper San Francisco, 2001.

Michael Useem, Leading Up: How to Lead Your Boss So You Both Win.  New York: Crown Books/Random House, 2001.

Culture and History (in addition to those suggested by Geographic Expeditions) 

Witter Bynner, trans., The Way of Life According to Lao Tzu. New York: Berkeley Publishing Group, 1986 reprint. 

James F. Fisher, Sherpas: Reflections on Change in Himalayan Nepal. Berkeley & Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1990. 

Margaret Jefferies, Mount Everest National Park: Sagarmatha Mother of the Universe.  Seattle: Mountaineers Books, 1991. 

Mary-Jo O’Rourke and Bimal Shrestha, Lonely Planet Nepali Phrasebook.  Oakland, Ca.: Lonely Planet Publications, 1996 (3rd edition).  

Swami Pradhavananda and Christopher Isherwood, translators, The Song of God: Bhagavad-Gita. New York: New American Library, 1993. 

Philip Rawson, Sacred Tibet. Thames & Hudson, 1991. 

Andrea Matles Savada, ed., Nepal and Bhutan: Country Studies, 3rd Edition. Claitors Publishing Division, 1993. 

Stanley F. Stevens, Claiming the High Ground: Sherpas, Subsistence and Environmental Change in the Highest Himalaya. 1993, Berkeley: University of California Press. 

Ngawang Tenzin Zangbu (Abbot of Tengboche) and Frances Klatzel, Stories and Customs of the Sherpas, 3rd Edition. Kathmandu: Mandala Book Point, 1995. 

Guide Books 

Stan Armington, Lonely Planet Trekking in the Nepal Himalaya.  Oakland, Ca.: Lonely Planet Publications, 1997 (7th edition).  

Stephen Bezruchka, Trekking in Nepal: A Travelers Guide, 7th Edition. Seattle: The Mountaineers, 1997. 

Lisa Choegyal, ed., Insight Guides: Nepal. Boston: Houghton Mifflin (for APA), 1997.

Hugh Finlay, Richard Everist, and Tony Wheeler, Nepal: A Lonely Planet Survival Kit.  Oakland, Ca.: Lonely Planet Publications, 1997 (3rd edition), pp. 126-188. 

© Wharton Leadership Ventures, 1998-2005.

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