Europe's highest mountain... Mingi tav (Eternal Mountain), Sacred Mountain, Place of the Happy, a volcano dormant for two millennia. Source of eternal water. A natural wonder, and the scene of a power struggle during WWII... Any way you look at it, Mount Elbrus presents a glorious story and enchanting views.
The Caucasus is one of the most beautiful places on earth with amazing nature. You should prepare yourself mentally and physically before setting out for this natural wonder. Also, make sure to read about the history of Elbrus and show it the respect it deserves. What hurts most is to find that the 2.5-million-year-old mountain has lost half of its glaciers in the past 50 years.The rate at which glaciers are losing mass, which balance the Earth's climate, is alarming. Ice levels at the Arctic and Antarctic circles have diminished to the lowest levels since 1979.
According to NASA, the Arctic’s sea ice maximum extent has dropped by an average of 2.8 percent per decade since 1979. This is the equivalent of having lost a chunk of sea ice larger than Mexico.
On August 21, we set out for Mount Elbrus to get our message across to help fight against the melting of glaciers, a source of life for humans; to shout out from the summit of Europe's highest mountain, "respect the world we live in;" demonstrate Arçelik's sustainability vision and ambition to make it to the top; and gain a better appreciation of what it means to be a team.
It takes proper planning and the right team to achieve any challenging goal, and that goes for scaling 5,642 meters as well. For professionals, this climb may be an exercise prior to scaling a higher summit; however, for us, it's a tough climb, even in summer months. It requires a wide array of special equipment.
Koç Holding Consumer Durables Group President Fatih Ebiçlioğlu leads a 10-person team of business professionals, yet are climbing neophytes. This second summit climb following Kilimanjaro holds a very special meaning for me. My elation is amplified with the addition of my son ‘Dağhan’ to the team. I take courage with the feeling that father and son camaraderie will provide me with strength.
Five days spent on the mountain pushes our bodies and minds to the limits. Elbrus may appear easy, but that gracious mountain can turn into a nightmare, if you fail to prepare properly, and drift off course and target even slightly. You should be prepared for anything and follow a dynamic strategy in the face of fast-changing weather conditions.
The whole team reaches the summit after five days of high-altitude adaptation walks, route/time planning, and the roughest weather conditions. Then, we put Arçelik's message, "Climbing Against Global Warming."
I learned three important lessons from the "Elbrus" experience.
Climbing Against Global Warming: Our world is getting warmer with average temperatures hitting record-high levels. Glaciers are rapidly melting, raising sea levels, and threatening habitats and river deltas. We are losing water sources. Today, storms are much more severe and devastating. I was especially struck when I witnessed first hand how the flora and fauna of the Caucasus are changing. We possess sufficient evidence, data, and means of observation; however, we are wasting time every second we hesitate to act. Everyone has a responsibility to fight global warming, and even the smallest step is a step in the right direction. With a responsibility that comes in being a leading company, Arçelik steadfastly applies a sustainability vision in its products, production, and processes. I have a better appreciation of our crucial efforts to leave a better world for future generations and create awareness.
Aiming for and staying at the top: We want to become the world's top player in this industry with the products and services we offer across the world. In the same fashion, our brands aim for the top with the enthusiasm and determination of a climber. Staying at the top is more difficult than getting there. The mountain is also the most extreme simulation of business life. You learn to get out of your comfort zone and see what you are really made of. These include entering unfamiliar markets, developing new products, creating new business fields, managing processes a lot more differently, and facing challenges fearlessly. The story of Arçelik draws parallels with that of Mount Elbrus in this respect.
Team success: The mountain offers a unique charm and culture. Sharing and solidarity are a part of the climbing culture. Everyone helps each other out, regardless of seniority, position, status, or age differences. Prior to the objective, it's crucial to perform well, plan, create and motivate a team, allocate tasks properly, and collaborate well. Even the slightest issue in collaboration makes things harder and more dangerous for everyone. Changing conditions require fast decision-making. Sometimes, motivation comes from the most unexpected people in the group, because that's what being a team is. I've come to realize that being a father and son is being a team as well. Acting in concert has moved our relationship onto a whole new plane, making this experience exceptional for me.
"It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves," said Sir Edmund Hillary, one of the first two climbers to reach the summit of Mount Everest, to summarize his experience. I dream of new summits with the feeling that with each step, we discover not the mountain, but our own boundaries.
Following Kilimanjaro and Elbrus, our next mountain to climb will be Aconcagua in South America in the winter of 2019.