* Basics are fundamental to better judgment and decisions *
On 1st May 2021, I am going to conduct a session that introduces a series of sessions I am doing in collaboration with the retail outlet ‘Great Outdoors’ based out of central Mumbai. The title of the series is ‘Gear Up’. For a start, we have planned three sessions on distinct topics which are significant to hiking at high altitude.
The first session will introduce the topics of the subsequent three ‘Gear-Up’ sessions: ‘Acclimatisation’, ‘Managing in Cold Weather Conditions’, and ‘Gear Choice and Use’. The presentation, done with the aid of slides, will state details about information covered under each topic, structure of each session and an idea of tips on safe practices that will help people significantly enhance their enjoyment in the outdoors. Each session will conclude with a question-answer section. Participants will get to interact with me (Shantanu Pandit) and Parag Lagu of ‘Great Outdoors’, the retail business.
You can click here to book your seat on sessions that you want to attend.
Why this series?
When one joins an acclaimed institution, one comes across an extremely rich institutional experience. And that is what happened when I successfully completed the instructor course conducted by the National Outdoor Leadership School, U.S.A. (NOLS) in the summer of 2000, and started working field courses. Paul Petzoldt, founder of NOLS, wanted to teach students safe camping skills that contributed to enjoyment, and minimised impact on the natural environment. This sounds obvious and almost simplistic, but when one considers the scope and range that NOLS courses cover the complexity of all that needs to be undertaken to create responsible outdoor leaders becomes apparent. The NOLS leadership model outlines seven leadership skills and four leadership roles, and each course runs strictly according to practices advised by the Leave No Trace Principles. There is a leadership progression through the weeks where students get more and more adept at outdoor skills and leadership, gaining increasing confidence through practicing what they are learning. These courses invite academic college credit, and NOLS has been consistently recognised as a leading institution in outdoor education. During my instructor course and subsequently as I continued to learn and improve as an instructor through working courses, I realised how I had missed out on simple but crucial basics of life in the outdoors, despite having done a few climbing related courses and put in years of experience expeditioning and leading groups in the outdoors.
Safety and comfort lies in basics
If I have to pithily state what NOLS taught me then this is what I would state:
- How to maximise safety of all people involved by being well prepared and competent
- How to be superbly comfortable in various kinds of situations and in different roles in a team
- How to care, truly care, for one’s environment
There are of course a thousand other things. But the foundation lies in ensuring that people get conceptual clarity about the ‘why’ and ‘how’ before advocating ‘what to do’. This enhances a person’s judgment and improves the quality of his/her decisions.
This approach outlined above gave me a tremendous sense of freedom along with self-confidence. I have been driven ever since to dialogue with people on such aspects, to discuss and experiment with different ways of functioning and keep enhancing safety, comfort and joy in our lives in the outdoors.
My association with the Great Outdoors folks
Parag’s father, Dilip Lagu and I go back a long way. We were team mates on the 1988 expedition to Mt. Kangchenjunga, India’s highest and the world’s third highest mountain. Halfway up its SW face, Dilip and I shared a tent on a narrow platform that we had hacked out in the middle of an icefall to support four tents. An eight-hour storm that started at midnight flattened three tents including ours. We were lucky to have survived the storm. (You can get to know about this episode in detail on this clip of a session that I did a while ago). Today Dilip and I are fellow directors in a non-profit organisation that we founded in 2018: ‘Maha Adventure Council’ (MAC) works towards enhancing safety and excellence in organised adventure programmes and this also involves advocacy work. Parag naturally fell into the outdoors groove since his childhood and today is a management committee member of a prominent hiking and mountaineering club in Mumbai as well as a ManCom member of MAC.
In my post titled ‘Exploring Integrations & Associations’, I had written elaborately about an exciting sequence of events that had led to me to explore a new area of work and which had involved me acquiring a new skill which helps me capitalise on my experience. This post is about another opportunity that I am excited about because I believe the Gear Up Series can be a great platform for sharing concepts and tips that have made my life so very easy and enjoyable in the outdoors.